Spring Break is almost over, but I am okay with it. The opportunity to leave our house, which I should have been spring cleaning, and visit one of my favorite people in the world made all the difference. She is my son’s godmother, my cosmic twin, and a new mom. She also runs a highly ranked theater program for one of the NC high schools, giving 110% to the kids exploring their creative sides. And it is wearing her out.
I understand this. I’ve “been there and done that”, with mixed results. I always felt torn between the high school kids who needed me to be counselor, sounding board, and sometimes surrogate parent, and my own kids that I didn’t want raised by a babysitter. And now I see it in her. And it breaks my heart. She is searching for solutions, deciding where she can make compromises, evaluating what is important, but it means giving up pieces of her genetic make-up to be the very best of everything, teacher and mother.
Why do we do this to ourselves? When did “being all we could be” morph into being everything for everyone? When did “mom” and “wife” become obscenities, never to be uttered alone, but always qualified by a separate career which defines us? Mom is the toughest job I have ever worked at. Today’s expectations don’t make it any easier. I can’t just raise my kids, I have to fight the peer pressure exerted at school and activities, the media that encourages my kids to grow up faster by marketing inappropriate material to young children. No 9 year old should be comfortable with the carnage of the action movies marketed to them. Twelve year old girls shouldn’t wear pants slung down to their crotch with bra straps showing around their tank tops. Even the national stations can’t seem to find programming that doesn’t include some reference to situations that don’t work when I am sitting with my kids. You fight it all, everyday, along with feeding, cleaning, and working on homework.
My sister-in-law is psyching herself to go back to work. This means leaving the newest Valentine with a babysitter. It’s breaking her heart. And I understand this also. I cried everyday when I headed to work instead of being home cuddling my children. I feel like I missed so many pieces of their lives. The everyday stuff gets in the way. Dishes, laundry, finding lost socks, hair-ties, and Cub Scout scarves, these take time, precious time, that would be better spent playing with my kids.
The mac and cheese is ready and the tweener is plastered against the door begging to be released from “outside”, which is anathema to her. I will go on being mom, as will the women I mentioned. Sometimes we will rage against the world and its demanding presence, its ridiculous qualifications for a 21st century mother which I can’t believe is what Gloria Steinem was advocating, but we will continue to search for that perfect balance.