I Don’t Chant the “I Love Motherhood” Mantra
Written By Savvy Auntie Staff Writers
By Suzie Mitchell, clearwritingsolutions.com
Suzie Mitchell is the founder of Clear Writing Solutions, a marketing firm that assists IT healthcare companies targeting boomers, seniors, and caregivers. She is a blogger for AARP and Next Avenue and writes about Boomers and Technology. She is the co-author of the book, Growing into Grace: Adventures in Self-Discovery Through Writing. She is the mother of one son, an Auntie of two boys and two girls, and a Great Auntie of one little girl. You can follow her on Twitter: @suziemitchell.
I’m not a baby lover—never have been. I have one child. He’s 30 now, and I admit that I found relating to him as a baby very difficult. I loved him and cared for him and nurtured him, but I was always counting the days until he would get old enough to fend for himself a bit more.
Some women shudder when I say this and whisper “How could you?” But there are a lot of women out there who will find solace in these words and know they aren’t alone. We live in a society that scorns us if we don’t chant the “I love Motherhood” mantra all of the time.
I also had a full time career. We were fortunate to find a loving home daycare situation for our son, whereas an only child he grew up with 11 other tots whose parents also worked full-time. He developed into an independent, successful young man, who is an advocate of daycare.
But he’s not the point of the story or the one with the internal struggle. It’s my niece. She’s 32, married, and a budding corporate lawyer on the partner track with a 1-year-old daughter. She has a nanny and a husband with a flexible schedule. Her mom, also a trained lawyer, chose to be a stay-at-home mom and raise three children and can’t relate to my niece’s plight. I can. As the saying goes, “I feel her pain.”
A couple of months ago, my niece told me how she was going to miss her daughter’s first school Halloween party and how she felt terrible.
“All the other moms will be there, but I don’t have the kind of job that allows me to take off for a party,” she laments.
“She’s 1. She won’t know the difference,” I tell her.
“But I will,” she responds with the dreaded sound of guilt.
“Being at a school function doesn’t make you a good mom. You have no idea how these moms are when they are at home with their kids,” I explain.
“I know,” she says. “But I feel bad that I’m not doing what the other moms are doing.”
After a little more discussion, she admitted that in addition to wanting to be at the school party, she also felt judged by the other moms.
As a teenager, I fought for equal rights for women in the workplace and pro-choice benefits, which I believe extend beyond abortion rights. Pro-choice for women, to me, means having a choice and being respected for my choice—a choice to work outside of the home, a choice to be a full-time mom, a choice to enter specific careers, a choice to do what is right for me and my family.
Here—35 years later—my niece believed she was being judged by her peers for making a choice. This seemed unconscionable to me. We had worked too hard in the 60s and 70s to eliminate this attitude.
I expressed my outrage, and then we hugged and kissed and she returned home to another state.
A few days later, on Halloween, I sent her an email to tell her I was thinking of her and ask her what she did about the party.
I shared these words with her:
Raising a child involves a lifetime of decisions—some good, some not so good, and some painful for you and your child. Each decision is but a small cog in the wheel of life, and it's the steady day-to-day force that builds character. Try not to feel guilty when a decision you make, which is always made with love, causes you discomfort because you know in your heart you are being the best mom you can be, and if that means working instead of going to a school party when your daughter is 1, think about the upside of the decision. Your ability to earn a great living helps provide her with the opportunity to GO to the school and have wonderful experiences daily. Raising a child is never “winner takes all.”
Her response: “Aunt Suzie, thank you so much for this. I am saving this and going to read it when I feel conflicted and disappointed. I truly appreciate it.”
At the end of the day, we both gained. She gave me the opportunity to be an aunt who made a real difference. Thanks, sweetie—I needed that.
Photo: Courtesy of Suzie Mitchell
Published: January 1, 2013