“I’ve longed to make my mark on the world, just as I’ve longed to be a good mother…”
That’s a powerful line from a wonderful article that I recommend you all read: “My Children, My Life” by Helen Hayward. Via Twitter Anne-Marie Slaughter tipped me off to this article and summed it up beautifully in less than 140 characters: “must read re deeper pulls of motherhood, career, what we get from letting ourselves love”.
For most of my 50+ years, I have been driven to make my mark on the world. I’m happiest when I know I’ve done my best to make my children happy and independent—at the same time that I’m building a business, figuring out a way to make a difference and making a few dollars, too.
I think my two daughters understand and appreciate my need to work…even though they are sure to remember me as the woman with the phone growing out of her head, the woman who never stops clicking the computer keys.
Somewhere along the way I put my guilt on a very high shelf I could not reach and realized that bonds with my daughters would be formed by the heart, not the clock. My heart holds the only ticking they care about…not how many minutes I spend each day glued to their sides.
We all save artwork from our children, and a cherished favorite is one that my older daughter drew in her kindergarten year. She was asked to draw a picture for Mother’s Day—and in lieu of flowers in a vase, she drew a picture of my home office. There I am at my computer (no surprise), but the scene also includes my daughter (drawing next to my desk) and the dog.
When I received this drawing, I felt guilt dissipate into thin air. My daughter did not see my work as a walled-off activity—she was doing her “work” at my side. That’s always something I said to my daughters: you do your work and I’ll do mine.
That’s the crux of the issue, I think—making your children feel they are part of your work. If mothers disappear to an unknown “work” land it can feel like they’re left behind. When they know what you’re up to, they feel like they’re along for the ride.
My daughters have always known which projects I’m working on, I’ve explained (and often simplified) complex concepts and discussed roadblocks I’ve faced over dinner and lunch. More than once a bright young mind has made me think about a task at hand in a completely different light.
So about that legacy of making my mark on the world and being a good mother, too? I think of my own mother who returned to work in her late 40s—and how I remember her most. I don’t only think about her “good mother” moments–the birthday parties she planned for me, the meals she cooked or the times she drove me from point A to B.
I remember most vividly the days she made her mark on the world. The days she looked happiest and content after a busy day teaching English as a second language, the stories she told about helping foreigners navigate the supermarket, and how much she loved to fill her wallet with money of her own. My siblings and I knew all her students by name, and were happy to share our “good mother” with the world. —KAS
Like this post? Please click “like” below and take one minute–literally–to sign up to be an official 9 Lives subscriber here!