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Bad Parenting Moments: What I Want to Be When I Grow Up/(Beauty) School Drop-Out

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

What I Want to Be When I Grow Up/(Beauty) School Drop-Out

As "Bad Parenting Moments", I love to explore, exploit and enjoy the humor of parenthood. This is my "shit just got REAL" post for the month. I'll return to the funny next week. I promise! xo - Debbie Downer

When I was a little girl, I went through the normal line-up of prospective careers: Rainbow Brite, Princess, Veterinarian, Doctor, Lawyer, President, Ballerina, Actress on, "Hey Dude!". The usual. Then, I grew up. Well, I partially grew up. I did well in school. I was fortunate to be given a scholarship to college. Before college, I narrowed down my career choices: Lawyer and Rainbow Brite. Sadly, UGA did not offer advanced degrees in Rainbow Brite or the option to minor in riding horned unicorns over rainbows. Hey, no school is perfect. I settled for pre-law. My freshman year was a disaster. A total disaster. I was a mess. I was immature. I was afraid. I did not know who I was or what the hell I was doing. I was 18. I would like to say that somewhere deep down inside of me, where I knew I could be and do whatever I wanted, that I channeled my inner She-Ra and pulled through. Not the case. After a year of failing, I failed myself and quit. The broken pieces of my paper bag princess hopped a Greyhound bus from Georgia to Los Angeles, California (another blog for another time) and I never...ok, I rarely looked back. I started working and built an excellent career. I started at the bottom and worked my way up the "old fashioned" way. I met a boy, fell in love, had lots of babies, moved to a small town in New England and put my ideas of what I thought I wanted to be on the back burner of the extra stove you keep in the basement. What I wanted to be when I grew up was irrelevant. I was living the dream. Happy, healthy family. My greatest career? Mom, of course! Babies and joy and chaos. There was no time to examine the 18 year old I was or the Poet/Lawyer/Warrior Princess she wanted to be, but, who cared. I. Was. Living. The. Dream.

I have written about this before. The quiet need of a mother to find and/or retain who she is amidst the joy and chaos of parenthood. I write about it because I have no earthly idea how to manifest this idea in real life. A mother finds little outlet in the day to day, in the "thick" of parenting to nourish herself, EXCEPT, through the growth, happiness and nourishment of her children. That is spectacular and gratifying, but, is it enough? I don't know.

Some would label me unhappy or ungrateful for even having this thought. Guess what, I am scared to have that thought. What kind of mother am I if I say, in print, that being a mother may not nourish every fiber of my being to satisfaction. What if, I dare to say that I may need my own childhood dreams of being my own super hero fulfilled outside of the confines of "mom"?  And, my biggest fear, what if I am not the best mother I can be because I do not know who I am outside of their mother. What if I fail them like I failed at 18. Because, like stepping into the world at 18, I am afraid and, on most days, I still do not know who I am or what the hell I am doing.

Here is the difference; my complete, heartbreaking love for my children will not allow me to quit. They make me want to truly examine the desires I have to become not just their mother, but, a woman they can be proud of. In quiet moments, I imagine my adult relationships with my children. In all of these imagined scenarios, they are always happy. We are always laughing. I do not know if they will be ballerinas, doctors, lawyers, veterinarians, paleontologists, Broadway actors, college grads or college drop-outs. Are they happy? Are they fulfilled? Do they know who they are? Do they know that it is never too late to figure out who you want to be in the world?

And, what's next for me? Well, it is never to late to figure out who you want to be in the world. I don't owe Rainbow Brite or college for that piece of truth. I owe my children for that life lesson.

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At April 11, 2012 at 10:17 PM , Blogger Barbara R-G said...

I am trembling after reading this.
I can sympathize with how scary it must be to admit, as a mother of four children, that being a mother may not be ENOUGH to define you.
I feel strongly though that it is not. Even still, I share your biggest fear: "And, my biggest fear, what if I am not the best mother I can be because I do not know who I am outside of their mother. "
I've been fortunate enough to see a therapist since Ike was nearly 1 year old to explore that whole idea and most days I feel like I still struggle with it.
Hang in there.
I believe that it's going to be toughest while they're little and they really need us. But eventually they'll need less from us. Or at least there will be longer stretches during each day during which we can focus on ourselves.
I'm not wishing this time away, but I am looking forward to those days.

At April 12, 2012 at 3:25 PM , Blogger BadParentingMoments said...

Thanks so much, Barbara. I so appreciate your support. I feel like, if I'm going to talk about being a mom, I need to be honest about all parts of being a mom. Thank you for taking the time to read my stories. I look forward to those days too and I hope we can share some of them together. xo

At April 14, 2012 at 9:26 PM , Blogger Kimberly said...

I've often felt selfish because I need ME time. So glad you posted this...it helps to know we're not alone in possibly rejecting the seemingly universal "truth" that the satisfaction of motherhood should be "enough" for us. Pretty sure it's not my reality, although motherhood has been (and continues to be) one of the most amazing, gut-wrenching, joyous and sorrowful aspects of my life.

At April 15, 2012 at 9:10 AM , Blogger Unknown said...

First, NO parent is perfect and NO parent knows what they're doing 100% of the time. That is a cold hard fact.

Second, why not be the superhero you wanted to be? It may not take the same form as what you dreamed of as a child, but life is compromise and that includes being "selfish."

At April 15, 2012 at 10:05 AM , Blogger BadParentingMoments said...

Thank you for reading, Kimberly! From one badass mama to another, I appreciate the support.

At April 15, 2012 at 10:07 AM , Blogger BadParentingMoments said...

Thank you, Eric. I appreciate the read and the commiseration. Yes, I am still looking for my inner superhero. If only I could rock the Wonder Woman garb. The lasso of truth would come in handy here. Appreciate the support!

At April 20, 2012 at 2:47 PM , Blogger maura29 said...

Bethany, once again you've managed to put into words (in some pretty kick-ass prose, by the way) exactly what I have felt since my babies were first born. I started out much the same way you did as far as my path immediately following high school. I went straight to college like a good girl. I chose to major in education because that's what I was told I would be good at. At the time, I told everyone (and truly believed, myself) that I wanted to be a teacher. Looking back though I realize that it wasn't that teaching was my great desire, it's just that I had no idea what I wanted to be at all and even if I did, nothing else seemed realistic to me. I never considered myself to be of any great intellect, talent or special skill so I figured I'd better grab on to what presented itself as the most achievable and practical opportunity I was lucky enough to get. Long story short, after 3 sememsters, college was no longer a part of my life. While "flitting around" (to put it the way my mother did) for a couple of years, I struggled with not having any idea what I wanted to do with my life in terms of career. However the one desire that remained constant and true was the desire to have a family. I knew that was definitely going to happen no matter what. For a time, I even thought that that was all I would need to be completely fulfilled. By the time I was 23, I had been blessed with Kevin coming back into my life. By some absolute MIRACLE FROM GOD, I was able to get out of my own way enough so that my relationship with him could flourish and become what it was meant to become. By my 25th birthday, I was married to him and I was two weeks into the job I knew I was always meant to have. I was a mom. As you know, there are no words to truly and wholly express the joy and love you experience when you have a child. I absolutely felt that. So much so that all I could think about in the months immediately following was how much I wanted to have another baby. So I (we) did.....and then another one five years later. I love my babies more than I thought I could ever love anyone or anything. I know that I could not have been or done anything else when they were little except be "mommy". For one thing, I didn't WANT to and for another, I really don't think I would have been capable of it. I'm not good at multi-tasking. I had (and still have) an amazing husband, 3 unbelievably fabulous daughters, a roof over our heads, love, laughter and life. But I always felt as though there was something missing. I was happy, sure....but not complete. And what's worse is that I felt soooo guilty for feeling that way!
Now that my girls are getting older and don't need me to get them dressed, spoon feed them, blow their noses for them and handle all of their other personal grooming needs, I do wonder....as Scarlett (O'Hara, not my beautiful neice) said, "What's to become of me? Where shall I go? What shall I do?" My sense of being incomplete was quickly evoloving into a feeling of uselessness and I was finally seeing the effects of it on my life. I realized that I cannot possibly be the mother I want to be if I don't take the time to get to know ME. So now I am on a long, arduous and seemingly endless journey of self discovery. I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up and I'm still learning about who I am. But this path is rife with hope, wonder and "a-ha" moments and I truly feel like I am a better mother for it. I know I will never be a Donna Reed or June Cleaver type of mom, but I'm o.k. with that. I want my children to know me as a human being. I want to be as honest about myself with them as I can. This way, when they are grown up and the inevitable realization hits them that their mother is a terribly flawed little person it might not be such a disappoint to them. ;)

We give and give of ourselves to our children but if we are not whole, we shortchange not only ourselves, but our children as well.


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