You know those women who put motherhood firs and prioritize their kids above everything else in their lives? Well, that's not me, and it never has been. But it was my mom.
My mom was a stay-at-home mother until her youngest child was in elementary school. She was always at every school event. She was the room mom. She was the Girl Scout Troop leader. My mom was so busy momming that she barely made any time for herself when her three kids were little.
The moment I became a parent, I knew that type of focus on motherhood wasn't for me. I'm a working mom, and I've tried to side-step every mom cliche in the book (for instance, I avoid yoga pants at all costs). But the truth is, I admire the crap out of my mom for her countless sacrifices and her commitment to parenthood, and to a large degree, I envy her. That's why I'm constantly fighting the fear that I'll never be as good a parent as my mom.
My mom was deeply involved herself in all of her children's lives. If we told her we'd been picked on at school that day, she'd tear up. If we told her we were named student of the month, she'd rejoice right along with us. She knew every parent and kid on the Little League team, and when we went to high school, she knew the names of our best friends and frenemies. She was THAT mom. I am not.
I've always been a working mom. When I had my first child almost six years ago, I was a newspaper reporter, which meant I worked long hours and had to be able to meet deadlines on short notice. For that reason, I wasn't able to attend every daycare pickup or every birthday party, and I spent most of the day away from my kid.
Now, I have two children, and I work in communications. My hours are more regular, but my role is just as demanding. I find my work immensely fulfilling, so I have no plans to quit my job anytime soon. But needless to say, because I am a working parent, I rarely devote as much time and energy to my kids as my mom devoted to me.
My mom loved sitting on the floor to play with us. I honestly don't always enjoy it. By the end of the work day, I'm exhausted, and I have to scrounge every last bit of my energy to feed my kids dinner and share bathtime and bedtime duties with my husband.
My kids might not spend as much time with me as I did with my mom, but they're watching me make a living doing work I'm passionate about, and I'm proud of the example I'm setting for them.
I'm also not nearly as good as my mom was about remembering important events in my kids' lives. I've been guilty on numerous occasions of forgetting my son has a field trip, or of sloppily throwing my daughter's hair into a ponytail as we run out the door in the morning. It's just so hard to juggle so much and juggle it well.
Although I've worried at times my parenting is not sufficient because of the example I saw growing up under my mom's care, I'm learning to make peace with our different parenting styles. My kids might not spend as much time with me as I did with my mom, but they're watching me make a living doing work I'm passionate about, and I'm proud of the example I'm setting for them.
Whether you're a working parent, a stay-at-home parent, or a work-at-home parent, you likely experience guilt and self-doubt about your choices.
Further, while I admire my mom's sacrifices, I acknowledge that her type of parenting doesn't work for everyone. I think she did a great job raising us, and to a large degree I attribute my own success in my career directly to my upbringing. Because of the care she took encouraging my hobbies and interests, I always believed in myself and had confidence to pursue my goals. But I could not focus all of my energy on parenting the way that she did. And I'm starting to realize that that's OK.
Whether you're a working parent, a stay-at-home parent, or a work-at-home parent, you likely experience guilt and self-doubt about your choices. Even my own mom has expressed anxiety about her own parenting style. She's confessed to me that at time, she second-guessed whether she was doing a good job preparing her children to be self-sufficient, happy adults.
We parents don't always fit neatly within the lines. Parenting journeys are often messy. And unique. And beautiful. My mom, for instance, was not a stay-at-home mom forever. As soon as her youngest child was in school, she went back to school to earn her master's degree. Motherhood is no longer her sole focus. Now, she's a pretty awesome elementary school teacher (and an awesome grandma too, in her free time).
I might not be my mom, but I can learn from her example. I can make that occasional birthday cake, even if it's not Pinterest-worthy. I can spend time each day asking my kids how their day was, even if I can't be there right when the bell rings. I can lead by example, and give them the tools to be kick-ass, confident adults in their own right.