I remember it vividly like it was yesterday even though yesterday was nearly 7 years ago - - the year I officially became a mom. I was 18 years old when I gave birth to my beautiful baby boy, Santana. Prior to having Santana I was just like any ordinary high school girl in her senior year. I loved the idea that I would soon be in college, away from home, and ready to bask in my freedom.
Like many others in my graduating class, I had many ambitious goals and dreams post graduation. I dreamt of getting a doctoral degree in counseling (to counsel juveniles or adult inmates), becoming a well-known writer, and starting my own non-profit organization for troubled teens. I was sold by the idea of the American Dream and was further encouraged by individuals insisting that, “you can be anything you put your mind to.”... but the birth of Santana changed a lot.
Those chants of encouragement from peers and family became silenced when my child came into the picture. The same individuals that were once telling me I could be anything I wanted to be didn’t quite have that same opinion anymore. In fact, some began scolding me for continuing to dream. Did becoming a mom mean that my pursuit of personal goals was over? Was I not allowed to be more than just a mom?
In an act to both fight for my dreams and prove naysayers wrong, I went into overdrive. I bellied up to the bar to not only try to fight off the social stigma of being a teen mom but to prove to people everywhere that moms could still fulfill other roles in life -- be it fulfilling the role of executive positions to business owners.
There had been this constant voice in my head telling me that moms don’t get breaks and that’s just the way life is so I worked hard. Working hard turned into the ugly desire to overcompensate. Eventually, I wounded up being hospitalized for exhaustion. It was in the hospital when I done a lot of reflecting. Here I was having gone on to balance multiple part-time jobs and college courses only two months after giving birth without true me time. Why? The moment I stepped outside of my duties to enjoy one night of me time - - whether it was hanging out with friends or going on a shopping trip for clothing I desperately needed outsiders criticized me. They made me feel like the bad guy. It didn’t matter how hard I worked at being the best at EVERYTHING including my responsibility as a mom. No one gave me praises for things that were merely “my responsibility” to do like being a provider. Instead they thrived on making a fuss about the trivial and few occasions of me taking a much needed break.
I’ve seen it happen all too often - - moms being judged by those who don’t have children, by those that are “traditional stay-at-home” moms, and all sorts of people. I wore a shirt that showed my belly once and you would’ve thought that I was the cause of WWIII. Comments like, “What kind of mom would wear that…?” floated around.
However, it was in the hospital where my view on life changed. I had to ask myself: Was I more concerned about being a good mom or was I more worried about if people perceived me as a good mom? I decided from that day forward that I would validate MYSELF as a mom and any other role I took on.
There’s this pervasive opinion that when you have a child that you are supposed to sit your dreams aside and JUST be a mom. To be anything more than a mom is to be selfish toward your child supposedly. I would actually love to meet the person that created Mommy Norms -- what moms should and shouldn’t do according to certain people (Boy, would I give them a piece of my mind). The plague of Mommy Norms are like seeds that become planted in you. Because of Mommy Norms, anytime you want to buy yourself something or simply take a nap, you have this remorse that you are being a disservice to your child. You find yourself second guessing your every action to maintain an “ideal mommy image.”
The fact is that moms are not robots. We are not without feelings, thoughts, dreams, goals, wishes, personalities, and all of the things that make us unique individuals. This is not to say that we don’t love our children or know that sacrifice is crucial when you become a parent. However, to all of the people judging moms --chill a little would you? Work-life balance is not an easy task and being a mom doesn’t come with a hand-book. However, I know some great moms and to all of you, stop feeling guilty about your desire to have good ol’ fashioned you time every now and again. Stop feeling guilty for having goals for yourself outside of your family.
Put those babies to bed and have your glass of wine. Find a sitter and take yourself on a date. You can even have time away from your boyfriend or husband to just enjoy you. To h-e-double hockey sticks with the critics if you know that you take care of your children day in and day out. You can’t pour love from an empty cup, mom. So fill up YOUR cup...
As your kids get older, you’ll actually find that your kids are rooting for you just as much as you are rooting for them. When I crack open my laptop and hear my son say, “Oooo mommy I know you’re about to blog. What are you going to write about?” it reassures my purpose. I hope him seeing mommy pursue her dreams only encourages him to follow his heart as well - - regardless of critics.
Reconnect with those dreams you threw away because you thought they were too egocentric.
Remember, “Mommas' gotta have a life too.”