A few weeks ago, I took my children to an indoor jump place to meet up with a friend. As I stood there surrounded by screaming kids in a petri dish of madness, I found myself in conversation with a grandfather who was there with his grand kids. As we stood there, he told me he was their full-time caregiver, and when I asked how that arrangement came to be, he answered with:
“My daughter just isn’t the staying-at-home type. She learned that very quickly. She called me one day and said, ‘Dad, I can’t do this. I want to go back to work. The kids are driving me crazy.’ So I took over. Because I love this type of thing.”
I could sense he knew he was saying something that might be considered taboo to a stay-at-home mom as I watched him carefully scan my face for a sense of disapproval while the words came out of his mouth. But I just answered with, “Well, what a blessing.” And I meant it.
Yet I found that I couldn’t stop thinking about that conversation for the rest of the day. Because it’s easy for a mom to tell people that she works because her family needs her financial contribution to make ends meet. But it gets progressively harder for a mom to tell a stranger that she wants to work.
It’s hard to say, “I work, but there is nothing financially necessary about it.” Because a mom can’t help but feel this is telling someone she doesn’t like her own children. But I wonder if for some moms, it IS emotionally necessary. Yet they aren’t empowered to say that part. So instead they own shame for feeling that way. Or at least avoid talking about it.
I was with a group of friends the other day and we began talking about hobbies. One of the moms quickly said, “Sometimes I need to do something that is just for me. I need to be more than just mom.” And all of my friends and I quickly nodded our heads in agreement as if we were a family sitting on the front row of a church telling the pastor to, “PREACH.”
But she stopped with that because you could tell she felt a sense of guilt as she said it. As if admitting that she has a need to be more than just a butt-wiper or more than just a snack-maid at times made her unloving. It made her feel not just unfit to squeeze into the skinny jeans from the store, but also unfit to fit into the good mom category we moms all strive for.
But the longer I live the mom life, the more I realize how important it is for me to have outside work or hobbies that help me continue to feel like me ― the woman I was before kids. And the woman I will be when my children are grown. Because if I lose ME in the process of being MOM-MEEEEEE, how much do I really have left to give to my children? Sometimes when I am not functioning as mom 100 percent of my day, I realize I am better able to give 100 percent when I am.
I believe that for some women, the need to be more than just a mom is necessary to be the best mom they can be. And as a mother of sons, I want my boys to learn that it’s hard to be a good mom if I don’t also feel like a strong woman, too. I want them to see me not just as the woman that kisses their heads at night and drops them off at all of their activities because I have nothing better to do, but as the woman that chooses to do these things because she loves them.
I want them to know that a strong mom can be strong by staying home and using her strength to be loving and patient within the home. Or a strong mom can be strong because she chooses to use her gifts outside the home and let others use their gifts (like a grandfather) with her children.
My mom is a nurse. But she is also an artist. A seamstress. A self-taught theologian. A designer. A landscaper. A carpenter. A handy woman. The list goes on and on. Essentially, my mom is an incredibly gifted woman that became my mom.
But here’s what I’ve discovered that’s even better ― her other talents didn’t threaten or destroy me as her child. Instead, they made me proud and motivated to find my own passions and gifts to use in this world. And I think they made her a better mom. And I am confident that I am better because she was more than just my mom. And this world is too.
So the next time you’re feeling a need to be more than just a mom, don’t hide in shame. Don’t question yourself for not having enough maternal instinct. Because you ARE more than just a mom. You’re a woman that is also a mom.
And when we understand that, we are finally in a place to become the best moms we can be.