Thoughtful Thursday: Mothering AND

One of our students posted THIS article – here is an excerpt:

When A. BRADSTREET interviewed Rachel Zucker and Arielle Greenberg last year, we concluded by talking about motherhood and activism. Zucker observed, “It’s hard, though, because the people that are the best to advocate for women with very young children are women with very young children, but it’s not the right time for them to advocate… I think that, realistically, it’s very hard.”

It’s not just the lack of time or energy that hinders young mothers from acting as advocates—it is also the immense upheaval in expectations, sense of self and confidence that comes with realizing that now you are a mother first and foremost. You may have been a writer. Or you may have been a scholar. But then you have a baby, and everyone, yourself included, forgets for a while that you are and were anything other than the baby’s mother. You know you are not the same, you will never be the same, so you forget that your former strengths, your pre-motherhood strengths, are still there. Even standing up for yourself can make you feel too vulnerable and exposed.

The assumption in the introduction of her article that perplexes me the most, and she articulated well, is that some women feel that motherhood sets everything else behind them.  I have read articles about motherhood suffocating your previous self, and yet I had never been able to peg what “that” feeling is – I get “it” now.

I want to offer a different perspective into motherhood for young mothers as they find their way through the newness of motherhood and transition back into their pre-motherhood confidence.  I believe the beauty of motherhood is that you can be a mother AND everything else. It’s not an “if-then” proposition. I see it as an “if-and”. You are a mother and a writer.  You are a mother and a scholar.

In my case, I am a mother and a teacher and a manager and a salesperson and a writer and my biggest passion, a dancer.  All those things I was before I had children contributed to the skills and the passion I have towards motherhood, because without them, I cannot be the mother that I am for them.  And my first love – dance – and that wonderful feeling of knowing that I found my passion and pursued it and achieved.  It pushes me to remember that my children also have a gift which will feed their passion. I see it as my role to help them find their passion so that they, too, can know what it is to, “do what you love, and love what you do”.

I wonder if that concept is lost to young women because they do not have the perspective of age.  My biggest suspicion is that maybe they haven’t achieved the zenith of their career yet.  Motherhood is now a hurdle for them to jump over as they reach for their moment.

At my age, I am grateful for perspective. I give thanks that as an “older” mom, I “did” my career in my 20’s and did it well.  When motherhood was on the horizon in my 30’s, it was what I desperately wanted.  After being told as a young woman that I might never have children, I was so grateful to be pregnant.

Though I was thankful for my motherhood, I was not quite ready to stop being a dancer/instructor/manager after our first child was born.  I still remember the conversation I had with my mother the day I told her I was going back to work when Puma was four months old.  “What are you talking about?” she asked.  “How can you leave her?”  Thankfully, my going back to work did not mean leaving her at first.  My boss said yes when I asked about bringing her with me.  I just knew deep down that I wasn’t ready to hang up my dance shoes, and if I wasn’t dancing, I wasn’t going to be happy, and who wants to be/have a miserable mother?

By virtue of wanting your pre-child track, you are already choosing to do differently than a traditional role.  Be okay with that.  Own that.  And go forward without guilt or a second-glance backwards.  I believe that only by doing for your heart what you need, can you continue to love your child without conditions, and unconditionally.

Sometimes it requires some creative thinking.  It may require compartmentalizing.  If you really want to be a scholar, a writer, a doctor, a dancer, an artist – whatever it is you were doing or working towards before your Sweet Pea arrived – you can do it and be a mother.  You will probably need help, so form a tribe of parents you trust with whom you can share parenting.  Sometimes you work, sometimes they work, and you all love on the kiddos when it’s your turn.  Most of all, be willing to be flexible.  Maybe there will be a natural progression when you are ready to be The Mother.

When I was pregnant with our second, I knew that I was ready to stop dancing.  By now, we had Puma in childcare.  I wanted to raise our children as siblings – so it was time.  I was ready to stay home.  It was a happy day to “retire” and put my children first joyfully.

Little did I know where my path would lead.  Now we homeschool, I research and learn for the birthwork I do, I write, and keep up with our students.  I am very much a working from home mother with the help of two wonderful nannies.

Back to the actual point of the article: gender bias.  She shares that her husband was able to do something with their child that she had not been allowed to do (enter the Harvard Library), and that other women had the same experience.  I can definitely identify with that.

As far as the “husband” thing – so true in our family story. For us, there is the added dynamic of “white man” and “brown woman”.  There are definitely situations where I ask Bruss to do something alone, or with the kids, because I know he will have a different outcome than if I did/asked/entered in the same situation. This mama has given me the courage to not simply accept the bias anymore.  Instead of working “the system”, I need to stop being complacent and do better.

Life. The fight to conquer injustice and seek equality continues for those of us that will admit the truth that we’re not quite there yet.  Good for you, mama, for calling institutions out on their bias.  You may be unsure, you may not understand exactly who you are or where motherhood fits in to this desire to advocate. By writing about it, you did, thus showing that you are a mother and an advocate.

I propose that anyone is fit for advocacy work.  Maybe you won’t be leading the charge as you have done in the past with a newborn.  You can, however, write letters and send emails, make phone calls, and engage in social media when your Sweet Pea is sleeping.

Believe this: advocating for yourself as a mother is no different than advocating for yourself as a woman or professional.  Your inalienable rights are still your alienable rights – that never changes, no matter which hat we wear.

Motherhood is a crazy journey, at whatever age you embark on it.  Here’s a little secret no one likes to talk about: None of us have it all figured out; and sometimes we think we do, and discover we want to change all that anyway.  Flexibility is one of the hallmarks of your evolving motherhood. It’s a process of learning and growing with our children.

I hope that you, young mother, are able to find the right balance for your motherhood and your profession.  It is possible and it is doable. Jump in with both feet and go for it. Be gentle with yourself as you travel this path. You are going to do this motherhood thing, and do it well with all the lessons you learn along the way.

I close with this quote from musician Andrea Corr:
“I am a full-time mother. At the same time, there’s still music to be made.”