It’s Not Because You’re a Mother
My husband has become kind of a thing on Medium. He’s had a lot of staff recs. He’s even been called out by people he doesn’t know as among the best things they’ve found on Medium. My friends and co-workers rave about his pieces. He’s had people ask to publish his stories. While I’m happy for him, it’s been hard for me. He’s always been the funny one and I’ve been the writer. Now he’s both and I’m the frizzy haired mother in yoga pants secretly chugging diet Coke (I know, it’s bad for you — it’s all I have left) as I drive a motley crew of kids around town in my Pirate Booty-littered minivan.
So, when he wrote a piece about the choices he made that allowed him to be such a success (OK he didn’t quite say that but that’s what I heard), it pretty much sent me over the edge. He notes in his manifesto how he has chosen family, work and writing and nothing else in order to achieve his goals. And my head screams I’ve had to pick work and motherhood and NOTHING ELSE. Forget getting that kids’ novel published. Forget ever writing the Great American Novel. I don’t write anymore. Unless Tooth Fairy notes count.
Instead every day I get the kids up. I walk them to school. I do my work (albeit from home, but I am running my own tech PR agency so I’m not watching Kathie Lee), I take kids to doctor appointments. I take kids to sports. I take kids to dance. I take kids to other kids. I walk the puppy. I feed the puppy. I feed the kids. I walk the kids. I help with homework. I buy new shoes. I fall asleep at eleven p.m. with my head on the puppy like a pillow while trying to answer emails. I clean up puppy pee. I clean up boy pee. I forget to put on moisturizer because all I can manage is brushing my teeth. I forget to brush my hair. I forget to fold laundry. I make lunches that no one eats. In short: I am a typical mother.
When I told my husband how I felt, he was not in the least sympathetic. When I told him how easy he had it, he balked. Sure he gets to work out whenever he wants. Sure when he says he is going to work at home and I ask him to pick the kids up he is too busy(but he can go to Nordstrom no problem). But he does often help get the kids ready. He does walk the dog and has even picked up poop that I tracked all over the house. He does chase down fuzzy socks all over San Francisco when I ask. He does get up at 5 a.m. and goes and works in an office all day. And he still writes while I tend to give up.
And the worst thing is that he is totally right. I use my duties as a mother as an excuse to not really pursue my dreams. Why do I do this? Fear of failure, fear of rejection. Writing is like being in the dating pool again after years married — and why would anyone want to do that?
So, mothers, here is what I think: we’ve been set up to use our motherhood as a crutch. It’s socially acceptable — especially for working mothers — to feel like existing, just existing, is a noble cause and that no more can be expected of us. It’s easy to look at the Facebook posts of our single friends (those people do tend to get sick too much though, I won’t lie — when is the last time a mother had time to do that?) and think how easy they have it, how we’d be publishing too if we’d chosen the arts over a family.
But it’s not true. Everyone has their own shit. Everyone has to manage their time. Being a mother isn’t a free pass to let your dreams dissolve. If anything, it’s a reason to do more, to show your daughters it’s possible to live the life you want and still help them build the lives they deserve.
So I’ll write this instead of watching Gray’s Anatomy (even though I am letting the doctors down since I think I’m the only person still watching). I’ll sleep on the dog a bit later tonight, and send out my novel to even more agents. Because being a mother doesn’t give me the right to forgo my own dreams. Although it does give me the right to eat everyone’s Halloween candy.
Oh and my husband is Dan Conway. You can look him up now that’s you’ve read this far.