By Heather Cabot, The Well Mom
Almost two years ago, I received an email out of the blue from an editor who was putting together a collection of essays by mothers. She had seen a blog post of mine about my transition to motherhood and how much pressure I had put on myself to live up to an unattainable ideal of being the perfect mom. You know, the kind of super woman who manages to look fit and glamorous while shuttling her well-behaved twin toddlers to gym and music classes plus excelling at work, putting delicious home-cooked meals on the table each night, keeping a spotless house, arranging regular date nights with her husband, running marathons, never forgetting a birthday, returning emails promptly…And on and on. With my laundry list of what I thought I was supposed to be achieving, I wrote, I set myself up for failure many days and it really got me down. My essay, “You’ll Never Look Like Heidi Klum” was first published on The Huffington Post shortly after having my twins. In the new book TORN: True Stories of Kids, Careers and the Conflict of Modern Motherhood, edited by Samantha Parent Walravens, my story is one of 47 pieces which explore the choices and challenges modern moms face in a post-feminist era in which women have never had more opportunities to succeed in a “man’s world” and thanks to the Web, never had so many ways to create flexible work schedules. From government to business to journalism to academia, women have broken the glass ceiling. There is more potential than ever to thrive in our careers (even if salary parity, maternity leave and childcare options still have a ways to go). And yet, when I talk to my friends, I am struck by the angst so many fellow moms feel about how to do it all: how to kick ass in our professions (especially more mature moms like myself who spent more than a decade climbing the ladder) while being the parent and spouse we want to be to our families. TORN dissects these sacrifices by taking the reader inside the individual stories of women who’ve chosen career over staying home…staying home over career…and women who’ve done both at different points in their children’s lives. Their voices underscore the point that there is no right answer that fits everyone.
What I love about being part of this book is that I know that I’m not alone in my insecurities about the choices I’ve made so far. Some days I turn on the TV and see how far former colleagues have progressed in the hyper competitive world of broadcast news and I feel a bit envious that I’m not out there covering the big story. Other days, particularly when one of my kids is sick and really needs me, I can drop everything in an instant, race to the doctor and spend the whole afternoon making soup and reading stories to him or her. It’s during those times that I know I’m doing what I was meant to do. And yet, I realized very early in my transition to motherhood that I missed my professional life. My identity and sense of self-worth were wrapped up in my job for many years. I had a hard time completely walking away from that life. I know I’m fortunate that I’ve found satisfying work in the years since I’ve had my children that affords me tremendous flexibility and the chance to work at home. There are days when my kids hear me beg, “Please five more minutes. I just need to finish this email and then I’ll focus on you the rest of the day,” as I sit at my laptop in my pajamas racing to make a deadline at 7am. Some days are stressful but I think it’s working for us right now.
Like the women in the book, I’m always re-evaluating and thinking ahead to the next phase. Now that my two are starting kindergarten in the fall, I’m in the thick of transition once again. We’re moving out of the city to a new home in a suburban neighborhood and I’m wondering what that will mean for me and my career plans. It’s a topic I will certainly tackle here on The Well Mom. But in the meantime, I wanted to let you know about TORN and also to let you know that you can join in the conversation about this topic with one of my favorite writers, New York Times columnist Lisa Belkin. Lisa is launching a book club for her blog The Motherlode and TORN is the first selection. Editor Samantha Parent Walravens will be interviewed by Lisa Tuesday June 14th and will discuss comments readers have made on The Motherlode. Lisa writes, the conversation with continue on the blog in the comments section. So please, join in! Thanks.