I was raised to belief that heaven lies at the feet of one’s mother – the woman that birthed you, loved you, nurtured you. Later, I heard someone (I can’t remember who) say that “heaven lies at the feet of a mother but so does hell”. So, what is it?
It’s is both and neither. To be honest, I think we all have to make up our own minds about our own mothers and then duplicate the good and try to be even better with our own kids. Depending on the type of mom you had, you could have been on the road to hell or heaven. The type of mom you are will pave the road for the type of children you set forth into the world.
Where did this all come from? Well, I just read an article by a mom who is a self-proclaimed ‘lazy’ mom. http://brightside.me/inspiration-family-and-kids/im-a-lazy-mom-besides-im-selfish-and-carefree-176805
It got my blood boiling because as a mom, I have concerns about leaving a two year old to fend for themselves in a kitchen or allowing an eight year old to wander off by themselves. I could’ve let out an expletive at the author and left it at that but then I read the comments and was shocked by the number of women that believe in this way of parenting. Or rather, this way of neglecting.
As an expat in Kuwait, I probably live in one of the safest countries within which to raise children. People love children here and have an annual holiday to celebrate children where children are given sweets and gifts because they are children. If I’m crossing a road and the kids are with me, cars stop to let us go past. No one would intentionally harm my kids here – their punishment of crime in this country is severe. And yet, even here, I would never, ever allow my children to go off to a friend and they’re both older. They help themselves to yogurt and fruit but if the stove goes on or the kettle, I keep an eye on them.
Now, I’m not a perfect mom. Far from it. I’ve made mistakes and I’m sure I’ll make many mistakes in future but the difference between this ‘mama that has a life’ and that mama is that I do not take the easy way out. I work. I work my butt off.
When I was a working mom, I balanced work, kids, hubby, school stuff and my writing dreams. I thought I was supermom. I was involved with the PTA, I baked cupcakes and arranged lavish birthday parties, I never missed an important school event and I spent every afternoon and part of the evenings with my kids. I worked in between all of that, spent time with hubby and averaged 3 hours sleep for months while trying to write novels. I was finished. I wanted it all and because I couldn’t, something had to give and that something was me. In retrospect, I realize that I could’ve cut down on my writing time and have taken longer to publish some of my books and that would have been fine. I could have done less or only have donated money instead of my time to the school and that would have allowed me to have a bit of balance too. I didn’t realize this then and frankly, I think I was so obsessed with having it all that I didn’t even consider letting up. I was expendable in my warped mind, not my goals. Stupidity at its blindest.
Then, hubby had the opportunity to work in the Middle East. The tax-free income gave me an opportunity to quit my day job and become a full time mom while pursuing my writing dreams. My dreams took a backseat after I made a shocking discovery. My children did not see me in the same ‘supermom’ light I expected them too. Don’t get me wrong, they noticed and appreciated all I did for them but having me at home highlighted how little time they spent with me. Just that. Time spent with me. Not time spent with me doing homework or time spent going to school functions or time spent doing, doing. doing. Just time spent with me. Them and me. Doing nothing and yet doing everything right. I never gave them that in my manic ambition to be the world’ best working mom. Well, I woke up, smelled the OJ and began making up for lost time. Yes, you guessed it, I went the other route… I put my writing dreams on the back burner and threw myself into making my kids the focal point of my life. Hubby came after that and I came last of course. (Believe me I am shaking myself at my head just as I’m sure you are.)
To be fair, I would have had to give a lot of attention to my kids anyway as we did move to a completely foreign country and the amount of adaptation – particularly to the vastly different British curriculum at an international British school. The South African curriculum is literally two years behind the British one and my children had A LOT to catch up to. They spent hours each day doing extra work. Never mind the language differences, the social difference and acclimatization. It’s been tough.
Then came the time when my kids had pretty much caught up. I suddenly found myself with time on my hands. Time to write, right? No. I had every intention of doing so but it didn’t happen. I was bushed. Absolutely exhausted. The fact that I’d been working since the age of 8 in my dad’s shop, keeping house since the age of 8 and then carried on working hard… it got to me. I didn’t have an emotional outburst – that would’ve taken energy. I was just finished. Writing took forever and all I experienced was growing creative frustration. Then hubby told me one day that if roles were reversed, he would absolutely have a daily nap. Nap? What’s a nap? I don’t do naps. Naps are for lazy people, right? … Wrong! Naps are normal as I discovered and so is reading, drinking coffee for the sake of it and having a Netflix marathon in my pajamas. And so I gave myself a break. I still did all I had to as a mom, hubby and I still had time together but I stopped doing PTA and other school activities and put my writing on the back burner. Bravo! I deserved every second. I wish many more women can have the opportunity to have a break such as I did.
Back to the article by the (self-proclaimed) ‘lazy mom’ – bullshit! My mother was ill and working and had an excuse for the responsibility I had placed on me. Even then, she always did her best for me and I am immensely grateful. She did not use laziness as an excuse ever.
I changed my blog name last week to ‘Mama’s Got a Life’ and my tag line is telling – ‘I’m a mom pursuing her writing dreams while navigating life as an expat’. I hope I can get the balance right now. Being a mom is not about being perfect. It’s not about sacrificing them or sacrificing you. It’s about doing your best with what you have in the moment. It’s about learning to balance things out while honoring your responsibility to the lives you’ve been honored to take care of. It’s about taking things a step at a time while holding your breath and hoping that the road you’re paving is the one leading them to heaven.