Today as I was running out the door to pick up my daughter from a friend’s house where she had been playing while I cranked out thousands of words for a freelance client in blissful silence, I noticed this tweet in my stream:
Well, that headline definitely drew me in, so I clicked over, one boot and one coat sleeve on, and read the post.
Lindsey wrote about last year, a big one for her as a blogger in which a lot of dreams came true. She got to cover the presidential election, traveled to the White House, appeared on cable news networks and developed her own web series. As an ambitious mom with big dreams, Lindsey said,
Last year was a culmination of all I’ve been working toward my whole professional life, really. I was able to use all my past work experience as a news reporter and anchor, television writer and producer and blogger, and combine it into one job. And that was awesome.
But all was not as it seemed. Because, Lindsey says, her kids suffered.
As ashamed as I am to admit it, I can see very clearly now that my children have suffered over the last year. You might not notice that they’ve suffered, even if you see them every day. But I notice. I notice when my daughter sadly says, “It’s okay, Mommy. We can spend time together another day. I can see you’re really busy.” I notice by the dependency my son has formed on video and computer games, born from too much downtime when Mommy had to work.
Oooof. This hit me right where it counts, because while my career isn’t on the same level as Lindsey’s, the truth is that I’ve got big plans for my career. I’ve taken some major steps this year, including expanding The Happiest Mom by taking on guest writers and a Managing Editor and launching a brand-new project. I have exciting brand partnerships on the horizon and am hoping to develop my own web series. Behind the scenes, I’m working on numerous client projects. I’m busier than I’ve ever been, and looking for new opportunities all the time.
In short, I see myself taking a lot of the same steps Lindsey did in the year or years to come, and at times I struggle with wondering if I should want these things, or if I’ll live to regret them if they come to pass.
But I have hope that I won’t.
Since selling my first freelance story in 2003, my career has inched forward a little at a time, sometimes taking lurching leaps forward, sometimes slowing or stalling during a challenging time, like after the birth of a baby, or during a difficult developmental stage. Or a particularly gray January.
And yes, I’ve seen that everyone in the family makes sacrifices during those “lurching leap forward” years and that sometimes, my kids don’t get what they want…which is pretty much always more, more, more of me. Sometimes our lives seem to fall apart into a chaotic mess and I have to come up with solutions and put things back together. Sometimes I just get overwhelmed, blue, or nostalgic for a simpler life.
But I think what I’ve realized is that, while I believe there is no such thing as a perfectly balanced day, there can be balance in the big picture. Because those big lurchy leap years are awesome in their own way, and have benefitted the whole family in myriad ways.
When, like Lindsey, we see changes in our kids that we aren’t happy about, I believe it’s our true Mom Consciences kicking in rather than false guilt. That Mom Conscience is so real, and so important. It keeps us in check and helps us make the best possible choices.
But here’s where my opinion might differ from most: I don’t believe that, when my Mom Conscience whispers in my ear that it’s time for a change, it necessarily means I’ve screwed up or done something unforgivable. Sometimes it just means that life has shifted a little too much in one direction, and it’s time to balance it back out.
Don’t get me wrong: I often feel conflicted about my role as a working mom, sometimes because I wonder if I’m short-changing my kids and sometimes because I feel like I’m short-changing myself. But in the long run, my ambitions are important to me, and sometimes you just don’t know that you’ve bitten off more than you can (or want to!) chew until you’re busy chomping along and trying not to choke.
And nothing is irreversible.
Whether it’s a blogger hitting the big time or a mom running for local office, I want mothers who are enjoying success in some realm outside their kids to be able to embrace that time without guilt. I want us all to be able to listen to our Mom Conscience and make changes when needed without feeling like we have to beat ourselves up for missing the mark. I want us to give ourselves the grace to test boundaries and make mistakes and reel things back in when we know we need to, but without feeling sheepish or “bad mommish” for getting in a little over our heads.
Because I really do believe that moms can be ambitious and nurturing at the same time. That our kids learn and grow by watching us try, succeed, fail, and try again. Because it can be good for them to experience change, boredom, and challenges.…even if it makes them uncomfortable sometimes.
Later in the post Lindsey pointed out that sometimes it’s easy to let other people start defining success for us, and I totally believe that’s true. And just as nobody else should define our success, nobody else can tell us what is “too much.” Sometimes we can’t even recognize it ourselves, until we’re in the thick of it.
When that happens, or when we recognize that our pace of life has become too fast and furious, I applaud any mom who simplifies and scales back.
But I want to make an argument that the too-busy or distracted times of our lives do not necessarily define us as mothers or doom our kids. It’s all part of the big balance, and we really deserve to have awesome, amazing times and pursue opportunities for ourselves, without feeling like we’ve let everyone else down.
As long as, when we feel that Mom Conscience nagging, we take a breather, see where we need to make changes, and pull things back toward center.
If you ask me, that’s pretty much the definition of a good mom.
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