My mom has never tried to convince me to do things her way – or even that there is a “right way” to do anything at all. And still, I often find myself trying so hard to be just like her. She worked part time as my three siblings and I grew up and made attending track meets, school plays, and soccer games a top priority throughout my childhood. She worked, but my perspective as a kid based on the way she prioritized her time was that being a mom was her job.
I had a very happy childhood thanks to the way I was raised. So when I had my son I thought, “I’ll just be like my mom and my kids will be happy too”. I felt compelled to do as my mom had done because that’s what I thought of as the recipe for a “good mom”.
The only problem is, I’m not made of the same stuff my mom is made of. I started my own business in my late 20’s. When I found out I was pregnant, I had just signed a lease on my new office/studio. I was diving headfirst into motherhood and running a business at the same time. Dilemma: how can I be just like my mom if I’m not just like my mom?
Trust me I tried. While on self-imposed maternity leave I remember googling “part time CEO”. No results found…shocking! I struggled a lot in the first year and a half of my son’s life as I tried to be “all in” as a mother and as an entrepreneur – full-time everything. Needless to say, this caused a lot of guilt, stress, and exhaustion. I was trying to be Sheryl Sandberg and June Cleaver at the same time.
The ironic thing is that aside from my husband, no one has been more supportive of my career than my mom, regardless of our differences. Here I am trying so hard to be just like her and she has never asked me to be anything other than myself. Early on as a parent, I made a lot of assumptions about what other people would think about my choices. Would the June Cleavers of the world think that I was a bad mom if I worked? Would the Sheryl Sandbergs of the world look down on me if I didn’t work enough? My mom’s support has taught me that even though I’m not doing it exactly like she did it (or exactly like anyone else for that matter) I’m still capable of doing a good job on both fronts.
I am about to become a mom again. Baby number two will be here in September. I feel more prepared on many levels this time around - most importantly I feel more prepared to own my choices and define for myself what a “good mom” and a successful entrepreneur looks like.
I will always look up to mom and aspire to be like her in a lot of ways – but I no longer feel pressure to copy her behavior or follow a particular recipe for motherhood. Nor would I ever judge another woman for her choices.
It’s important to have role models, but what we all really need to do is to focus on the specific needs of ourselves and of our families and design our lives accordingly.
I’d like to wish a very Happy Mother’s Day to the beautifully diverse group of women that carry one title in common: Mom. It’s a title we should respect in ourselves and others no matter how anyone chooses to define it.