A Mother’s Contribution
Ok, so after some feedback on my post regarding my feelings of failure for having nothing to show for myself and my days but random errands, I would like to clarify that I in no way under value my role as a mother. I am aware of the positive contribution I’m making to both my son’s life and to society as a whole by creating a kind and loving person who might someday add to the world. Being a mom is no joke and whether you are a stay at home mom or a working mom I believe it is truly the most important job you can have. That being said however, motherhood, though infinitely rewarding, can also be totally thankless. Your life quickly becomes reflected solely in your child’s contribution to the world. If your son is behaving like an angel you can feel good about yourself because obviously you are an excellent mother. If, however, your little angel is acting like a total brat – God forbid in public – then you can kiss your feelings of self worth good bye because you are clearly blowing it. For those mothers who are completely fulfilled by raising their children I say kudos. It’s certainly a real job and doing it should be enough. I’m just finding it’s not enough for me.
I think these feelings stem from a combination of things. How I was raised and the expectations, real or imagined, that come with that. How I want to be living and the difficulty of those dreams culminating realistically in today’s world and, my personality – charming or otherwise – that is constantly striving to be “better”. I grew up in what I would refer to as a post-feminist world. A world where I didn’t fight for equal rights but expected them. A time were statistically a woman’s paycheck may still be less than a man’s, but theoretically I could do whatever a man could. I was raised in the “have it all” generation. I could have a successful and rewarding career and still be a amazing hands-on mother. All career paths were open to me and the sky was the limit. I used to worship this amazing mom that lived down the street. She was a gorgeous, successful lawyer with 2 kids and a great marriage. I babysat for them and I thought, that is the type of woman I want to be. When she quit her job to stay home with her kids full time it almost killed me. What was she doing? When they moved out of the city to to be able to afford a bigger place I was floored. Just go back to work and get a bigger place in the city! What was going on with my role model? She was really letting me down.
As a grown woman I now understand. We can’t have it all. Or maybe we can, but not all at the same time. We have to make sacrifices along with our choices, and that’s something they don’t teach in school. I went to a top notch, private, all girls school where I was exposed to infinite opportunities and almost limitless possibilities for my life. I excelled there. I was a student leader and debater, the lead in plays and the captain of the swim team. It never occurred to me that I wouldn’t “make” it. My mom used to joke that I better marry someone really wealthy to keep up the lifestyle to which I’d become accustomed. I was insulted. Marry rich?! ! Please! I was going to be rich and successful myself! Coming from my kind of background, if you don’t end up with a really awesome job – the corner office, the medical degree or, in my case, as a Hollywood player – you can feel like a failure. You had every opportunity and you squandered it. I’m not rich and successful yet, so I beat myself up. I push harder and often find it difficult to truly enjoy my life because I feel like I’m not moving forward. Stay at home mom was not a Career. Capital C. It was something our mother’s did when the options were limited. We were the new generation. We could be anything. We could be Someone. I’m not Someone, so I sometimes feel like a no one.
Maybe it’s just a no win situation. Stay-at-home mom’s feel like they should be working. Working mom’s feel like they should be home more. You want kids but don’t have the right partner or you have the right partner but don’t want kids and then feel you have to apologize for that…
I have lots of friends who love their jobs but are still struggling financially. Maybe they’re happy or maybe they beat themselves up too. Of that I’m not sure. What I do know is, for the most part, we all want what we had growing up…plus more. We want it to be better for our children than it was for us. Problem is, it’s a lot more expensive to have the basics these days, let alone more. Things you want for your children – a nice home, top notch education, food, hell…organic food, enrichment classes, college, let alone all the stuff these kids need today – costs money. If you aren’t making money you feel you aren’t contributing. So many people have 2 working parents just to keep up with the bills and expectations they have for themselves. People are mortgaged to the hilt to live the lifestyle they grew up with or the lifestyle they think they need. When the economy fell apart in the US 2 years ago, it was the first time Sean and I were relieved to be behind the 8 ball. We had no 401 K to deplete, no house to lose, no stock portfolio to tank. Life as an actor is already feast or famine so the job market remained about the same for us. When you live like that and you have 7 years of post graduate studies on your resume you feel like an loser that you aren’t contributing. And contributing in today’s world means making money. Being Someone means having a Career or at least a job. I feel more successful saying I’m a writer than I do saying I’m a mom. What does that say about me?
I love being a mom. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I’m proud of myself. I’m exceptionally proud of my son. But am I reaching my full potential? I don’t want my sense of self worth to be totally tied up in him. I don’t want his success in life to be a direct reflection of my success in life. That’s not fair to him or to me. I need something that is all mine. Something that makes me, me. And I’m still looking for it. When I find it I think I’ll feel more complete. When I find it, quite frankly, I think I’ll be a better mom.
Then I’ll tell him to marry rich.