I’m in the midst of the most tumultuous time of year for me. March 4th (my mum’s birthday) to May 3rd (the anniversary of her death) sees me reacting to things with a lot more sensitivity than the rest of the year. I mention this because it’s going to affect what I have to say. It’s also the reason I have something to say.
My mum became a civil engineer in a time when very few women pursued engineering — I think she may have even been the only one in her classes. She was passionate about women being able to pursue their dreams in typically male-dominated fields, and that’s one of the reasons after she passed away, the company she worked for and the university she went to teamed up to create a scholarship for women in engineering in her honour. I was raised by a woman of great strength, who could juggle career and family. I still feel like she did an excellent job of raising my siblings and me. Even after she separated from my father.
Sometimes I feel like I’m not living up to her expectations of me. I have a university degree in Internet Computing that I’m not utilising but for the occasional requests I get from my husband to fix some PHP for him. That’s fine, though. After working in web design and programming, I decided it wasn’t for me. Or at least I was not good at dealing with clients. I’m not really a people person, in the sense that I have a difficult time talking to people I don’t know very well.
I also have a Graduate Diploma in Media Production, which gets moderately more use when I write a short film screenplay or work on filming and editing a music video for Oil in the Alley, but time available to pursue those things seems rare.
But when I feel like I’m too busy with family life to pursue my dreams, or someone tells me I should be doing more to take care of them, that I’m not doing enough, I shut down. I ask of you, how can I be a good mother and model a woman who should be respected when I don’t have the ability to care for myself?
I was not raised to be a woman who could be defined by motherhood and that’s it. I was raised to be someone who believed they could pursue it all. Not take a break just because she popped out a couple of kids, and then not do anything with her life until they moved out.
Balance is important. If I waited on my kids day and night, how would they learn any sense of independence? How could they learn to do things for themselves? If I don’t pursue my dreams while they’re growing up, who am I to teach them that they can do the same?
This doesn’t mean I’m a neglectful mother and ignore them completely in pursuit of my current dream to be a more successful writer. My novel would likely be edited by now if that was the case. My six-year-old, Doyle, is nearly finished primary one, and he’s sitting at 2nd place in his class. He started school younger than he would have done if we were still living in Australia, learning things you don’t even learn in year one down under, and he’s one of the best in his class. That wouldn’t have happened if I’d been inattentive and uncaring.
But kids are hard work, and expectations of mothers in the 21st century seems to be higher than it ever has been. Sometimes just for the sake of my mental health, I need a break. And yet I find myself feeling guilty to admit that. I worry about people telling me I’m not doing a good enough job, and I worry about it most of all because it is like confirming all my own self doubts. Maybe I’m not cut out for motherhood at all. I wasn’t prepared for this. My kids weren’t planned. I got pregnant because of unsuccessful birth control, and I feel like admitting that will lead people to think I don’t love my kids, or I don’t love them enough.
It’s all BS though. Everyone copes with motherhood differently, and there’s no one tried and true method that everyone should follow. Because people have their own unique personalities and dreams. People – mothers and children. I don’t want what I do to be compared with what other mothers do. We have different children with different needs. Our own needs differ from each other. We were raised by different people.
My mum was barely around when I was growing up because she was the breadwinner. I think I turned out fine, and my kids will too. Even if I don’t measure up to someone else’s expectations of what a mother should be doing.
Besides. I don’t want my boys to grow up thinking a woman’s only role in life is that of mother because their own didn’t have anything outside of that.