It's time for me to me to speak up.
Please hear my voice so I can try and shed my regrets about having career and motherhood at the same time.
Some career women may want to lash into me for confessing my regrets after all we've done together to make it possible to have a career and be mothers. But I must confess -- I have sorrows about times I wasn't with my kids.
And, I still do and I have grandchildren ages 4 and 7! I was part of the seventies feminist movement. I went to Consciousness Raising Groups that readers probably never heard of. As we told our most intimate secrets about womanhood and asked each other questions we'd barely asked ourselves, I sat there nursing my second baby. Fortunately, no one said anything about that.
Before my children, I was a school teacher after becoming a researcher in educational psychology. With a Masters in Elementary Education and specialized training in learning disabilities I was given a teaching job where I was instructed to "shake up" a traditional elementary school with my new research in education.
I set out to do just that. I created individualized report cards for each student in a second-third grade integrated classroom. I created physically attractive centers of learning that fostered art, reading, writing, and math throughout the room.
Talented students helped those less able and the class was often chaotic but filled with empathy and learning. I was drawn to the child who was talented and the child who was troubled and everybody in between. Believe me, this kind of classroom didn't exist in the seventies. I worked each day long passed the school day until I was told to go home.
In just a few years, however, my 20-something heart welled up to have my own children. The principal was panicked when I worked to my due date. Fortunately, I was two weeks late and had plenty of time to rest before my prolonged labor. Actually, I didn't rest, but painted my dining room!
I was happy after I gave birth. Happier than I could have ever been before I was a mother.
I struggled to be the best mother ever but by just six months, my old ambitions started to push forward. Leaving my baby with my husband for the weekend, a difficult passage that pulled at my heart strings, I drove over a hundred miles to a weekend conference on Parent Effectiveness Training that was beginning to be popular then. I became an instructor and started teaching classes in parenting.
This was a bit audacious since I'd only begun being a parent myself but it was the start of a new career that drew motherhood and teaching back together in one fell swoop.
I adored mothering. I spent hours cooking organic foods and in 27 months from the first birth, my second was born. I found myself studying psychology. I even went to a university and bought all the psych books an undergrad major would learn. I studied for the GRE's in Psych and succeeded grandly getting into a Clinical Psychology Ph.D. program.
After I got in to the Ph.D. program, I calamitously got on the phone and miraculously turned it down after all my preparation and then had the first anxiety attack of my life!
I was deeply torn between ambition and motherhood. I felt how could I become a psychologist and leave my two babies to go study? The contradiction was too bold, too deep. I had the first panic attack of my life. I felt severe separation anxiety fom the prospect of leaving my two babies.
So I stayed at home and readjusted my plans. I did go back to school and eventually got my Ph.D. and later became a psychoanalyst. But I did it part time and hired vibrant baby sitters up the kazoo.
Throughout this process which succeeded very well and I now have over 30 years of a thriving psychotherapy practice with infant, child and adult patients to be proud of and even a new parenting book that's the culmination of my success with the families I worked with, Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child's Behavior, I confess--I have regrets that still well up inside of me that I work hard to compensate for.
I titled the book, after much duress, beginning with the word, "Unlocking" because I think despite all our self-doubts and fears of failure, we have the resources inside us to unlock in order to become intelligent, thinking, caring parents.
Please don't judge me now dear working mothers who find great satisfaction in their work. I hope you understand when I list just a few of my regrets:
I regret I was not always there to pick my 3-year-old up from pre-school one of the two days he attended. My friend picked him up and she was sweet but didn't have his mother's smiling face to greet him.
I regret not having more play groups for my kids. I did have one for each, but I should have had more.
I regret not always being focused on my babies because my mind wandered to the studying I was doing or the clinic I was working in at night -- could they tell I wasn't totally attending to them every second?
I regret not making more friends with other young mothers to share my confusions with. In order to do all I did, I had to stay focused, concentrating on my studies and my mothering, without time for much socialization.
It's shattering to think I may have let my children down -- ever!!
I am very much a student of learning. So learning about motherhood was my focus. I turned that into a career which continues. I still do both.
When both my kids went away to college and life became less chaotic, something inside was churning and driving me and I became a marathon runner. All that energy had to go somewhere. My first marathon was in Philadelphia where my son was attending university.
I never figured out what full-time meant actually. I always felt and continue to feel I do both all the time. Sometimes in action, but always in my mind! I don't count the hours, I just keep at it.
When I had grandchildren, I became inspired and went back to school yet again and became an infant-parent psychotherapist. I had to learn everything again about infancy because once again I had infants who were passionately part of my life. That was three years of part-time training an hour a way by train while working at my office and visiting my grandchildren who at the time lived in London while I lived in New York.
I felt torn then and now when I remember one of my grandkids (who now lives 5 hours away but by car in NY) said, "When Grandma stops working, she'll live near us." I don't know where he got that, but he pulled at my insides and the struggle never ends.
Does working still interfere with mothering and now grandmothering?! I still feel regret and guilt but keep working and mothering. (I promise you my husband and I drive that five hours frequently!)
My children and grandchildren are truly the center of my soul.
I was thrilled the other day when my younger son said he wants us to meet more often for dinner just the two of us because he wants more time with me alone. I know he loves me, but he still wants me! He's a child of Parental Intelligence (the book I mentioned) and is proud of me for that. He boosts my courage and confidence in ways I hope I've always done for him.
When my book was published, at a dinner at my older son's house, he raised his glass and toasted me as a hardworking mother who deserved to have her book succeed. I felt, "He knows how hard I work. I didn't really, really know he knew!" It felt great.
I'm considered a Parenting Expert! I'm writing a series for HuffPost,"Successful Career Women and Motherhood." Yet here I am still wondering how to do it right myself.
Women always say you can't have it all. But I'm sure. Overwhelmingly positive. I want it all and I won't give up trying.
I hope you'll leave comments here so I can hear from you right away. Then contact me and join the series, so I can put you in the spotlight. I believe in you and hope you and my children believe in me.