My childhood aspirations didn’t include motherhood.
No, that’s not accurate. My plans included motherhood.
But that was just it. I thought I would do all of these really great things, and tuck my children in there somewhere, like something you check off a to-do list.
Is that such a terrible idea? First-time parents – particularly those career-oriented individuals who’ve waited to start a family – might understand what I mean. Actors bring their children to movie sets. Lawyers spend their lunches at playgrounds. Doctors build offices next to their houses and see their children between patients.
Surely I could manage that, right?
So many parents laughed at me when I told them I intended to keep my life the same as much as possible. They told me it would never be the same again. They filled my mind with terrible and disgusting ideas of how I’d never sleep, I’d never do anything fun, I’d never see my husband again.
And, you know what I thought?
Yeah. I’m not going to let that happen.
I would be prepared. I wouldn’t let my sleep – or anything else, for that matter – be stolen from me.
My whole life I’d heard how smart and capable I was. Surely I, with so much experience in making the impossible possible, would be able to reign in a little child.
Wow. I was an idiot.
I borrowed a book on sleep-training. The first two weeks of Noelle’s life I followed everything the book said. I refused to give in to her ‘demanding’ cries. I refused to let my life be ordered around by a seven-pound shrill-little version of David and myself.
I’ll show her who’s boss, I thought.
I realize now just how desperate for control I was. Something was happening to me that I couldn’t change, and I thought, I just need to get it back to normal.
I’ll never forget that two-week visit at the doctor’s office. Our doctor – a brilliant and wise man who treats his patients with respect and kindness – took one look at Noelle, then me, then back at her.
He did not mince words.
She’s not eating enough. She needs more.
I wanted to glare at him.
I was giving her all I could. I was feeding her all day long. My house was a wreck. I wasn’t getting any sleep. I wasn’t getting anything done. I was going crazy.
But she needed more!?!
I cried on the way home, then took a quick detour to the book store. I needed help, and what I was reading obviously wasn’t working. Even if I could just hear from another parent, I’ve been there, I’ve done that, you’re going to make it, here’s what helped me, maybe then I wouldn’t lose my mind.
I stumbled on The Baby Sleep Book by Dr. William Sears. While far from perfect, its enduring, pacifying advice keeps it on my constantly-purged, over-stacked book shelves. I take it down every now and then. I read about other parents, parents who learned to enjoy all the trouble that came along with child-rearing.
And just last week, I realized that the biggest thing I learned from that book is the value of being well-attached to your children.
I’ve learned that no matter what my children go through, no matter what heartaches they face, I can be there. I can’t take their frustration away, but I can help them brainstorm what to do about it.
And maybe it’s a good thing I can’t take their frustration away. Because, as Dr. Sears, and so many other parenting experts point out, removing all frustration from our children’s lives would hamper their development.
Wait a minute.
Frustration is good for us?
Disruption of our routine, ease with which we conquer the world, and, ahem, disruption of our sleep… is good for us?
I am convinced that nothing else will change us like parenting. Nothing else cures us of selfishness so quickly or consistently. Nothing else purges us of all the twaddling time-wasters we used to indulge in before. No, seriously, I want to know what I did with ALL OF MY TIME, way back when! Because I am far busier than I ever used to be, and yet, somehow, seem to get more done than ever too.
I’ve recently read a variety of philosophies on education in preparation for home-schooling our children. I’ve immersed myself in the literally hundreds of curriculum options available for homeschooling families.
I won’t lie to you: I’m overwhelmed, stressed, and scared.
But I’m also so, so excited.
It doesn’t make any sense, but the more reading I do about parent involvement in their child’s education – no matter what type of schooling they choose – the bigger my heart grows for my girls. The more energy I put into teaching them emotional awareness, the more I’m proud of them. Even with all my late nights and early mornings researching, praying, talking to others who’ve done this, I have never felt this warm towards my kids or so attached to them.
I’ve also never seen them respond to me with such joy before.
I can’t express how rewarding this feels. The more I’m putting in to them, the more I’m getting back. The more I invest in their lives, the more excited I am to see the fruit of that investment.
It’s like all careers, I guess.
Yes. I said it. Motherhood can be a career.
It’s all what you make of it.
Unfortunately our world is impressed by ‘shiny bauble’ achievements. They like long resumes. They like policies, concrete accomplishments, measurable rewards.
Motherhood, on the other hand, is filled with intangible skills. Things like cooking for a growing family, keeping the house clean during a constant invasion of creative little people, driving said little people all over creation for activities, events, and play dates, those things don’t really seem like much.
I mean, anyone can do that, right?
And, let’s face it: our world is interested in things that not just anyone can do.
As one who has witnessed many first moments of life, I can say with certainty that literally anyone can become a biological mother – despite the silent cries of maternity nurses everywhere that please, oh please, could we make this thing called parenting a restricted activity, and could we demand all those interested to apply for a license first, and could we require they get a masters degree in little people and selflessness first?
The trouble is, that kind of training doesn’t happen in a traditional school.
It happens by having children.
I look back on who I was before kids, and I really just want to throw up. I was a selfish, demanding, immature version of myself. I had potential, I guess. We all do. But it wasn’t until these little creatures, the ones I could carry around with one arm for the first few months, threw my life off a cliff and gave me a new version of normal, that I started to see glimpses of the woman I truly want to be.
Many of us are called to work outside the home. Even more are called to work outside the home and be mothers. But what really disturbs me is when I ask someone if they work outside the home, and they look uncomfortable, and then say, ‘no, I’m just a mom.’
I know someone who left a satisfying career for her children, not because she had to, but because she wanted to. I can not express how much respect I have for that. She is capable of anything she puts her mind to, and yet she chose to put her mind to her children.
But we don’t have to quit our jobs in order to do that.
We can put our minds to our children now.
And, if we do, I think we might see something so incredible we never want to look back.
My children are the most creative project I’ve ever been a part of, writes Susan Bauer, author of The Well-Trained Mind and guru of the classical home-schooling method.
My children are the most creative project I’ve ever been a part of. And the thing is, when I do pass on, they’re the ones who will remember me best – for good or bad.
These women I write about on my blog, these people who’ve changed the world, these people that I so look up to and want to be more like, so many times, I hear from you after I write about them, and you tell me that you never knew such-and-such about so-and-so before.
These people I write about, they haven’t been dead that long – a couple of centuries at most. Many of them are – or were – very, very famous. Most of them changed our world forever.
And yet we’ve forgotten all of these perfect resumes they’ve created.
But the people who remember all about them?
And, perhaps their children’s children.
So, stay-at-home moms, please hear me: let’s stop using the ‘just’ a mom phrase. Let’s treat it like the career it is.
And, like any career, know there will be challenges, demands, pitfalls and thrills.
There will be agony. There will be tears.
But we will never do anything more world-changing than raise little humans to adulthood.
Do you want to change the world?
And, please… do it well.
They might not always like you. But I promise you, they will never forget you. You have the power of their lives – their earliest memories, their first lessons on how the world works – in your ‘just a mom’ hands.
But, some of you say, I’ve already blown it. Multiple times. Are you saying I messed up my kid for the rest of their lives?
Well, we’ve all blown it. Your mother blew it sometimes. So did mine. But I’ll bet a lot of us would say that these women who lost it occasionally were also incredible mothers. I sure would.
Because here’s the best thing about kids: they’re remarkably resistant and amazingly forgiving. They want to think the world of their moms.
So. We have a choice. We can be ‘just moms,’ or we can be career moms.
We can write ourselves new resumes – the kinds that are etched in human beings.
I sure want to, at least. And I hope you’ll join me, because not too far from now, I’ll need another person to tell me it’s going to be okay and you can keep going.
You up for it, wonder woman?