I recently attended a speaking engagement by Elissa Schappel, author of Blueprints for Building Better Girls, a work of fiction that “delves into the lives of an eclectic cast of archetypal female characters.”
Talking to an audience of working moms, Elissa spoke about her struggle to patchwork together her life as an artist, a mother, a wife, and a woman. As a writer whose soul requires her to dive deep into her passion, she has been less available to her children than they would like. And they were not afraid to let her know it. They have “forbidden” her to write another book and cried for her to stay connected, but Elissa doesn’t write because she enjoys it. She writes, she says, “because she can’t not write.” And when you can’t do what your soul requires of you, it’s harder to be a good mom too. So there are times she disappears.
This got me thinking about the career I have chosen, and what that means for my children. I’ve created a job that I am wildly passionate about and would love to devote hours upon hours to. But I’m also passionate about being a Mom. I adore my family and don’t want to miss a minute. Thus the dilemma, the guilt, the exhaustion, the worry: I am a Working Mom. Happy emphasis on both.
Because I created this job, I only eat what I catch. I can’t afford a fancy office (or a dumpy one for that matter) so I’m often hushing kids in the background while I take business calls. I go to the school and sporting events other working parents miss, but I’m often on the phone or emailing during some crucial part of those. And there have been occasions my kids have caught me crying in my car/bed/shower when I just couldn’t figure out how to make it all work.
I took my twelve year old daughter to lunch and asked what she thought of all this. She was quick with an opinion (which I love!). “Sometimes we just want you to not work and just hang out with us. But then it’s cool to see you not be just our mom.” I asked her what that feels like to see me be “not just her mom” and she said, “I like seeing your work ethic because then I feel like I can do things, too.”
Hallelujah. She gets it. I love that she sees me using my brain, being challenged, trying new things. As she grows older and more independent, it’s good for us both to know that I’m not always readily available or that she’s not the only element of my life. That’s too much pressure for a child about to leave the nest. I also have a son. I love showing him that women can be nurturing and intelligent, domestic and strong … you know – bring home the bacon AND fry it.
I knew from the time I was a little girl playing dolls that I would be a mom. I was also sure I would either be the president, a psychiatrist, a country singer, AND a mom. I even dared to dream of combining them all into one bizarre yet awesome occupation. If my crazy work-life jumble shows my daughter she can be a vet-translator-orchestra teacher-mom, that makes me happy. By filling my soul along the way, whether through work, or service, or hobby…or this crazy jumble of them all, I shine a light on the broad expanse of my kid’s possibilities. I don’t feel guilty for this crazy life we live. I feel a little bit tired but a lot lucky.