What does it mean to be a Great Mom? Not a perfect one – that doesn’t exist – but a Mom you can feel proud of being? Of course each woman sets up her own expectations of motherhood based on her childhood memories of her parents, on reading articles by bloggers she looks up to, books she devoured while serendipitously dreaming about her little baby in her growing bump and imagining her ideal self. But what good does thinking of “being Great” do if you ultimately settle for a lesser version of yourself, a Good Enough self? Face it, anxiety stems from deep uncertainty and dissatisfaction from the status quo, and worry about the potential worsening of that status. I’ve lived in that state and it doesn’t motivate you, it stagnates you.
A Great Mom, or the version I envision being – is one that is happy, available, and always striving to be the best version of her own self as possible – someone her kids look up to. That’s the model of a Woman I would like to be.
A few weeks ago, I realized that I was experiencing more and more symptoms of the anxiety disorder I was diagnosed with several years ago, and which I had been managing quite well after several treatments and therapy aiming to re-learn how to “live”. Balancing motherhood, wifehood and workhood threw me into a whole new realm of deep internal searching in a way I had never confronted before: I was no longer the 26 year old carefree girl I had emotionally clung to, the little tattooed and pierced rebellious musician and assistant, but I was now a married mother who managed important projects in a quickly rising agency and several people depended on me for their livelihoods. That pressure – and the emotional exhaustion it was slowly causing me – eventually revealed that as much as I loved spending time with my daughter after work and as important as it was to me, I was racing towards her bedtime so that I could just lie down and do “nothing”. I was waiting until the last moment to wake up, racing to get myself dressed and made-up for work with minutes to spare before my daughter woke up, irritated at my husband for enjoying a few extra minutes in bed while I ran around trying to get everything ready. My house was a mess, I wasn’t learning anything new that I could apply at home or at work, I was stale-mating in my career and in my relationship with my husband; I was living but not thriving; I was content but not happy… It was time to do something about it before it did something irreparable to me.
I have come to learn over the years that intention requires motivation in order to become action. Thankfully, I got the kick in the butt that I needed this past December at the office through the form of a restructuring that found me demoted due to the new structure and lack of effectives to justify the creation of a new Account Director position… and my impending maternity leave (yes, I’m currently pregnant with our second child) didn’t help either – the human impact may not please me in the least (enter Hulk-face) but I have to admit that even though I don’t agree with it, I do understand the business decision my employers made).
After the umpteenth time bitching about my new situation, with my messy house, with my looming maternity leave confronting me to a newly uncertain future, I found myself in front of my colleague one day who asked me a very simple question that threw me for a loop; “What do you want for yourself?”
I was dumbfounded.
“I… well, I wanted to… sh*t I don’t know anymore.”
I went home that night mentally caught up in that very question, most likely with a dumb look on my face. What do I want? I USED to want to be a musician – well, that happened and went its course. I USED to want to be a wife and mother – check. I USED to want to work in an ad agency in a project management or strategy role – check, check. So now what? Going on 35, with a new title, new role, new child on the way, I had just trekked on, accepting reality as it happened without really looking at what I could do with all of it.
So I’ve decided to reinvent myself. I don’t want to come back to my career after my year of maternity leave and feel like I’m competing against 24 year olds for my place in my office – I have experience and successes that are valuable. But I can also learn new things and improve, damn it!
It was obvious though that my current routine didn’t leave room – or energy – to grow anymore. So I reinvented two simple things first, starting with two very new and very simple rules:
- Wake up at 5:30 just to have quiet time for myself. Invest that time in my future. I read industry books and magazines, or I write. No set agenda beyond learning how to do and be better.
- Don’t push off picking up daily life messes to tomorrow. Pick up the jacket, the random sock, empty the dishwasher and fill it again, take out the trash. Every day. Take 15 minutes to keep your house kept (it’s really all it takes, I’ve surprisingly learned); not necessarily clean and dusted, but clutter free. I invested in small organization tools to help me do that, and after 2 months – wow. You can officially drop by my house unexpected and I won’t be ashamed anymore.
Just those two simple things have already, in a very short period of time, had profound impacts on my state of mind. Beyond waking up an hour and half earlier – which I actually enjoy and look forward to… about 5 minutes after initially hearing my alarm clock go off – my day hasn’t changed much at all, but my environment is much more inviting and my mind is more freed up to allow for improvement rather than anxiety.
So I’m still not The Perfect Mom and I never will be, but by not settling, sticking to what works and improving what doesn’t, I do feel like I’m a Great Mom – I’m happy, rested, evolving and taking the time to learn a little more and be a little more every day. And I hope my kids appreciate that down the road.