The Struggle is Real by Elizabeth Dodson

I’ve been struggling with blogging. I’ve been struggling with mommying. I’ve been struggling with adulting.

I’ve been struggling with figuring out exactly what I’m struggling with.

And then last night, in the middle of a rare moment of peaceful sleep from my daughter, where I could have been sleeping comfortably tucked into my own contorted sleep position of choice- I read this article:

This is exactly what I’ve been struggling with!  I’m struggling with my ideals not fitting into the society in which I live.

When I planned to become a mom, I never planned to be a “stay at home mom.”  I didn’t want to lose myself. I thought I’d be bored staying at home with a baby/child!  But once I held my baby in my arms my life changed, my view of the world changed.  I realized leaving to work outside of the home was not what I wanted. I realized there is no dull moment in parenting. And I realized I would make every personal sacrifice necessary in order to be able to stay at home and stay with my daughter.

For several months, this decision was easy.  I didn’t have any regrets, and I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything because I knew these moments in my daughter’s life will pass me by so quickly.  Soon she’ll be grown, but work will always be there.  But, as she grew and my friends had babies, they all returned to work and I was still at home with my daughter.  The expectations and values of our society started to weigh on me. Several friends received promotions and raises, while I’m struggling with a lost freedom from being more restricted financially and wondering if I’m sabotaging my career by staying home to care for my daughter.

Then there were the comments from fellow moms (who work) asking me what I do all day. One in particular: “how do you occupy yourself all day?”  Uh. Baby. Toddler. Child. I’m an engaged parent. I don’t prop my kid in front of a tv all day. I’m not sure how you can be a mom and not understand how I’m busy all day. But then those comments led me to think at the end of a day, what have I accomplished?  I have a running list of items I want to take care of every day- not things like doing the dishes, cooking meals, walking the dog, doing laundry. Those are on the other list of items that MUST be completed. But then there’s the other list of items that are for me. For my work. For my career. For my personal growth. Because while I know I don’t want to leave the home or my daughter for work, that doesn’t mean I don’t want to figure out a way to work. Even when I do accomplish items on the “me list,” it’s never as many items as I had hoped.

I start to question at the end of the day, how did I do so little?  How did a full 12 hours pass and all I did was read one research article or create one survey or make an Instagram post to promote Body by Baby?  How is it I accomplished so little?  Because I was not considering all the other “little” things I did with my daughter that day as the accomplishments that they are most certainly. I made her feel secure and safe. I made her feel loved and important. I taught her to trust my presence in her life. I taught her confidence in herself. I taught her empathy. These things. Everyday. Along with the other lessons. I read to her. I talk to her and tell her about the things we see and the people we meet and expand her vocabulary. I crawl around on the ground with her or “race” her across the living room and relish in her laughter. I watch her closely as she climbs and explores, careful to not let her hurt herself but also not discourage her adventurous spirit and curiosity. I fight my own anxieties and fears (and need for order and cleanliness!) constantly in order to let her be a kid and find out who she is. I accomplish more in any given day with my daughter that is far more valuable than a paycheck or anything it can buy, than I ever have previously in my life. And I’m not an underachiever. I worked a full time job and a part time job while attending school full time to complete my undergraduate degree. I decided to run a marathon while living on a remote Pacific island, so I created an event which included a marathon, served as race director for the event, and became the first runner to complete a marathon on that island.

So why do I doubt myself at the end of the day?  Why do I feel lesser than working moms?  Why do I let other people’s views or opinions (or those I perceive them to have) affect how I feel about myself? I realized the answer to this in an email I sent my daughter. My daughter just turned one. She won’t be reading these emails any time soon. In fact, my current plan is to “give” them to her on her 18th birthday. But I send her emails to tell her about her life, my life, our life. I want her to know who I am now, as I expect that by the time she remembers what I’m like I will be very different.

I want her to know about my feelings as a new mom, the “little” big things in her life and her development through my eyes. I also never want her to feel like my life is a mystery to her. My parents have always kept so many secrets all my life, and I want to be more open. So I sent her an email pouring out my thoughts about my confusion over this feeling that I accomplish so little in a day, while being so fulfilled and happy as her mom and how proud I am of her. And I realized it’s due to what is truly valued in our society; how we measure success. We place more value on what car you drive, the square footage of your house, the label on your clothes and your Facebook reality than we do on raising empathetic, confident, engaged, inclusive and open- minded people. I’m not bashing working moms here. I’m not saying every woman who works outside of the home rather than spending her days with her child is wrong!  But we should have a real choice. I shouldn’t feel like I have to decide between my career or my child. I shouldn’t be expected to care for the baby, keep my career on track, make dinner and also work out five times a week because I’m “mom,” while my partner gets praised as if he’s father of the year if he changes a diaper or “gives” me some alone “me” time.

So how do I handle it?  How do I change a society when I’m just one person?  I start by judging my own success and my own accomplishments on the set of values in which I believe. My partner and I make the example to our daughter as parents, there is no “mom” job or “dad” job. Okay, breastfeeding might be the exception.  We raise her so that her “normal” is understanding her value in our family and our society and knowing her worth.  So when she grows up, if she decides she wants to start a family, she won’t ever question or doubt what she has achieved in a day. She’ll value every moment with her child without guilt or fear of what she might be giving up because she’ll know how much she’s gaining and what she’s providing to the world.