This morning I read an article, "Jealousy, Judgment, and Motherhood," and I got all worked up about it, and even got permission from an old friend to write about her, and now here it is 11 pm and I'm having a hard time getting the flow going. I even started once and lost what I had written, which may be a blessing because I didn't really like it. So as I lay in bed helping kid #2 fall asleep, I thought about what I wanted to say, and how I could get my point across in the kindest and most interesting way. And I realized that I really just needed to tell my experience and what I've learned. I don't need to get preachy or philosophical because I believe the message will shine through the story.
My story begins in the 6th grade. Actually it may begin even earlier than that, but I have a really crappy memory, so we'll begin there. I have one very vivid memory from that year. I was in the girl's bathroom washing my hands and one of my teachers was beside me also washing her hands. And she said to me, "Susan, I just know that you are going to be something really wonderful someday, like a Doctor or a Lawyer." That's it. That's all I remember. I don't remember what I said back, but I'm sure I nodded or smiled because I've always been pretty agreeable and polite.
But even then something about it struck me wrong. And I remembered it for many years.
Fade out. Fade in to middle school study hall with my best friend since kindergarten. We're giggling and passing notes. The main topic of said notes are, "I want a boyfriend SO. BAD!"
Cut to my Senior year of college. I'm crying on my bed and my boyfriend (Mike!) is trying to comfort me. I'm so confused and anxious because even though I'm am closing in on graduating I still don't know what I want to "do". I cry to him, "I just want to get married and have kids!" He reassures me that it will be ok and things will work out, but I know he thinks I'm a little bit crazy. (haha)
In college I started out as a math major but quickly switched to Brain and Cognitive Science when I couldn't get all "A's" in my math courses. I was an intern for a researcher at the hospital one semester, and also in a couple of labs on campus. I considered research and going on the medical school. But none of that felt right.
I was so incredibly lucky my senior year to have an amazing Professor who encouraged me. I told him how "everyone" thought that since I was "smart" I should be a "doctor" or something like that. This wonderful man advised me to follow my heart and told me that we need "smart people in all professions". So after school I pursued my teaching degree. (I have to also give major props to my mom here. She has always supported me in whatever I decided to do. And deep down she really just wanted me to get married and have kids too. ha.)
Teaching was an incredible learning experience for me. But I'm forever indebted to my daughter for coming along and giving me a reason to leave - almost entirely guilt-free. I was good at teaching and my students and I had great relationships, but it was not "my (final) calling".
After Marisol was born, I just looked at her and thought, "All I have to do for a long time is take care of you!" I felt an incredible sense of freedom. I couldn't believe how lucky I was.
And so began the most life-changing, life-affirming journey of my life. It's still going, and I imagine it will until my time here is up.
But this is not the end of my story. Since Marisol was born a little over 6 1/2 years ago I have learned a lot. There has only been one stretch of time, from the time Gerry was born until he was about 9 months old, where I was not "working" in some form even though I would classify myself as a full-time stay-at-home-mom. When Marisol was just 6 weeks old I started babysitting a little girl. Why? Because Mike had big plans to go to business school, and I wanted to build up my reputation as a good caregiver so I could nanny while he was in school. I think I knew before Marisol was born that I was not going back to the classroom, but once she was here I was sure. I wanted to be with her for as long as possible.
And it worked! When we moved to Washington DC I found an amazing family whose little boy was almost exactly the same age as Marisol. And they lived about one mile from where we lived. I couldn't have asked for a more perfect work situation.
They quickly became like family to me as I adjusted to living in a new city and being away from my own family for the first time. The mom, Ida (pronounced: "Ee-da"), and I were (and are!) about as different as you can imagine. Ida is a Doctor and went back to work soon after the births of both her boys. What was amazing to me that year, as I helped take care of her son, was how well she handled working and being a mother. She never showed insecurity or jealousy about my relationship with Nils. She never agonized over whether she should be working or not. And when she came home she was joyful to see him and jumped right in to playing with him. I still remember them laughing together.
Ida and I talked a little bit about this modern "motherhood/work" phenomenon, and how so many women struggled with it. It seemed that we were in the minority of women who really embraced our choices. Even though Ida and I were very different in our parenting and lifestyle choices, we had a great relationship. I have always admired how she embraced her life and her choices instead of constantly second-guessing herself or letting feelings of doubt or guilt into her life.
And my own journey was still barely beginning. I continued to care for two other children through Mike's second year of school and while I was pregnant. After Gerry was born I was happy to "just" be home with the kids for a while.
In the spring of 2010 I tried tutoring for a company called "Tutored-by-a- Teacher" but never really got too into it. Then that summer I decided to look into becoming a childbirth educator and that is when Hypnobabies came into the picture. Since becoming certified and starting to teach I really feel like I've hit my stride. Not just as a "mom" or as a "teacher" but really as a human being.
That's my story, my history... So what do *I* think is the main take-away from all of this?
1) There is no such thing as "just" a "teacher," or "mother," or "housewife," or any other job, vocation, or calling.
2) Sometimes we know what we really want (as I clearly did from the time I was a young girl) but our inner voices are completely drowned out by the messages that we are receiving outside of us.
3) Women (and men!) need to get clear on what they want. And not just what they want, but how they want to feel.
Talking about wanting to "have it all" is just a catch phrase that we've adopted since having more choices available to us. But the truth is NO ONE can have it ALL. Luckily for us it isn't necessary to have it all to live happy, fulfilled lives.
We are fortunate to live in a time when many women have more choices than their grandmothers could even dream about. But more choice is also confusing and even paralyzing sometimes - heck, I can't even pick out what toothpaste I want at the grocery store these days. It's not surprising that figuring out what you want your life to look like, when the possibilities are even longer than aisle 15, and the choices much harder than baking soda or fluoride, has more than one woman awake at night worrying over whether they're making the right choices.
It's a wonderful time, but it's also a little chaotic and messy - like we are reorganizing our whole house in one day.
I am so grateful that I was able to process and clear my confusion up at relatively young ages. I hope more women are able to work through their own so they can stop feeling judged, judgmental, and jealous. Then they will be free to feel supported and supportive, loved and loving. In this way, maybe our daughters and granddaughters will have even more freedom and less confusion than we have today.
I do know that it has to begin with loving yourself. It sounds so cheesy, but I cannot begin to tell you how transformative this truth has been for me this year. Love yourself and be kind to yourself whatever it is you choose. When you do this you will be able to offer more to everyone else in your life. Stop telling yourself that your life is so hard. And if it feels that way, start taking steps to make it feel less so. Stop letting others decide for you what's important to do. Decide how you want to feel, identify things that make you feel that way, then start doing them.
Make your life awesome. You only get this one and you're the only one who can do it.
Wife, mom, information and peace seeker.