Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The biggest mistake Moms can make

The biggest mistake Moms can make is to look at motherhood as "the most important job in the world."

Here's the #1 lesson I have learned through my work as Mojo Mom:
Motherhood is not a job, it is a relationship.

Let that sink in for a minute while I thank Judy Stadtman Tucker, founder of The Mothers Movement Online, for introducing me to this revelatory wisdom. Motherood is not a job, it is a relationship.

Buttttttt.....you protest, I work so hard at motherhood. I used to be an employed professional. I have all these skills, talents, and I am applying them to motherhood, so why can't we all view that as my profession?

I know that feeling. I have been there myself as a professional-turned-SAHM. You are obviously free to think that way and you'll find support for this idea from authors like Darla Shine. The now-defunct magazine Total 180! "from briefcase to diaper bag" was founded on the premise of Mom finding fulfillment in her new role as a Chief Household Officer.

The problem is that if you look at motherhood as a professional outlet, you will start to expect motherhood to deliver the same rewards that a career does. Measurable achievement, results, advancement. A sense of identity as you live your life through that role. Motherhood can deliver some of these feelings on a short-term basis, but it will ultimately disappoint you if that's what you are expecting from it. You can start living through your children as your "product," as their achievements become the justification and proof of your hard work. A headlong collision with disappointment and resentment is nearly inevitable, because ultimately that is expecting something that motherhood shouldn't have to deliver. Your professional mojo needs another outlet.

Look at it this way--what if we substitute "wife" for "mother" in this scenario. Imagine saying, "My husband is my top priority. I quit my job so that I can give him 100% of my attention. I feel guilty any time I am not there for him. Hey, I have lots of professional skills and now I put them into this job. Being 'Michael's wife' is the most important job I'll ever have."

That sounds blessedly unimaginable to most of us. It was the pressure to think like that that led to the birth of feminism in the 1960's!

The bottom line is, it is not fair to our spouses or children to expect them to fulfill us and form the basis of our identity. No one can deliver that, and it is wrong to ask. We need to be able to be with our children, and away from them, managing that delicate balance of connection without suffocation. Too close and we stifle each other. Too far away and we lose our connection.

To be sure, I think that being a stay-at-home Mom is a completely valid option. I did it myself for 3 years. But staying at home is not a one-way street into a cul-de-sac that must define the rest of your life. While you are staying at home you absolutely need an outlet for your professional and creative mojo; something to keep those embers alive to rekindle later. Even if you are absoutely in love with being at home with little ones, please don't burn your bridges to the rest of the world. Maintain your professinal skills and contacts. You never know when you will need, or want, to go back to work. In the meantime, I urge you to commit to enjoying and cherishing the relationships with your family, but resist the temptation to lose yourself in them.

I appreciate the wisdom of Kahlil Gibran's thoughts from The Prophet "On Marriage" which speaks of the separateness we need to maintain in all healthy relationships:

"But let there be spaces in your togetherness,

And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.

Love one another but make not a bond of love:

Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls."

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Anonymous Sarah Zeldman said...

Smack! Right Between The Eyes.

This wisdom has knocked me out.

A Relationship -- NOT A JOB.

Part of me, not an all-consuming-never-get-ahead psuedo-profession.

I just love it.

The most balanced view of motherhoood I've ever seen.

12:28 AM  
Blogger Tina B. said...

WoW! So well put. Thank you Mojo Mom. I agree with Sarah, definitely the most balanced view of motherhood.

10:04 AM  
Anonymous Karen said...


12:00 PM  
Anonymous Emilie said...

Thanks, Amy!

Yes, a brilliantly balanced perspective of motherhood. Had I had this wisdom during the time I was a SAHM! It is very helpful to me now as a full-time working mom.

10:18 PM  
Anonymous Suzanne Pipho said...

Excellent point! I agree with the wisdom of the "biggest mistake" theory, but, for me it's hard to change something that is so deeply inbedded in my definition of motherhood. It's going to take some time to change my way of thinking/living since I've thought of it as a job for years. I'm going to try to start each day thinking, "A relationship, not a job" and go from there...

1:09 AM  
Anonymous cclaeson said...

And you wonder why society and our world is turning into what it is. It is unfortunate that you honestly think that being a Mother is not the most important and impactful thing that you will ever do or be. Being a Mother affects not only your child but your community and world. Nothing you ever accomplish will compare to what you do as a mother. Yes it is the hardest job in the world, but the outcome has the greatest longterm affect on everything. Being a mother is not just a relationship. It is a profession and the most respected. It is a falacy that the feminists and the media have led you to believe that it is demeaning or beneath you to want or even be the greatest calling you would ever have - being a Mother.

12:15 AM  

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