How do women measure success? Is it by mothering and having a career? How do they carry out both forms of work to their satisfaction? What helps? What hurts?
This is a weekly series about successful women who participate in the workforce in a range of ways building their careers while mothering. These women fly under the radar of the media but need to be heard. They are silently successful and warrant recognition. They are compassionate, persistently hardworking women who deserve our admiration and offer advice to new mothers. Each week I will spotlight a different remarkable woman.
Hannah Jones, author, poet, blogger, teacher, and self-proclaimed "geek" has a 5-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son who live in the state of Washington. This honest, open, caring mother struggled when her first baby was born and soon went to work. This is her story:
"Some people asked me if it was hard being away from my new baby. There was an overwhelming sense of guilt attached to that question because the answer was 'no.' I had severe postpartum depression, and I felt like I couldn't connect with her. She cried all the time, wasn't getting enough milk from my breasts and I couldn't seem to comfort her. She was up constantly, so we were up constantly. I would fantasize about sleeping when she cried. I felt like I was failing in all aspects of motherhood, but school and work was something I could do, something I could excel at. So the decision was easy."
However, pleasure eventually came to mothering. When her postpartum blues faded and she became pregnant again, she soon gave birth to her son, who delighted her despite her undeserved self-doubts:
"We clicked right away. He always wanted me, took a bottle without fussing when my milk ran dry and slept really well. I still felt like my body failed him. Like I had no right being a mother when I couldn't even make milk, would still cry myself to sleep or feel like screaming when my children cried. But eventually, mothering became a joy."
Hannah's ambitions began to resurface, and she began writing about her experiences that culminated in a B.R.A.G. Honoree Medallion novel, Monocrome. "I'd become an author at night, after my children fell asleep."
She also came to write short stories, Tiptoe Through Time and Light Storm of 2015 and became a contributing author to My Cruel Invention, a poetry anthology. However, guilt easily overwhelmed her until she found herself:
"I felt guilty for wanting time to teach, to be away from the home that brought me a lot of joy, but was starting to feel like a cage. I felt even guiltier because I have a lot of friends who would say, 'Oh, being a mother is the best job and it's full-time.' And while mothering my children is still my focus, I decided that the guilt was not mine. It was the expectations of a society that was trying to tell me what a mother was. And I did not fit those molds. I was not nurturing right off, had no mother's milk and felt like the walls of my home were closing in around me. So I decided to start teaching evenings. The intellectual stimulation is just what I need. And I come home a rested, stimulated being. Better able to appreciate my kids. I've been able to grow as a parent, but I actually think working has helped that tremendously."
Hannah learned that her relationship with her children continued to grow:
"They trust me. I am their go-to person. My daughter pretends to be a writer, pretends to be an engineer, pretends to be a grown up. She once said, 'I'm just not sure if I will have children or a husband. It could be good, but I'm not sure. There's a lot of things I might want to do.' She is 5 and she is starting to see that she is the decision maker. I think allowing her to see me in many roles has helped that. I am a feminist, unapologetically. I want her to know her life is hers."
With sorrow, Hannah shares what it's like to suffer from depression while taking on so much.
"As a person with a mood disorder, I suffer from extreme lows and extreme agitation. I bought a bottle of whiskey at a low point in my depression. I dumped it and drank my kid's juice box. I don't want them seeing me depend on alcohol. Being a role model is so important to me. I try to be the very best version of myself."
Hannah has sound advice for new mothers who want to embark on careers:
"Don't let the advice, pressures or expectations of others rule your decisions. Truly look inside yourself. Be honest about what you want with your partner and with yourself. And don't let others' expectations of you make you feel guilty. I feel successful more often in my mothering than in anything else. But I think that's because I'm in a much better place, now that I have time to work outside of the home and pursue my other passions."
Please leave comments commending Hannah for all she's done. She's a wonderfully, remarkable woman who deserves our high regard and kudos!
If you would like to participate in this series and have me put you in the limelight, kindly contact Laurie Hollman, Ph.D.
Laurie Hollman, Ph.D. is a psychoanalyst and author with a new book, Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child's Behavior, on amazon, barnes and noble, familius, and wherever books are found. To learn more about how the book fits your needs read here.
If you -- or someone you know -- need help, please call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you are outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.