As the 40-something mother of an active four-year-old boy, I have an ongoing struggle to make it through each week of activities, play dates, snack time, story time, bath time, bedtime, meal planning, groceries, cooking, dishes, laundry, organizing, managing household finances and housework. I blog, yoga, scrapbook, read and play on social media in my “spare” time. I get the occasional date with my husband of seven years and some fun moms nights out. I do the best that I can. But I always feel like there is something better or more I could be doing to be a good mother.
As a mother, I have struggled with the fundamental question of my identity after making the choice to stay at home with my child while he is young. Before I had the baby, when someone asked me about myself, I always led with my career “I do communications.” Since I put my career on pause after maternity leave, I have struggled with what to say, veering from “I used to do communications but now I stay home with my child” to “I do part-time freelance work” to “I’m a stay at home mom” or “I blog” – all of which have been true at some point over the past few years.
During last week’s inspirational talk in Vancouver, Oprah proposed that the questions you really need to answer are “Why are you here? or “What is your calling?” My aha moment as I write this is that I have actually found some answers during my years of motherhood and struggles with identity.
I am called to be a mother and a writer.
For a long time, I was a writer who didn’t write. Of course, I’ve written tons of business communications for my job but nothing for myself that I was passionate about. Now that I have my blog The Write Mama, I write for the fun of it. I write because I must. I write about being a mother.
We struggled for so long to become pregnant and when our son came into our lives I was in awe. I am so in love with this little person who surprises me and amazes me everyday with his antics and accomplishments. I am so thankful for my husband who loved me through my fear of never being able to have our child and never let me give up no matter what. Our family is complete and the question I had in the back of mind over the years about what is missing has been answered now that I am a wife and mother.
But being a mother – a good mother – is a tricky little ledge to stand on.
Who could forget this cover story by Time, “Are you Mom Enough?” This article discussed the popular attachment parenting method developed by Dr. William Sears, but what stunned the world and got people talking was this photo of Jamie Lynne Grumet breastfeeding her 3-year-old boy. I’m certain that Jamie Lynn chose attachment parenting because she believes this is what makes her a good mother.
The truth is, breastfeeding is easy for some moms and a struggle for others. For me, as the mother of a premature baby, breastfeeding was extraordinarily difficult in the beginning, but something I could do for my son when I felt so helpless about the situation we were in. Each of us needs to make our own choices about whether to breastfeed, how long to breastfeed and when enough is enough.
What was really unfortunate about this photo was the way it invited us to judge Jamie Lynne who, just like every other mother, is doing the best she can.
And who could forget the headlines last year when Yahoo’s new CEO, Marissa Mayer, declared she would work through a two-week maternity leave. A couple of months after giving birth, she went on to declare that having a new baby is easier than everyone made it out to be.When I heard about this, I was torn. I am impressed that Marissa Mayer is one of the most powerful women in business. She has broken through the glass ceiling and is enjoying tremendous career success. We need to see women and mothers being successful in their chosen careers. My choices could not be more different than Marissa’s, but I respect her accomplishments.
However, I am disappointed at how she is currently portraying motherhood to the media – that maternity leave is something you should or could work through and that having a baby is easy. I don’t think this is a good message to send to any mother – but maybe it is the message she thinks you need to send to your Board when you take on a new senior executive position and announce you are pregnant.
I don’t want to judge Jamie Lynne, Marissa or anyone else. Let’s – as mothers – join together to support each other up on that ledge. There is too much judgement already.
Because the truth is that having a child is not easy. And being a mother – a good mother – is one of the hardest things I have ever done. You might remember Jann Arden’s lyrics to her song A Good Mother:
“I’ve got money in my pocket,
I like the color of my hair.
I’ve got a friend who loves me, Got a house, I’ve got a car.
I’ve got a good mother, and her voice is what keeps me here. Feet on ground,
Heart in hand,
This is the kind of mother I strive to be. One who is present. One who is kind. The heart of my family. The voice of love, support and understanding – someone to talk to no matter what. A mother who will set boundaries and says yes to love and no to unreasonable behaviour. The kind of mother who will encourage my son to be himself and to find his own happiness in life, wherever that takes him. I strive to be the kind of mother who explores and follows my own calling and purpose in life. So that I might help my son discover his.
The honest truth is that sometimes I fail. I get mad and forget to be kind. I speak too quickly and then remember to start with understanding. I want to work on the computer instead playing with my son. I have to pause and remember why I am here …
This post is part of a blog series with my fellow Top Mommy Bloggers. To follow this series, visit the bloggers site on the date indicated.
Tuesday, Jan 22 – Tairalyn from Little Miss Mama
Wednesday, Jan 23 – Melissa from The Thirties Grind
Thursday, Jan 24 – Amy from The Connections we Share
Friday, Jan 25 – Julie from JulieNowell.com
Monday, Jan 28 – Eschelle from Mumfection
Tuesday, Jan 29 – Taslim from Let ME out!!
Wednesday, Jan 30 – Katie from World by Smith
Thursday, Jan 31 – Lori from The Write Mama
Friday, Feb 1 – Kristina from Swank Mama
Monday, Feb 4 – Brandee from One Crazy Kid
Tuesday, Feb 5 – Jessica from North Shore Mama