Saturday, July 28, 2012

Professional Mom

I just got back from 4 days in Washington DC. It was really great. For weeks, I've been looking forward to this trip, a chance to get away and spend some time by myself. I could go to the bathroom with the door shut! I could eat a meal without getting up 5 times to retriever butter, napkins, or water! I could even complete a whole thought!
I have a nephew who lives in DC after finishing grad school at Georgetown University. I also have a photography friend who lives in DC. So, when Nintendo asked me, as a brand ambassador, to come to DC to preview their new product - the Wii U - I took the opportunity to have a mini-vacation.

I've never been to DC before and I really enjoyed it. I saw the Capitol, the Library of Congress, the Supreme Court building, the Museum of American History, The Air & Space Museum, and the Museum of Natural History, as well as doing a quick walk/bike ride past the White House, the Treasury Department building, the Washington Monument, and the National Mall. 

(Photos to follow later)


While spending time in our nation's capital, I was overcome with all this knowledge that I didn't realize was missing. Or maybe it had gone forgotten from my brain... where once a space in my head held important facts like the names of all the American Presidents, the names of which documents gave us certain rights, and the dates when our history changed, has been filled with names of doctors & dentists, names of authors of parenting books, and dates of birthday parties and coupon expirations. 

When I visited DC, I felt more intensely the growing divide between my world and that of a working person. I saw so many people and spoke with some of my nephew's friends. I watched them and listened to them. Their daily focus was a single-mindedness on their careers. And, in some ways, I see myself that same way - my career is my family: the care and feeding of 5 children + one husband. But I found myself surrounded by so many professional people and suddenly my work seemed very... inconsequential. Small. Even, unimportant.

But, NO! It's not unimportant! I might argue it's MORE important than any job that anyone can have. My job is to love, nurture, and teach. My responsibility is to take care but not spoil; to help but not enable; to give them wings so they can fly on their own. And yet, the idea of being a mother just doesn't hold the same respect as having a 40-, 50-, or 60-hour a week job. Recent society HAS come a long way in the appreciation for the stay-at-home parent role. But I realized, I've never heard someone say "I'm giving up staying home with my kids so I can go back to work," (although the opposite is pretty common - "giving up my career to I can have kids.") The transition from work to home always seems to be met with apprehension; the transition from home to work is more like one of excitement! How exciting! Now my days have PURPOSE!!! And a FINISH LINE!!!!

I'm not going to get on my soapbox and claim that home parenting is better or worse or anything even close to that. I am just saying, I notice the difference between the two. And I'm finding, it's harder for me - now more than before, when I was not so deeply sunk into nuclear family life - to find common ground with families who go to work every day. Many days I wish I could understand better, but I don't.

I want to embrace my role as mother and do a better job at it. I have a real struggle finding the balance between giving myself to my family and finding fulfillment within myself. I always thought I'd be one of those women who found true fulfillment in serving my family but all I've found is a nasty cycle of me working hard and not being appreciated, so I work harder hoping to get the appreciation that doesn't happen. All the while, I get exhausted and my kids get lazy because I'm doing more of the work than I should. (I DO make them do chores! But usually it's not much and certainly it's less than what they're capable of.) I also want to be one of those moms who looks forward to making macaroni necklaces and playing 23 games of Chutes & Ladders every day, when in truth I hate doing most child-play with my kids and I genuinely look forward to when they go to school for the day so I can have a little break.

There, I said it. It feels both relieving and scary to be so honest.

For now I am going to work on being more content with the Mom that I am - imperfect in a lot of ways but doing the best I can with what I have to work with. I am never going to stop trying to do a little better ("Okay, kids, lets turn off TV for a while and read a book. Yes, I know you've only had 7 hours of TV today. But it will be good for you.") I am also going to try to take turns. Maybe today I get a chance to do something for myself, but when I don't have time for that tomorrow I won't get resentful and start whining "WHAT ABOUT MEEEEEEE????" I think the only way I'll ever feel proud about my career of Professional Mom is to keep remembering, keep reminding myself, that I can do this, and that I can be good at it, and that the only person who decides what "good" is, is me.

Texan Mama


Ellen Stewart (aka Ellie/El/e/Mrs. Seaman) said...

You know what? I hardly ever played with my son. We didn't do crafts, and we rarely played board games. My sister had to carve pumpkins with him because I'm allergic to their guts.

As an only child he "read," played cars and trucks, wrestled with his wrestling dummy, and yep, he watched some TV.

Now almost 26, he thinks I'm a good mom. He likes me. I like him.

It is NOT our job to keep our kids entertained. As a teacher, I'm shocked at the parents who think their kids are bored and therefore must be gifted when they don't even do the minimum amount of work. That old bored = gifted gets overused by the current parenting generation.

At the same time, many kids who are totally independent at school turn into babies and/or whiners when Mom's around. It blows my mind. Kids are capable of quite a lot, but if mom's do too much, kids will let them. Who doesn't like having a servant?

Moms who work outside the home (also professional moms) feel unappreciated at home, too. My son was unique in that he saw how hard I worked and told me so. (Wow, huh?)

Just a thought, how about the TV doesn't get turned on until daily reading is done?

A rambling comment, that I just allowed to spill out!

GunDiva said...

You're doing better than I did as a stay at home. I lasted all of three months and ended up on anti-depressant. I *had* to go back to work - I'm a much better mom when I'm working.

I have a lot of respect for Professional Moms, 'cause I couldn't cut it. I'll work 60-hours a week, thankyouverymuch, but please, please don't make me be a Professional Mom - I can't cut it.

Gigi said...

Moms the world over are under-appreciated; whether they work or stay home.

I also find that we tend to judge ourselves much harsher than others do - so it's important that you give yourself credit and congratulate yourself on a job well done.

nicole said...

Yes! Oh Gretchen--I feel like I could have written so much of this! Thanks for your honesty.

Jennifer said...

It totally IS the most important job. I think people don't say that they are giving up being a stay at home parent because they are still a parent, but if you leave your career you are leaving something behind that you may never have again.