Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Motherhood is not a one-way street

I am so glad that MojoMom.com allows my work to keep growing. When I turned in my manuscript for Mojo Mom, I could feel the weight of committing to a finished book. I am gratified that two years later, with all that I've experienced and learned since then, I still stand by my work with pride. Talking to hundreds of women has given me the confidence that I was on to something important when I came up with Mojo Mom.

As I blogged about recently, what's happened since then is that a few simple points have been reinforced and emphasized. Two ideas have spung to mind and stuck with me recently.

Motherhood is not a one-way street

As much as we like to put life into ordered boxes, and people into simple categories, I have learned that motherhood defies simple categorization. Thank goodness--beacause it's much more intersting that way. I have found that motherhood is not a one-way street to any destination other than needing to be comfortable with CHANGE.

Recently our culture spent so much time and energy on "The Mommy Wars" that were theoretically between "stay at home Moms versus working Moms." Not only is the "versus" largely an illusion, but I have come to believe that the "stay at home" and "working/employed" categories are oversimplified as well. Many of us will transition in and out of the work world in meaningful ways over the years, and there are women who have the same work desires, but fall into different categories only because of circumstances. One woman stays at home because can't find a flexible job or quality, affordable child care. Another woman wants to stay at home but can't afford to give up her salary. The underlying needs and interests of mothers transcend our differences, and the more we can come together to work on those issues, the better off we will all be.

Part of the challenge is that the tasks of motherhood require us to live life in the moment, and it can be easy to lose sight of the long run. One some days, babyhood feels like forever, but the truth is that children do grow up and go to school more quickly that you might imagine. I know what it is like to just want to get through the day--to see that it is 2 pm and to think, with exhaustion, "I've already worked a 9 hour day" thanks to an early-riser toddler. But I encourage every woman, including those who feel invested in being self-proclaimed stay at home Moms, to take the time to continue planning for the future. Not only do we need a Plan B to be able to support our families in an emegency, but we need to keep looking ahead to the next step when our children's needs and our opportunities change.

Who is responsible for making you happy?

Moms frequently tell me that they still feel guilty about taking time for themselves, and feel like they always have to be "on" and can never slack-off. One of my goals in my book is to convince women that they should take time for their creative lives, their own self-care and pleasure, because they are worth it.

How can we solidify that understanding? I recently attended a seminar by Dr. Robin Smith (one of Oprah's favorite life coaches) and she put in the simplest terms: she said that your husband and kids are not responsible for making you happy. Only you can make you happy. We need to take ownership and responsibility for our own lives.

This was truly a breath of fresh air. Ah! I have to take care of myself because that is MY JOB, as much as my job is to take care of others. Our families are part of our happiness but it is not their job to make us happy. It is our job to commuicate our needs, negotiate relationships and roles, and keep pursuing our dreams. I find it incredibly liberating (and a little scary too) to ditch the fantasy of Prince Charming and take responsibility for my own happiness.

What are some signs that we are not taking care of our own lives?

We've all experienced some version of these moments, so they are really pretty normal, but try to cultivate an awareness when these situations arise. Not all of these examples seem negative but they point to living through others. Resentment is a sign that you are not gettting what you need. Ask yourself how you can change your response to actually get what. *Please contribute other examples by posting comments.*

•Expecting my husband to read my mind and anticipate what I want, without me telling him.
•Wielding guilt as a weapon against my family: "You people don't appreciate what I do around here."
•Taking on any role that makes me a martyr.
•Being jealous of my husband's career.
•Feeling discouraged when my own work encounters an obstacle.
•Living through my child's accomplishments rather than my own.
•Feeling that my child is a reflection of my standards.
•Getting run down and depleted by doing too much at once.
•Taking care of everyone else but neglecting to take care of myself.
•Feeling resentful that I am doing all the housework myself but not asking for help.
•Downplaying my own interests and feeling that they are not worthy of my time and attention, or my family's commitment to supporting me.

Wow, just writing those negative thought down truly sucked the energy right out of me. I'd better turn that around to end on a higher note. If you explore your negative thoughts, make sure you also take a minute to write down a new version that reflects your commitment to take charge of your own happiness. I will keep working on my own goals. I am worthy of the finest self-care. I will ask my husband and child to be active participants in managing family life.

I think it's no coincidence that the old proverb says that "necessity is the mother of invention." Motherhood feels like the mother of invention, change, renewal, and continual growth. This is a challenging process, one that does not fit into neat boxes or conform to carefully-laid plans. Parenthood is truly a journey into the unknown--into possibility--that we take together.


Anonymous obxmom said...

Simply put,

You are reading my mind today and I appreciate your your comments. Motherhood is all about change. Just when I think I have mastered something a new challenge arrives. That's truly part of why I love being a mom, but also why it is the most difficult job I will ever have.

Thank you for putting it into perspective mojo mom.

Oh, and I am quite jealous of your trip to see Jon Stewart, I mean Oprah. :)

9:33 PM  
Blogger MojoMom said...

Hi Obxmom,

Thanks for writing in. It's such a dreary, rainy day here today that it feels like I am a cocoon --so it's good to know you are reading and connecting with the blog!

I keep thinking of other self-sabotaging thoughts. Anything along the lines of "But I'm just a Mom..." would also qualify.

10:51 PM  

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