I had an opportunity to deal with one of my unresolved and reoccurring issues last night. My 11-year old daughter (who is wise beyond her years) was interviewing me for a class. She was charged with talking with someone she looks up to (proud Mama moment) and asking them about SUCCESS. She asked me what I thought it took to be successful. I told her you first have to define success, to which I got an age-appropriate eye roll. Different people, I explained, look at success in different ways. I think in order to be successful you have to find what it is that you love to do, do that, and do it well. Many people think that being successful means earning a lot of money or having a lot of fame. In fact, when I looked up the word in the dictionary (which I love to do), this is the definition I found:
1. the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors.
2. the attainment of wealth, position, honors, or the like.
I guess it’s the “…or the like” part that I want her to focus on. I asked her if she thought I was a successful person. I’m guessing out of fear of offending her Mama, she said yes. I agreed, explaining that I live a happiness-filled life and I’m proud of my accomplishments. My definition of success doesn’t involve depositing a big paycheck or having initials after or titles under my name. When I begin to list the things that fall under my responsibility, I feel pretty good about the quality of my contribution and the results that come from it.
Looking at my sweet daughter, so full of potential and talent, I do feel guilt, however. Not the ‘mommy guilt’ that we hear so much about–I don’t feel that much. But I’m home with my kids all the time. I get them ready for school, drive them to their activities, feed them balanced meals, and tuck them in at night. And I have a million treasurable moments in between all that monotony. The guilt I feel is ‘woman guilt.’ I have strong beliefs about women’s strength and power. I do believe that we can do just about anything and that we should be compensated/rewarded/recognized the same as anyone else doing the same task. Yes, I have always wanted to be a mother. I set that goal, I achieved it (spectacularly, I might add), and I’m doing a bang-up job if I do say so myself. But when I look at my daughters, I can’t help but want more for them. I want them to aim high and believe that they can create their wildest dream life! I’m sure being a mother will be a part of that, but what about their acting or art or love of animals? I used to dream of being an architect in an earlier part of my life. I used to be a part of a marketing team that created “value-added” things from concept to execution. I used to go for what I wanted and persue it until it was mine.
Then I get a pang of another kind of guilt and that comes from my inner voice saying, “Gratitude, my friend. So many women do not have the freedom or choices that you have. Be grateful!” I’m always reminding myself.
The side of society that I have chosen to listen to has trapped me in to doubting my own success because I’m “just a mom.” I fear that by not trying to have it ALL I’m not setting the best example for my kids. I love the motto that we can have it all, just not at the same time. Maybe this is just my Mommy season, and in 10 years when my baby heads off to college I’ll have renewed energy and a clearer focus on what is going to feed my soul, sustaining my success when the children are on their own. And in the meantime, I need to really look within myself to determine why I feel like what I’m doing is not enough. By exploring that, writing about it, and giving myself time to cultivate my interests, I’m paving the way to the next season of life. Surely, if the kids hit 18 and I can’t look back with pride and feel like I was at the top of my game as a Mom, no other success in life really matters. And if my girls grow up to be “just moms,” or even if my son choses to stay home and raise his kids full-time, I certainly would never want them to think that that wasn’t a gallant endeavor. And by then I’ll be in my Grandma season and I’ll have it all figured out. Right?