I’m Not The Kind Of Mother I Imagined I Would Be

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.

I'm Not The Kind Of Mother I Imagined I Would Be
Flowers From The Market, 11×14 watercolor painting. Day 25 of #30in30

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.


35 thoughts on “I’m Not The Kind Of Mother I Imagined I Would Be”

  1. Lil, Can you hear the trumpets? This is brilliant. I want you to print this and paste it to your own art. I want you to take out sentences and make it your collage to yourself. I love this post SO SO SO SO much. It resonates, it speaks to me, it sings loud and proud the truth about being a creative mother. Ha… no irony in that redundancy; those two words could not be more disparate in their usage in this sense.

    Sing, Lillian. Fly! Soar! You’re it. You nailed it. I hope you feel better — do you? I hope you are releasing years and tons of years.

    “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. ”

    Brava. Find your favorite sentences and make this a collage. It will be our May art; screw mother’s day. The homage to the microwave can go anywhere.

    love to you and your big bad Spirit. xooxxoxoxo

    1. I love the collage idea! I think I will do that. Thanks for suggesting it and thanks for always being around when I need to work these thoughts out for myself. Our discussions always lead to clarity.

  2. Too many words for you on this one my friend…too many thought bubbling over about how brilliantly you put this all on the table. How smart you are to be figuring this out now. I thought I was the mom I thought I’d be, but then realized I really never thought I’d actually be a stay at home mom…here we are…17 YEARS LATER. There is no perfect, there are varying degrees of it for everyone, and then there are just things that work and are practical…perfect isn’t practical. Oh, I am having a hard time getting my words to come together correctly, so I am just going to leave it at you are wonderful as always…you be you as it is the best thing you can offer Tiny-small (and sidepecker)

    1. The fact that you mentioned sidepecker made me laugh so hard I started crying.

      I always think about how my life is rarely what I planned, but often so much better than what I could have imagined anyway!

  3. This is my favorite line: “Walking around feeling defeated and like a martyr isn’t making my relationship with my daughter any better. ” This post is powerful and holds so much truth. Thank you for sharing. Society’s version of the ideal mother may not actually be what is best for our children, and our children deserve to have parents who care for themselves too.

  4. It is OK to feel this! And it is OK for others to be fulfilled with motherhood. You are not a bad mother.
    My belief… If you are not your own person, and happy with that person, how can you make a family happy? If you are not continually strengthening and enjoying your marriage, how can you be a good parent? This idea that a woman must sacrifice herself and her marriage for her children is ridiculous and a total lie. We all find fulfillment in different ways. Be fulfilled. And love your husband and your kids.

  5. Letting go of anger and pressure sounds much better than letting go of goals and ambitions! I love that!
    I’m not the mother I thought I’d be either, but in the opposite way to you. I was determined that, unlike my mother, I would go on working. Circumstances (eg: moving hundreds of miles, a sickly child, born very prematurely, husband often away) meant that when my daughters were little I did put my goals, and often my work, aside. It’s possible that if I’d approached things differently, I’d be a far more successful novelist by now. But maybe not. I do feel some frustration, but maybe I’d have felt that anyway.
    I was interested that much of your post touches on identity, and that you are mourning that lost version of yourself. It’s important to allow that mourning, and just as important to allow ourselves to see beyond self-imposed identities to allow ourselves to be more freely who we are. It sounds as if you are doing a great job.

    1. Thank you, Yvonne. What you said rang true to me. I think sometimes we have to let go of these ideas about what we think is our identity and truly accept who we are in the circumstances we have been dealt!

  6. I have BEEN you. I feel your pain. For me, not only carving out time was necessary, but a space and a babysitter while we were all at the house. Yes, that’s right. I got a babysitter to come to my house so that I could go into a room and lock the door and do my work. It got even better when they were both full time students, and better yet when I found a space I rented and had to actually get dressed and drive to. Everyone survived my flawed mothering skills and yours will too.

    1. I have gotten a babysitter to come to the house so I could clean my studio. I totally get that. I have thought about having a studio away from my house too. It just seems like “going to work” is more respected than working from home. Like it would be more real. Maybe someday!

  7. Excellent plan. I think having our own goals and ambitions is part of setting a good example for our kids. Carving out work time got a lot easier once my kids were in school.

  8. I don’t know what to say. You have said everything that needed to be said. I could feel every word of it. Even though we all enjoy these are precious years of motherhood, there is no denying the fact that we love our work too. I sometimes reminisce about the time when even after a full time job, I took care of the house, traveled, blogged and attended blogger meets. Now? Ha.
    Anyway, I think you have given voice to all our words that we acknowledge but never have the time to write. Or the art of putting it down so beautifully.

  9. You should never regret doing or not doing anything and you should not feel guilty about carving out time for yourself, for your ambitions (why is that an ugly word for women?!) and for your own enjoyment!
    I truly believe your daughter will also benefit from it in not thinking that sacrificing oneself for family is the only way to go as a woman!

  10. Amen. I feel the exact way. Or did. Although I never felt as if I was at fault. I felt society tries to sell women a bill of goods. No one asks or would expect a man to choose b/t his work and being a parent. Why is it expected of women?

  11. Thank you SO much for saying this. You’re in my head. I go through this daily and I so agree with the idea to give ourselves permission to feel the way we feel and approach our work/family balance the way we do. Because our kids do need to see their mothers doing what makes us happy and fulfilled. And they do appreciate it. I love this post. It’s so important to be a person as well as a mother and to not push ourselves, our passions, interests and gifts to the back burner so we can cook dinner on the front burner, you know?

  12. I suggest finding a good preschool. Blocks of time to work granted. Part time a few or all week days or maybe 3 full time days will give you the time you need to come back to motherhood refreshed. Also it’s good for your daughter’s social skills and verbal skills if nothing else (but a good school will give her more than just those things)

    1. My daughter just started preschool. It’s been amazing and I think it’s what made me really see myself. What a difference that time makes. Now I just have to get my husband to cooperate more! I need to find him a hobby.

  13. This is so so true for me, too. Every day, I feel regret at not being the mom I want to be thought I’d be, all of that. And every once in a while, I realize that I’m the mom I am and that it’s okay. But still…

  14. This is wonderful. I struggle with not being the mom that my own mother was because I am a totally different personality type. I also get frustrated with my work time (and also my thoughts — good grief, kids, sometimes I need to finish a thought before I can listen!) being “violated.” I feel guilty about this but also think it is good for children to see that their mother is a real person, not just an entity who exists solely to care for them. I think I was grown up before I realized this about my own mother. (Yes, I am kind of an idiot.) Anyway, thank you for sharing your thoughts so beautifully.

    1. Thank you, Ami! I think we all grow up before we understand and/or appreciate our mothers. I hear you. Sometimes I just want to finish a thought without being interrupted. They say every time we get interrupted it takes 15 minutes to get focused again…which means we are probably always working at half capacity due to constant interruptions! I feel guilty too, but I don’t think our mothers spent their days entertaining us the way we are expected to entertain our kids now. It’s definitely a different time!

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