Before I became a mom, I didn't exactly know what the hell I was doing. I knew the path I wanted to take and the woman I wanted to become, but there was no clear plan of how to do those things or be that person. Having survived a difficult childhood, then a failed marriage fresh out of high school, I thought I'd be doomed to fail no matter what I did. Then I had children. Being a mother reminded me I'm powerful, strong, and independent because, in raising them, I often see myself reflected back at me (the good and the bad, of course).
Growing up, through my parents' volatile divorce and romances thereafter, I looked up to my grandmother who, arguably, was the greatest low-key feminist of our time. Working long hours in a glass factory alongside her male counterparts, against the wishes of my grandfather who'd wanted her to stay home and care for their two children, she was as fiercely independent as they come. Long before that, diagnosed with tuberculosis in her late teens (just after marriage), she'd have to abort her pregnancy to save her life and sent to a sanatorium through the length of her illness. This wreaked havoc on her underlying mental illnesses, such as depression, and more than a few times she'd attempt suicide.
While my grandmother's life was far different than the one I currently live, she was my person — that one being I looked to for advice, guidance, and support through all the ebbs and flows of life. I lived with her off and on throughout high school and even years after. When I went through a divorce at just 22, she was there. When I suffered a miscarriage, she was there. I knew as long as she was on this earth, I'd somehow be OK. Then, all the things her body had been fighting finally took their toll, including congestive heart failure, and this woman I needed to remind me of my strength would soon disappear into nothing but a memory.
When I had my daughter 10 years ago, I wasn't so sure I'd be very good at mothering her. My own mother, whom I've grown so very close to in my adult years, wasn't very good at mothering me (which is why I turned to my grandmother so often). I feared the gene had been passed along and I'd fail my child before ever even trying. When I was diagnosed with Postpartum Depression (PPD) after the birth, my fears came to fruition when I became unable to bond with or attached to my daughter. I still carry so much guilt about how I let her down in those early days, but five years after her, with two miscarriages in-between, I gave birth to my son and luckily, didn't experience PPD that time around.
As I went through all of these things — pregnancies, births, losses, depression — I was never really sure I'd come out on the other side of them better or worse. Even still, my greatest fear is letting my children down; that I'm not strong enough to help them become who they're meant to be and that I'll be nothing like my grandmother. The funny thing about parenting is, I'm learning new lessons every day. I'm not perfect (by far), but I'm trying to be better than what I had so that someday, if my children choose to be parents, they'll be better than me, and so on. I can honestly say that, aside from my greatest influence — Gram — being a mother (and also a feminist) has reminded me how strong I really am, even when I feel nothing like it.
When My Children Need Money For Something
I've had a lot of jobs in my lifetime, having dipped my hand in everything from veterinary receptionist to telemarketer to vacuum salesperson (all before kids). None of those, I knew, would be my career and for many years I had no idea how to put my passion into action. Watching my grandmother work tireless hours in a factory and seeing how my mother worked full-time, putting herself through college (graduating with honors) while raising both my younger brother and I, showed me the importance of work ethic.
Money had always been tight and I remember how my mother struggled to pay the bills and put food on the table. My brother and I were recipients of free school lunches and however humiliated my mother felt at the time, we also used food stamps to get her through the rough patches. The way I know it made her feel — the embarrassment — not being able to provide stuck with me more than most things because I knew I didn't want my kids to experience the same. There were times we wouldn't have eaten if not for the kindness of strangers, food pantries, government assistance, and my grandmother.
Being a working mother shows me the importance of my independence. I work so hard to ensure my children never know the struggles I knew. Luckily, I love what I do after finally finding my way. When my kids come home from school in need of a donation, or pre-school payment, or even for lunch money, it gives me much pleasure to write a check from my own account with the money I earned.
When Someone Asks How I Do It All
I work as much as I can. I care for my children. I'm a partner of nearly 13 years. I run long distances. I write for pleasure and for pay. There are reasons I take on so much and they have nothing to do with impressing anyone but everything to do with achieving all I feel I'm capable of while simultaneously inspiring my children to be their greatest selves, just as my grandmother showed me.
While I do love being asked how I'm able to do it all, I'm really only reminded at the end of every day as I tuck my kids into bed at night. After we've recounted the day, read a book, and I'm looking into their eyes, it's very clear they pull their strength from me and I'm so, so grateful for that. Even on the hard days, when I feel like I've done nothing right, they still hug me and make me feel like I've done nothing wrong.
So to answer how I "do it all," is to simply look at my two babies and say, "How can I not when they're looking to me for inspiration?"
When My Kids Compare Me To A Superhero
I'm not a fan of being labeled a "superwoman," though I get the sentiment behind it; especially when it's coming from my kids. Having a 10-year-old girl and a 5-year-old boy means I have to be a lot of things all at once. I have to be a good listener, a great communicator, a fantastic storyteller, and a supreme manager of time. Because I do work from home, and I'm responsible for most household chores, errands, and bills due to my partner's work schedule, it sometimes overwhelms me. After all, I'm only human.
But in my children's eyes (and what I fail to realize until it's pointed out to me) I am a superhero, whether I want to be or not. That feeling of finding a toy my son cried about for weeks or talking my daughter through a pre-pubescent friend crisis (there are so many now!), I'm their person just as Gram was mine. It's a strange feeling to have the role reversed but my kids remind me how powerful my presence really is.
When My Children Are Sad And I Make Them Feel Better
I don't love it when my kids are upset. What parent is? Being home with them all time also means I'm deeply involved (often times a helicopter parent) in every part of their lives. This means I'm also the one they come to when something huge happens, good or bad. Having the power to dry their tears, hold them until they feel safe, and give them hope it will get better has its own special power I wouldn't trade for anything in the world. My hope is, in being there, I'm raising more compassionate beings that will one day go off into the world to be there for someone else.
When I'm Paid A Compliment About My Children
I have two very well-behaved kids (well, for other people they're well behaved). They're kind, thoughtful, and seem to follow directions when in the care of teachers and other family members. While they're still kids who can make mistakes, throw tantrums, and give me headaches, when I'm given a compliment about how amazing they are, it definitely reflects on me and the time I put into being there for them.
Before kids, I would've never thought I'd weigh so much of the kind of day I'm having or how I feel about myself as a parent and woman, with how my children behave in life. Still, here we are. Honestly, they're pretty fab which means I'm a proud mom and a helluva lot stronger than I'd ever imagined I'd be.
When I Figure Out How To Fix Something On My Own
Just last night, the blinds on our front window collapsed out of nowhere at the exact same moment my cat threw up and my kids were asking for different things. My partner was at work (of course), so it was up to me to get everything back into working order. This kind of things happens often because, life!
Being a mom for 10 years means, I have to dig in and figure out how to fix things I otherwise wouldn't. Having them means pulling things out of a toilet, starting a car with a dead battery, and putting furniture together. I've learned how to be more self-reliant because of them hoping revealing the kind of bad ass parent they can choose to be.
When My Kids Say They Want To Be Just Like Me
There's better reminder of the kind of person I've become than my children suggesting they'd like to be like me. When I was younger, I wanted to be like my grandmother. I knew how strong, powerful, and independent she was. I admired her sense of grace when the world literally crumbled around her and her sheer defiance, bucking the traditional norms. I wanted to be that, too.
When my kids look up to me with their great big eyes, the same expression reflecting back at me that gave my Gram all those years ago, I realize in being their mother, I already am all those things. I already am.