My girlfriend and I have been having the same conversation for the last 10 years: How do we balance our ambition to do something in the world and our desire to be moms? Not a new topic by any means, but one that we’re still not close to solving 10 years later.
When my family and I made the decision to move from Boston to Israel, I preemptively sought out a therapist, knowing that such a large change would undoubtedly bring me anxiety. Rather than deal with the move, this therapist asked me an important question: Was I done having children? With two toddlers already, I was pretty sure I wasn’t done, but I couldn’t be definitive. I told her I thought I would have more kids. To this, she told me that I was “in it,” her way of explaining that a woman in her childbearing years needed to adjust her expectations. The years of pregnancy and babies, toddlers and sick days, are years unlike the ones to come, and that rather than bog ourselves down with unfair standards and expectations, we need to allow ourselves to truly be in the moment.
Now, this is something that is endlessly hard for me. I am driven and restless, and while not a perfectionist, I really do want to do everything—I want to write a book, I want defined arm muscles, I want to make homemade jam with my kids (and let them be sticky), I want to put on nice clothes and drink wine with my husband, and I want to make a contribution to the world. The reason I have a hard time being “in it,” this period of telling myself that it is OK to not do it all, is because I think that I am better for trying. I am a better mom and wife and writer if I am challenging myself to be fulfilled, to grow, to stretch.
I often think about my mom, an example of a woman who was not only an activist, but a successful professional, and she was her happiest when she was somewhere in between sticky children, protests and the classroom. This is why I try. I know that I am better for my kids when my brain is being challenged, that I am better for my husband when I have gotten my heart racing that day, and better for myself when I feel like I grew a little. Sometimes that growth comes from finding the patience to simply talk to my children, when the easiest thing to do is yell. There was a point where I considered whether or not my life was now only about my children—if my role was to create and facilitate their lives. And it is. That said, my mom didn’t forget herself when she raised us; instead, she made sure to follow her passions and goals, and I think we turned out better for it.
My best guess is that it is less a balancing act, and more a daily navigation. For example, both of my kids are sick today, so work and defining my arm muscles fell by the wayside. But it was a great day to make jam, get sticky, and of course, take baths. It may be that I can’t have it all every day, or that it may not look the way it did 10 years ago, but I am positive that it is better to try. My girlfriend and I talked about what this conversation would sound like in another 10 years from now. Would our concerns be the same? I hope so.