I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the kind of mother I am. I’m not the kind of mother I imagined I would be. I’m not even the kind of mother I like to pretend to be. I’m not saying I am a bad mother or a good mother. Only time will tell, but I am definitely not the mother I thought I would be.
In my mind I am all sacrificing. I put my family first at all times. My own dreams and ambitions are on the back burner and I am happy and content with that. My life is all about my family and everything else is secondary.
In reality, my dreams, goals, and ambitions are very important to me. I find myself frustrated with the demands of family. I get irritated when my work time is invaded and not respected. I get annoyed when my hard work is undermined or when it’s not taken seriously. I’m not completely fulfilled with the duties of motherhood and I don’t feel a sense of peace and happiness over keeping a clean house. I sometimes resent dropping everything to play dollhouse or having to stop writing mid sentence to get yet another cup of milk and then stopping again two minutes later to clean up the spilled milk.
I realized recently, after talking to a few friends, that my real problem is cognitive dissonance. My friends suggest I stop worrying so much about my work. My daughter is young. I should just concentrate on being a mom and enjoy it. It’s the most important job in the world. She won’t be small forever. I have years ahead of me to build a career. Why stress over it now? I agree with them wholeheartedly because that is the kind of mom and person I want to be. That is the kind of mom I imagine myself to be.
The problem is it’s not who I really am. This is where the cognitive dissonance rears it’s ugly head. I am happiest when I have time carved out to paint and write. I am happiest when I accomplish things that have nothing to do with being a wife or a mother. I am most content and satisfied with life in general when I have this space to be me and just me. In my work space I am not just a mother or a wife. I am a person. I need that kind of personal validation for contentment and satisfaction. I can’t get there through motherhood alone even though I really, really want to be able to.
So, here I am. Mostly I am struggling with the tension between the kind of mother and person I wish I was and the kind of mother and person I actually am. Since I was a kid I have had this vision of the mother I would be. It’s a fantasy and I am not living up to it.
I’m an obsessed workaholic who loves to solve problems and make things happen. I love my work. I want to do it all the time. I need blocks of space and time to focus on work so that later I can enjoy time with my family. Otherwise I feel cranky. I feel agitated. I feel pulled in too many directions. Multitasking all the time is wearing me out. When I am in the middle of writing or painting and I am interrupted frequently or my time is cut short I feel shortchanged. Time is this big commodity now. Trying to divide it up fairly is incredibly difficult. All of this frustration and angst is all so contrary to this idealized motherhood/woman persona I have developed in my mind. I cringe a little just typing the words, but it is the truth. At least it is the truth right now.
I feel like the only way I can find a solution is to be completely honest. Only then can I step back and evaluate the way I schedule my life. The problem I now need to solve is how to honor my own needs and not shortchange my family in the process. My first idea is to give up on trying to be the perfect mother. That failure eats at me daily. I’m also giving up on the idea that I am not allowed to like my work or want to accomplish my goals. I am giving myself permission to say that working is a priority for me and that it doesn’t mean I don’t love my family. It doesn’t mean I don’t adore my daughter and want to spend time with her. It just means that accomplishing things in my work makes me a happier person which makes me a happier mother. It’s part of my self-care. Some people get pedicures. I need to paint and write and take care of my business. Walking around feeling defeated and like a martyr isn’t making my relationship with my daughter any better. What she needs to see is a grown up woman who stands by her choices and works hard to attain some life satisfaction. She needs a role model that is honest and real. Even when it’s not pretty or ideal.
I know this is nothing new for most women. Most women struggle with these thoughts and feelings and schedules. It’s kind of new for me. I guess because I am acknowledging the truth. I am acknowledging that little voice inside of me that screams when people tell me to just enjoy being a mother and let the rest go. It’s not my road to life satisfaction. I need to gracefully bow out and get on my own path. This idealized version of motherhood is a trap and I set it for myself. Pretending I don’t want more out of my life is a lie. This all surprises me. It’s not the way I saw myself. I never thought I’d say these things.
I am feeling a little disappointed that I am not the kind of mother I admire most and I am not the kind of mother I imagined I would be. I am mourning that lost version of myself. I’m also feeling a little relieved because I am being honest. I’m not as selfless as I’d like to be. I can take a big breath and sit with that for a while. This is me in all my imperfection.
I want to change my life so I have work hours with clear boundaries so that when I am with my daughter I can truly be with my daughter. So I can stop thinking about all of the things I should be doing instead. So I can go to bed at night feeling satisfaction in what I accomplished that day and contentment in my personal relationships. Trying to pretend my work doesn’t matter to me isn’t helping anyone. It’s just making me tired and, if I am a completely honest, it is also making me angry.
Instead of letting go of my goals and ambitions I am letting go of that anger and pressure. I am letting go of being the mother I imagined I would be. I am embracing the mother that I am.