It wasn't so very long ago that I decided that, even if I never manage to accomplish anything else of significance in my life, I can truthfully say that my life was not wasted because I have been a Good Mother.
I remembered that conviction even more recently when I came across this article I wrote about a dozen years ago, which at the time I called Some Reflections on Raising My Daughters:
I had always had a sense of owing something special, in the way of vigilance and encouragement, to my daughters. Perhaps that sensitivity is a result of coming of age during the '70's, at the height of the women's movement. Much more likely, it was firmly impressed upon me by my own mother. She was born in the 1930's, raised to marry and bare children, ultimately abandoned to the frustrations and burdens of single parenthood, and bitterly convinced by it all that her life had been stunted.
I watched her terrible struggle. She made no secret of her belief that her life might have been full and happy if she had been childless, and I felt all the sorrow that could be expected of a child who knows her mother regrets her existence. But, for me, the underlying message was crystal clear: women should not be homemakers or stay-at-home moms. Women should be emotionally self-sufficient and financially independent.
For many years, I believed that, too.
Then, I gave birth to my first baby. Nothing I had heard or read in any way prepared me for the intense and primal instinct I felt, to devote myself to the care and protection of that tiny creature. I didn't even try to resist it. Emotional self-sufficiency was a laughable concept in the face of the bond I was forging with my baby. Financial independence suddenly just didn't matter to me anymore.
But I was soon to discover that I had been born into transitional times. Women were not supposed to want to make the care of children their full time job. They were supposed to want "fulfillment." Stay-at-home moms had become the butt of jokes on late night TV -- the only women who could possibly want to spend their time with their kids must be too foolish or too stupid to do anything else.
Meanwhile, women who chose to stay home with their families were reviled by feminists as traitors to "the cause." How could we possibly reconcile it with our consciences to turn our backs on the achievements of our "sisters", when there was still so much more to be done? How could we allow ourselves to be brainwashed into living the '50's stereotypes that gave women-bashers their ammunition? How could we set such a poor example for our daughters?
That last accusation was a toughie. The jokes were easily dismissed; anyone who truly believed that caring for small children did not require the use of intellect had obviously never been called upon to do it. The remonstrances of feminists were as easy for me to ignore; I have always believed that freedom meant the existence of options, and I was not prepared to exchange one form of slavery to societal expectations for another. But it was not so easy for me to shrug off the notion that, by choosing to be a stay-at-home mom, I was somehow failing my daughters.
That, I thought, is one of the things that makes being a WAHM or mompreneur so special. It gives us the chance to be there for our children, to experience the uniquely feminine sort of fulfillment that comes of nurturing and supporting our little people until they are ready for us to set them free and let them fly. It gives us the chance to be there for ourselves, as well, to experience the satisfaction of knowing that we are making real contributions to the material comfort of our families, and the power and freedom inherent in earning money of our own. And, equally importantly, it means we don't need a day to "take our daughters to work"; it gives us a chance to demonstrate that we can be, and are, more than "just mom."
But at this point, I had to pause and ponder. More than "just moms?" Is there any such animal as "just" mom? Surely, there is nothing "mere" about being a mother, an experience so indescribably profound that it at once unifies women from all around the world, across every race, nationality, creed, religion, culture, class and language, into a universal sisterhood. There is nothing so vast or so vastly unifying in the whole of human existence. Once you have become a mother, what more could you possibly have to prove -- to yourself or anyone else?
My daughter, now only nine, has a much more balanced attitude about the whole thing. She was born in 1989, the year the Berlin Wall fell, and is young enough to take the concept of "having it all" for granted. She fully intends to marry and have children, as her mother has done. She intends to homeschool them, as she has been homeschooled. She intends to tend and defend her home, as she has seen her mother do.
She has been watching me, this girl child of mine. She watched me last year, when I wrote the novel that I am still marketing. She has watched me over the last several weeks as I built [my online business web site] and she has watched me piece together [my newsletter]. Her little sister, a sprightly four year old, has been watching, too.
They both want to get married and have babies.
The little one wants to write stories on the computer.
The elder one wants to start her own business.
So much for setting a bad example, huh?
Things are a lot different now. At 16, my "little one" isn't so little anymore. She started writing stories on the computer some time ago and she's gotten pretty good at it, too. She has lost interest in doing it for a living ... but then, I'm not sure she ever did want to do it for a living, now that I think about it ...
"The elder one" is a 21-year-old woman now, an athletic training major and pre-med at Ithaca College. She's not talking about starting her own business anymore but she is talking about having her own practice someday -- which is essentially the same thing.
And I ... I have just divorced their father.
I cannot even begin to describe how tremendous they have both been to me through this ordeal.
They have watched, furious, again and again, while I have been emotionally battered and bruised -- and fairly often defending me when the Clueless Culprit had no idea that anything was wrong and I was just too exhausted to bother.
They have witnessed all of my follies and my weaknesses, and never passed any judgments on me. They are unswervingly supportive, having a great deal more faith in me than I have in myself ... in much the same way that I have more faith in both of them than either of them has in themselves.
In fact, their love for me has been as unconditional as mine has been for them.
Healing will take some time, I suspect. Now the divorce is final, I am left looking around at the shambles of my emotional, psychological and material life, knowing that I need to pick up the pieces and wondering where to start.
It seems like a gargantuan effort, at my age almost more trouble that it's worth. But I know that I will put forth that effort. I could say (and have said) that the best revenge is a well-lived life but that's not even it.
Once I have left here and shaken the dust of this relationship from my shoes, I could care less about revenge or anything else having to do with Him.
No, instead, I am left thanking my Goddess for my daughters. As special as my sons are to me, my girls have made it their business to buoy up my life right now.
It is for them and because of them that I know I'll be okay.
Karen-Monroy wrote 828 Days Ago (neutral)0Dawn, thank you for sharing pieces of your heart and soul. Unconditional Love is a beautiful thing! XOXO0 points AnaLewis wrote 828 Days Ago (neutral)0Brava!! Gosh, Dawn, I think I read that column the first time around. Thank you! It spoke to my core then, and it still speaks to me now. As you know, I have spent many years of my life also being a WAHM, and wouldn't trade it in for a $700K a year job (which I actually did turn down at one time.)0 points