If you saw me living day-to-day life, I’m pretty sure you’d classify me as a no-holds-barred, strong and liberal woman. I mean I grew up with a poster hanging in the laundry room in clear sight of the door I entered and exited every day from my home – it beckoned to me daily, reading: “Stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a jail. Yet, until the ERA has won, we’re only out on bail.” I’d say that pretty much shaped me considering the woman who raised me…my beautiful, strong mother…is the one who hung it there.
Despite how most people would read that poster, assuming the woman who hung it was a tough-minded career woman in the 70s, it turns out that same beautiful, strong mother of mine was instead a stay-at-home Mom until I was a teenager. She cooked, kept a wonderful home, volunteered at our schools and carpooled us to tennis, drama, horseback riding, cheerleading, gymnastics and more. She even sewed many of our clothes for God’s sake. That too, shaped me. That’s my picture of a mother…a wife…a woman. And, what seems to be doing me in these days is that it’s not what I am.
When my Mom returned to work when I was a teenager, she took it on with the fervor and passion of a woman moving into the next phase of her life. That, too, shaped me. I was encouraged to be whatever I wanted to be…to reach my full potential. I was the one they expected to bring that poster’s thoughts to life…even if on that sad day in the 70s the ERA was voted down….I could still live it in spirit. I didn’t plan to get married. I didn’t plan to have kids. I was going to take on the world with a hard-core career. In my youth, it’s what I thought I wanted…until…
…Until I met the man who would become my husband…by the age of 23. I was the one who never considered marriage growing up. Yet, I was the first of my friends to get married.
…Until 5 years after our wedding my thoughts about becoming a mother changed and something inside me told me I NEEDED to do it…so at age 29, I became a mother.
…Until I realized that to be the mother I wanted to be, I needed to put my career on the back burner. I needed to read to, do crafts with, cradle and cuddle my baby all day, every day. Soon thereafter, I needed to be the pre-school room Mom and advocate for my child in elementary school and run the PTA and drive the carpool and be the Girl Scout helper and more…and more…and more.
Yet, I also needed to work for financial reasons. So, I found a way to do both. You see, growing up, I was also encouraged to know I could do it all if I wanted. And, over the past 12+ years of motherhood, that’s what I’ve tried to do…I tried to do it all…until…
…Until it didn’t work anymore. I had started a consulting business to be able to set my own work schedule. It grew, it thrived…the 70s ERA baby in me took over and wanted to make it more. And, it was. So much so that it turned into a full-time executive job within a corporation. A job with some flexibility…it allowed me to work from home and still be a part of my kids’ activities.
…Until the day it became more demanding and the day my husband lost his job, my safety net that allowed me to leave whenever I wanted to go back to my “Mom” life. And …until the fear and pressure of being the breadwinner made me question me being able to do it all…made me realize it’s pretty essential that I’m more present at work and less present at home.
So, we’re re-defining roles here. We’re very fortunate to have the choices we have. I’M very fortunate to have a husband willing to re-define his role in this new world, this bad economy and actually run the carpool and volunteer at the school and more. My kids are even more fortunate to have an open-minded, giving father who was shaped by the same type of parents when he grew up. Yet, the re-defining of roles is fighting with my core being. I was recently at a seminar for Women in Leadership, and we discussed just this…how the changing society has women doing more, owning more, yet feeling more anxiety because many of them are just like me…dueling with the traditions with which they were raised. Statistics show that mostly middle management men lost their jobs in the economic crash 2 years ago and many, many have not been able to return to work. It all rang true with me.
So, maybe that no-holds-barred liberal person people see me as isn’t so accurate, because a truly liberal person would let it go…would be open to the change…would be willing to make the full switch. Wouldn’t she?
I think she would…I think I should. I think I will. And, I know it will all be just fine. Because what I know now is I’m not just one type of person. I’m not just a stereotype…none of us are. We’re all just plugging along, finding our way and trying to find joy in all of it. It’s quite a ride though…quite a ride…because really there are no rules to life…there’s just doing the best you can with what you have and being willing to adapt…until…until it changes again.