I don’t think I truly ever gave motherhood a thought before I stumbled into it 11-1/2 years ago after the birth of my first daughter. I didn’t really know what how much my life would change after having kids. I was very young (in my opinion) when I had my first and I just wanted to do it all.
But I found out quickly that I couldn’t and over the years I’ve made decisions to enable to be a better parent, while not forgoing all my dreams, and unfortunately, I have been judged for them, even here on this blog. My original tag line was “For moms not ready to give up sushi for hot dogs,” meaning I have never wanted to stop pursuing things I’m interested in. While I spend a lot of time with my kids, I like to step out every now and then and see plays, films, catch art exhibits and more. I also travel alone sometimes, going on press trips that enable me to further that part of my career as a writer.
The judgements started getting thrown around as soon as I had kids. It all started when I was making a decision on whether to continue working full time. So many people felt so differently and I felt so conflicted about my own choice. I’ve been accused of doing too much. I’ve also been accused of traveling excessively.
I’ve been judged here, too. Once a post called “The Unintentional Opt Out,” in which I mourned the loss of a job I gave up after having my first child, prompted this response from a reader:
You mention “I” a lot in your blog. (and yes I do know its your blog) but does your husband not have a say? How does he cope when your off gallivanting round the country? I’m sure that if he’s a stay at home dad that it won’t be too much of a problem. But if he’s in full time work how does he balance his life when you’re not there? Having a family is about partnership and understanding. Understanding your other half and your kids and giving them as much support as you can. It looks by what you say in this blog that you go on “jollies” to get away as much as possible, not supporting your family.
Escaping to do the things you do, you should call your blog “culture single mom …. kids looked after by their dad”.
This could not have been further from the truth, and the comment burned, let me tell you. My husband was the first to disagree with the author of the comment. It was even worse when I realized we knew the person (vaguely). I responded the best way I could:
I started this blog because as important as motherhood is to me, I wanted to keep in touch with everything in life I love the most and I love inspiring other parents to do the same. As a parent, you can get caught up in the everyday hustle and bustle and forget about yourself. I never “escape” – rather I include my family in everything that I do. On the rare occasion, I do travel for work or a conference, and I make sure that everything is under control in my absence and that my husband’s work load is not interrupted. He’s very supportive of my career and I of his.
I’ve always been here on my kids. I’ve worked from home so I could have a more flexible schedule, and I’ve taken time out to be at everything over the years. Everything! But the comments continue and I continue to feel judged, while doing the best I can.
Certain parts of my personal life have made it harder to go out recently and I’ve taken measures to go out less and focus on my home life. However, it’s hard to ignore that part of me that seeks and craves stimulation outside the house. So when I mentioned going to a play at the end of the week to someone on the phone last night and was told that I go out too much, avoiding my parental responsibilities, I nearly had a stroke.
Last weekend I went to an amazing lecture at a conference called Binder Com. It was a conference for women who write and one session was called Mothers Writing Motherhood. It was during this session that I listened to other moms just like me, who struggle with the everyday demands of being a mother and pursuing their dreams to be better writers. The session made me realize that I’m not alone in how I feel about being pulled in many directions. So much of what these women said resonated with me but writer Elizabeth Gold said something that remains with me:
“Moms, give yourself permission to get away from your children.”
She called it the “fuck it philosophy”.
Just because a mom wants to pursue what’s meaningful to her – whether it be or career or her interests, it doesn’t mean that we are purposely trying to stay away from our children. It just means that we want to be well-rounded, stimulated individuals who strive for a sense of balance that makes us feel more complete.
There were a lot of comments on that post to the reader I quasi knew that I referenced above (The Unintentional Opt Out), and one in particular resonated with me:
I, like culturemom, feel I made sacrifices in my career in order to be the mom I wanted to be, and sacrifices to my family in order to dream and act big in the world outside my family. My husband argues that we took a hit financially when I decided to work at home/start a business and while he appreciates my contribution as a mom, part of him wishes we had decided that I continue it’s my career and be in a better place financially now. I think that men, like women, struggle in this modern age…And one day we honor the parent in us and the next day (which may be years later) we find ourselves compelled to honor the businessperson in us…or the sexy carefree artist or …one day…. The grateful child. Marriage…parenting…work…life, the only known I can be sure if is that they call cycle…in and out…and if I am going to achieve happiness, I need to be prepared to cycle in and out with them.
I honor the part of me that seeks stimulation and gets satisfaction from events outside the home. The whole idea of this blog was to talk about what I do with my kids, and if you read regularly, you know how much I include my children and how often I am with them. But there is a part of me that needs to get away from time to time, and experience life as I once knew it.
At Binder Com, another woman on that fab panel that resonated me, Julia Fierro, said this:
“After I had children, I felt like I could do anything. There were moments of weakness but also empowerment.”
I feel the same way. Being a parent is empowering and I’ve been able to do things since my children were born I never even knew I could do. I’ve balanced jobs since they were babies. I’ve produced plays. My writing has been published on the Huffington Post and Yahoo Travel. I traveled around Vietnam with a friend. I started this blog which changed my life, and the life of my children.
One more quote from Binder Com, only because you’ll love this one. From Elisa Albert:
“Limitations enable us to define ourselves.”
Parenthood is a juggle and my kids need me more than ever as they get older, not less, and I know that. They’ve always come first and they will continue to forever more. I take my role as a mom very seriously, believe me, and sometimes my plans to pursue my own interests fail and I let them.
As a mom, you’re damned if you do, you’re damned if you don’t…from everything to breastfeeding, working, leaving your kids alone, not being there for school events, sending your kids to school sick when you didn’t know they were ill, forgetting to pack lunch. The list goes on.
My suggestion? Don’t judge moms.
Give them credit for doing all they do.
Take a look at the total person.
And the kids.
But really, try not to judge.
We all do our best.