Can I Be a Good Mom AND Follow My Dreams?

“Why do people say ‘grow some balls’? Balls are weak and sensitive. If you wanna’ be tough, grow a vagina. Those things can take a pounding.”― Betty White

Don’t you just love that quote?! I laughed out loud when reading that from fellow blogger trjensen.

Perhaps there is some truth to it—well, obviously! But there’s also truth beyond the physicality of our genitalia. Women are strong inside out. Oftentimes, we, by nature, put everyone else’s needs first and we forget our own strength. I know that I’ve been guilty of that for years. And in the process of putting everyone else’s needs first, I get drained and depleted: physically, emotionally, and spiritually. In that state of exhaustion, it’s easy to snap at the kids or get distracted. It’s also easy to get depressed, or let negative thoughts pervade my mind.

I’ve made a conscious effort, over the past two years, to start putting me on my To Do list. Years before, when I was married, I would feel too guilty all the time for doing anything for me. Isn’t that nuts? Perhaps I bought—hook, line and sinker— the cultural pressure for female perfection. I seriously thought that if I wasn’t focussed 100% of the time on my kids and my family, than I was being selfish. Intellectually, I knew that was nuts. But even when working full-time in a demanding editing job, I’d still put most of the pressure of parenting and house-duties on myself. When I only had one child, this was sort of manageable. We women are major jugglers, aren’t we?

Now that I’m a single mom with two boys—I have to handle it all, and at the same time, I know I can’t handle it all. It’s kind of funny, but that knowledge is actually liberating. It’s given me the ability to actually say no to some demands and requests. It’s also helping to crystalize how I want to spend my time. Creating more quality time with the kids—rather then just shuttling them around like a taxi driver—is high on my priority list. But also, I see clearly now how critical it is for me to carve out time for my health—and to set up time, even if only a few hours a week, for my personal writing. This week, however, wasn’t one of my best weeks. I had so much going on with the kiddos from a school outing I had to attend, to school parties, a school parade, a HUGE project and presentation that demanded many shopping trips and much assistance—to the regular athletic activities and dinners and then of course, Halloween. I seriously think I’m about to drop.

But I’m not sure that life would be that much different if I was still married. Even though we have come so far since my parent’s generation, it seems that more parenting duties are still stacked upon the mom. I’ve noticed that in so many families, not just mine.

Why is that? I don’t think women and men are THAT different. We all want the best for our kids. So why, then, is it socially acceptable for so many moms to carry the lion share of parenting? I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s partly due to American culture that eventually pushes us moms to try to tackle it all. But at what expense? Our health? Our sanity? Our dreams?

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the actual difference between the sexes— verses our own stereotypes and cultural pressure—that drastically affects the differing roles in parenting.

And ANY mom out there knows what I mean.

To make this a bit more clear:

Why, for instance, is it only a bad reflection upon the mother if a child doesn’t have gift bags at parties, or the exact number of Halloween cards or Valentine’s Day cards for every student at school? Think about it.

Why is it a poor reflection upon the mother if the house is a wreck?

Why do teachers regularly reach out to the mom about a kid’s major project, asking her to assist the child in getting it ready?

And when a child’s school project is not completed or done poorly—why is this a bad reflection upon the mom? Doesn’t Dad deserve a bit of the blame too?

Just how much work is mom required to do verses dad when it comes to homework and studying, child care and house work? I know I’m not the only writer to ask these questions. In this New York Times article, How Do Male and Female Roles Differ In Your Family?, I learned that the US Census Bureau counts Fathertime as “child care”. For 2005, fathers (in intact families) reported that they cared for their children 26 % of the time while the moms were working or in school. That time was reported as child care—basically calling dads babysitters. The rest of the 74% of child care time, when children were with their mothers, was reported as parenting. (I’m sure this chaffs some dads out there too, right?)

I also find it infuriating that many elementary schools request (or practically require) parent volunteers on a daily basis in the classroom. So why, then, do other moms tisk, tisk when another mother works and can’t volunteer every day or every week? Isn’t it just as much a responsibility for the dads to carve out an hour to volunteer, too?

Aren’t many of the stereotypes out there reinforced by moms who feel that others who work aren’t doing their fair share? Seriously, think about it.

Aren’t so many of us just trying to keep our careers, dreams AND our families together? And, isn’t that ok?

So to be a “good mom” in America, does that require that our dreams and careers must suffer, too?

Here are two statements said to me recently:

  1. “I put my children first, which is why I don’t work.”
  2. “No one can be successful at writing, or actually write a book, and raise young children.”

I am blocking both comments out of my mind completely. Instead, I’m embracing my inner strength, (or my inner vagina) which really means, I’m embracing audacious hope. There just HAS to be a way to be a good mom, be present for my kids, and also say no to some of the demands made of me. There has to be a way that I can put ME on my To Do list.

What do you think? Are you struggling with this too?

6 responses to “Can I Be a Good Mom AND Follow My Dreams?

  1. If anyone can do it all, Laura, I know you can! Proud of you for questioning the norms. I’m not a mom, but all those demands seem unrealistic, unfair to heap on one person (the mom), and at times, downright silly.

  2. Thanks Rebecca! I’m really struggling with this. x

  3. I don’t think it’s possible for women to have it all. I separate my life into 3 categories: raising my son alone, my writing career, a relationship. I only have the first 2, because I recognize I’m not Superwoman. Something will suffer. I’m not willing to give up my writing and all that I do to promote it. But I admit I’d probably be a better mother if I sat playing Monopoly with my boy rather than working on the computer. But I just can’t do it. Selfish? Most definitely…

    • Thanks Tiffany. I don’t think you sound selfish at all. I’m sure you do plenty with your son. Do you think a single father would consider himself selfish for working on a project while his kid watched Sesame Street? Not likely. We’re all doing the best we can, but I’m just struggling for better strategies to juggle and don’t want to give up. I now have all three of those categories you mention, and feel very lucky, but am really working hard to manage it all. Maybe you’re right, maybe I need to lower the expectations a tad, or just keep working at the balancing act and learning saying no to too many requests.

  4. Yes, if we demand perfection from ourselves then we only set ourselves up for frustration. As a mother of 3 boys, I live by my motto that my house is half clean. And yes, the glass is half full because the other half was spilled. And hopefully someone other than me will clean it up, but not likely!

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