This past weekend, we celebrated Mother’s Day. Last month, my youngest turned 2 and next week my oldest turns 4. On top of all that, this weekend I will be, ahem, another year wiser. This couple of months every year are a veritable parade of the passing of time, the three of us declaring to the world that we, like everyone else, are subject to the limited amount of days we will share together. Every year, I have one less year of my precious angels under the same roof, while at the same time, having one less year to accomplish my goals in the time I have on this earth. It’s a time for assessment and wondering, as ever, if I’m striking the best balance between career and family.
This year, it is a particularly challenging question as I dive into the professional world of writing–no longer a hobby (not that it ever was!). And yet, my baby is no longer a baby and, unless fate intervenes, I won’t have another baby in the house until my girls have their own. At the same time, I wish I could bottle them up and never allow them to grow up, I count down the days until they start school so I can have a few hours to myself to get my work done guilt-free. That’s what it comes down to, right? The guilt. Guilt that I’m not spending enough time with my kids while I can and guilt that I’m not doing enough toward my goals each day. No one is guaranteed a certain amount of time, though on most days, it feels like we have forever ahead of us.
What Kind of Parent Are You?
Over the weekend, my dear friend (whose children are grown) sent a post on Facebook to my friends and I (whose kids are young and still require most of our attention and sanity) saying, “I hope you appreciate the way you’re teaching your kids how important it is to follow your dreams.” I could have cried reading that. Let’s just say this Mother’s Day was more of an ode to where I wasn’t succeeding than where I was. Though, the day before, we had a day as close to perfect as I could ever hope for–the family relished in time together and the editing came easy. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to how the days go–nothing I could duplicate or rely on to make every day, or even most days, smooth. There’s no recipe for success at home or in my career, and certainly not for both at the same time.
But as my other friend put it, “I might not be able to do cafeteria duty, but I’m showing her something equally important. I HOPE.” Yes, don’t we all.
My response? “I have to remind myself of that some days when I feel like I’m not doing enough.” Because I’ve never considered myself maternal, though having kids has proved I’m more maternal than I thought. I’ve definitely never been the kind of person to get on the floor and play–not even when I was a kid myself–and I don’t have a lot of patience for getting the kids to sit still and practice their numbers and letters (thankfully we have LeapFrog for that!). But I know I’m showing by example the fruits of hard work, determination, and following your passion. I know I am because I learned these things from my own father who had many of the same strengths and weaknesses as a parent and person as I do. As a kid I was often frustrated with him beyond belief (and aren’t we all regardless of our parents’ particular weaknesses) that he didn’t spend more time on what I valued at the time, and it took me a while to let go of that. But now, ten years out of the house, I’m so proud of the understanding he gave me of the traits needed to get the absolute most out of life that he’s the first person I want to tell when amazing things happen. He’s become one of my best friends and biggest supporters. I tell you this because I try to remember what’s it like being on the other side of the equation and all things considered, my sister and I are happy, healthy, contributing members of society who absolutely adore our parents. My dad and I can’t have a single conversation without both of us tearing up…but that’s a story for another day.
What You’re Teaching Your Kids
Balancing a career and being a mom is never easy. Sometimes I think if I set aside my goals until my kids were at least teenagers, life would be a lot simpler. But I don’t think that would make me a better mom. I’m sure you hear, like I do, that siren’s call deep in your heart to do what you’re passionate about and to make a mark on this world that has your name on it. On the days when you feel like it gets in the way of parenting, try to imagine what kind of person you would be if you didn’t answer the call. Whenever I do, it’s not a pretty picture.
What makes me a good mom, when I earn such a title, is being a role model to my girls by growing myself into a woman they can be proud of:
– A woman who is as forgiving of my weaknesses (I’m sure, like my friend, I’ll never be a girl scout leader) as I am grateful for my strengths (I can wield a calendar like nobody’s business). Our children learn nothing valuable from guilt, self-hate, or wishing we were someone we aren’t.
– A woman who puts herself equal to others, not below or above. You are just as worthy of your time as anyone else in your life. By becoming strong in yourself, you can be stronger for others.
– A woman who can rely on herself for happiness. A woman who makes her own happiness and success loves and lives fearlessly.
And the beautiful thing is that it’s my daughters who have taught me these things–the importance of self-love, patience, fearlessness, confidence, the value of time. As I watch them grow, I become more sure of who I am and what I want from life. Being a good mom and fostering a successful career don’t have to be mutually exclusive because they feed each other.
So I will pass on this message to you as my friend told me: This world needs nothing more than happier people, more light, more passion, more dedication, and inspiration. You create all of these things every time you sit down to do the work of your heart, and by teaching your children the same traits, you create another generation of dreamers.