This is an anonymous guest post. A reader sent his mother the following quote from me:
So for 2016 I’m going to accept who I am: Someone who struggles every day to accept the realities of parenting in the context of a world that celebrates people who give up everything for work.
I am always trying to figure out how to get credit for being a stay-at-home parent and get credit for being a successful entrepreneur. Probably this means I have to redefine those terms.
His mother wrote back to him, and he forwarded her email to me. She gave me permission to print it here:
If I could go back and talk to my earlier self about this, I’m not sure I would. I’d like to have taken better care of myself, in the same way I took enthusiastic pleasure from taking care of my children.
But I’m finally doing that now, and maybe that’s actually better. You never can do it all at the same time. I had trouble guessing whether it was better to engage serially over time with things that nourished my soul, or trying to cram it together and do it all at once even with children.
Praise from strangers is good, but it will always feel hollow if what you need are sustained, intensifying connections. You can reengage with the world of accomplishments later, but what you miss with your children, you miss; there is no later.
The zero-to-high-school period is pretty short and precious and I do think you reap what you sow during those years. I also think it’s better to be loved for who you are than what you do. I wish it had not taken me so long to start to live that.
With work, you can always start again. But there really is no gift like being with someone who adores you, needs you, wants you, and likes you. All of my children gave me that. It’s good to be a home to children.
It’s also good to strive to accomplish something else, to please yourself and others. There is time for both. There is energy for both. Though maybe not at the same time, all at once.
I can honestly say now I’m finally over wanting to nurture as a mother. I want, and have, an adult life now and I like it more all the time. I’m one of the lucky ones who got to have it all. Not a perfect job by far, but I’m pretty happy right this minute.