In October and November of last year, I went through what I facetiously termed a post-accident, mid-thirties crisis. Simplified, it was a crisis of feeling. I felt old. I felt unsuccessful. I felt I was less than I should be - less talented, less important, less nurturing, less educated, less attractive. I had struck out at the ballgame.
In feeling unsuccessful and unimportant, I particularly compared myself to the firefighters and trauma surgeons who treated me for my injuries after our September car accident. These individuals are vital in their communities and invest a great deal of their time and resources in acquiring and aggrandizing valuable skills. Observing their efforts made me ask myself, What am I doing with my life? I certainly wasn't that successful writer that I thought I would already be. I didn't even know how to maintain a blog properly; for far too long, I thought you just wrote.
While on the phone with my dear friend Camille one day last fall, I told her how I felt. Camille reminded me that I am doing a highly important job, though I wasn't likely to get accolades or affirmation from others. She wasn't telling me something eye-opening, but I needed to hear it anyway.
I've been a mother for the last 10+ years. I have four very different children. As a parent you bring the resources and personality that you as an individual possess to the endeavor, variables that you cannot deny. Then, if you are like me, you do your research when facing challenges, reading all that you can and having discussions with fellow parents to find methods that will work for you and each special kid within your family. Two tools are essential, no matter who you are or the environment you came from: love and patience. Loving, competent parenting will always be indispensable to human development.
Still, like every person I've ever known, we mothers want to make our mark. Sometimes, we feel left behind by the ambitious, fast-moving world, even if we were once part of it. Forget aggrandizing our skills, we often feel we are stagnating, lacking broad schemes. We fail to remember in those self-doubting moments that the contributions our children will be equipped to make to a safe, ethical, and productive society through our instruction is the greatest part of our mark on this world.
I've heard and read opinions that being a stay-at-home mom is a waste of one's talent and education...or that it proves you don't have either. What hog wash! As a mother or a father, you utilize all that you possess to teach your children, and from birth to age five are crucial years in their development. No boss or co-worker could promote innovation so well! Your time spent nursing and holding your baby (sometimes all day long), playing and conversing with your toddler, reading and teaching basic skills to your preschooler, and disciplining your child is not wasted. Not one minute.
I recently uttered these sentiments to a couple of friends and fellow mothers who, I was surprised to find, were experiencing a similar crisis to my own of "feeling less than". What I struggled to feel with conviction, I had no problem affirming to others. I've noticed the challenges they faced with aplomb, the time they invested in learning what was best for their kids' development, their amazing reservoir of patience and effective discipline techniques, the hours spent in aiding their kids' schooling, and the profound progress their children made thanks to their parenting efforts.
Of course, I understand their need to feel more than just a mother. Has motherhood erased my ambition to be a writer? No, and it never could. It certainly has given me great material, however, and broadened my understanding of many things - including my imperfect self.
(Parent, know thyself - and teach yourself - then raise your children well, with love.)
Yes, I will never be a trauma surgeon - a good thing for the safety of others, I think. I'm not yet an established writer. I am a woman of many foibles who is striving to be the best parent I can be for my children. No basic job within our human family has a greater capacity to improve the world than that one.