Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Be All That You Can Be, or, Fighting Your Own Personal Mommy War

We just celebrated my daughter's birthday. I've been engulfed in kid-birthday planning for weeks; and engulfed in unfathomably immense love and gratitude for my girl. And also aswim in thoughts that I had better not drown in all that love.

With the wisdom that comes with 80% of a decade of mothering, I say: Mamas, don't give up on your own lives. No matter how much you love your child, no matter how much you subconsciously want to be a four-star general on the winning side of the so-called "mommy wars" (blech), no matter how badly you want to give your child everything you have - don't. Not everything.

Do right by me, Mommy... or you'll walk the plank!
Did your child ever unexpectedly have a playdate, and you found - as excited as you may have been to have free time - that you didn't quite know what to do with yourself when not focusing on the kid? I remember when my almost-two-year-old started at a nursery school (Spielgruppe) two afternoons a week. A dear friend actually helped me list things to do with my free time (besides housework and injured-husband duties). It's pathetic, but me-without-child felt foreign.

With a longer view, it's scary to think of a time when the child is a teenager and goes out with friends all the time; is a young adult and moves out; or maybe even - God forbid - moves abroad. If the mama hasn't figured out something - besides her child - that makes her life worth living by then, the future would look long and pointless.

My view may be extreme, since at one point I suddenly had neither an adult partner nor obvious local career prospects nor family anywhere in physical reach. My expectations for the near and distant future were annihilated. Life seemed like nothing but baby and me for eternity - frustrating at times, thrilling and fulfilling at others. But I could see it must be temporary. When baby moved on, what would become of me? The question sounds selfish, but it's no less selfish to be a big ol' blob of desperate older mother, needy of your child when she embarks on her own independent life.

Thankfully, women have many options now, of course, to nurture their souls - skills, intellect and all - even while being good parents. Women can network and blog from home, can work in an office, or can craft with pride and passion, and not just because Good Housekeeping suggests they should. For me, hard as the logistics can be, I'm glad I had to go back to work outside the home when my daughter turned five.

I still have to make hard choices, and I hate that it seems like a sacrifice on someone's part is inevitable. (Should I work more while I have opportunities? Pass up opportunities because my child needs me and we should be home together after school?) It's the unwritten parental contract that we must make decisions based on what's best for the next generation, not what's best for us. But - especially as a single parent - I don't think I would really do my child any favors in the long run by depending solely on her to feel purpose in my life.


  1. Agree. Need to have balance and there is no balance if you are always out just as there is no balance if you are always in.

  2. You are so right. I still look into the future when my kids will have flown the coop and think OMFG. But so it is, so I pursue things that have nothing to do with them.