When Motherhood is Enough (-ish)...
My husband has been working on a project of great import, one that, if successful, may improve dramatically our family’s quality of life. I have witnessed him working hour after hour with incredible discipline, observing his grand creativity take shape on the computer screen, and through these many days I am overwhelmed with admiration for his talent, tenacity and drive. But more so I am humbled, because his motive for this gesture of all-consuming effort is not fame, or money, or praise, but Family. I know he does it all for us – for me, our daughter, our son.
So when my husband appealed to me for a little assistance, I was more than happy to volunteer my services as SUPERMOM for a few weeks, putting aside my own career endeavors in order to support him in his.
Initially I was STOKED! Who doesn’t want to NOT WORK?!? To take a break from the constant stress and strain of employment? To spend devoted time with the kids, free from the myriad distractions of life as a working mom?
Oh, were it that easy…
I got my first job at the age of fourteen and, other than a few months of maternity leave, have been working ever since. So not working, in the formal sense, feels super weird and has not been without a disruptive chorus of finger-pointing inner voices:
· You are not contributing enough.
· You are not making your own money.
· Get up at 5am and get your work done before the kids get up.
· Put your kids to bed and work some more.
· Full-time parenting is easy; why do you keep thinking it’s so hard?
Regardless of my conscious efforts to believe otherwise, I can’t shirk the feeling that being a full-time mom – even in the short-term – is not adequate, and that I am not living up to everyone’s expectations, least of all my own. On top of that, raising my kids without respite - no available partner, no time for leisure activities, sapped of the energy to exercise or read or even wash my face at night – is paradoxically way too much and not nearly enough.
Feel the same? This book may help, it’s next on my reading list:
The new TRUTH of the modern middle class parent is the belief that one’s childrearing methods make or break your kid’s future chance at happiness. So if raising children is the single most important responsibility we take on, why do noses turn up when we choose to devote 100% of ourselves to the task?
I’ve been listening to the recent contemporary conversations on the struggle for work-life balance, particularly amidst women at the height of their career who have given a voice to the issue. One of the most resonant is Anne-Marie Slaughter, Hilary Clinton’s former Director of Policy Planning who, after two successful years at the U.S. State Department, chose to go home and raise her sons. Watch her TED Talk below or CLICK HERE to read her article in the Atlantic:
So what do we do? How do we make it okay to choose the singular focus of childrearing without judgment from both ourselves and those “you-can-have-it-all” parenting pundits?
For me, the conflict is resolved neither with an “A-HA!” revelation nor by a profound rumination from some salient, silver-haired matriarch of old.
I have chosen to make Motherhood a practice of MEDITATION.
By the way, I SUCK at meditation, in the traditional sense. But a few days ago, when I really needed a break but there was no one to relieve me, when I thought for the tenth time about how I was so behind in everything, when I just couldn’t take another minute “having fun” at a frenzied playspace or park or birthday party or kid’s café…
I closed my eyes and BREATHED...
...HOLY EXHALATION, IT WORKED!!!
Whenever I find myself stressing about all those things I haven’t done (THE PAST) or feeling overwhelmed by the infinite amount of tasks in front of me (THE FUTURE), I look at my beautiful kids and take a deep, soulful breath, drawing me right back into the present. While it’s not a perfect solution, it’s one that helps me appreciate the precious, impermanent time I have with my children, for soon they won’t let me shower them with kisses, they won’t snuggle, they will become independent, headstrong, opinionated individuals who let go of my hand to reach theirs forward, on their own. After all, good parenting creates children with the self-worth, confidence, and courage to leave their parents behind. So through this imperfect practice of Mommy Meditation, I am slowly surrendering to the sensation that Motherhood - for now - is Enough.
(my rugrats wishing their Daddy Good Luck on his project)
The feverish rapture of burying my nose in my boy’s neck. The pride in my daughter’s eyes when she masters the monkey bars. The miracle of all this love and joy. I take a deep breath and clearly see that where I am is exactly where I want to be.
I put this work away. I’ve got some toes to nibble! Xoxoxo - Lara