Are you a Mom and a Professional? Do you suffer guilt over not being a “better” mom? Then consider these words of wisdom from my son who was 15 years old at the time. May they relieve some if not all of your guilt. (For working Dads who are Moms too.)
I returned to work as a manager in a Fortune 100 company when J. was 3 months old. By the time he was two I was a full time graduate student. I left for school early Monday, stayed overnight, and did not return home until Tuesday around 8:00 P.M. I always brought J. a special treat from the bakery near school. I can picture him now, sitting in his high chair at the kitchen table, Dad by his side, excitement blazing in his eyes, smiling from ear to ear. “Did you bring me a treat?” Always.
For the following 6 years I ran a consulting business, attended classes and worked an internship. Psychology texts became bedtime stories, allowing me to study and us to spend time together. At the age of five he asked about my dissertation, “Mom, if you took all the pages and put them in the driveway would it be longer than the car?” Made me laugh. I had him copy all my papers from the computer’s hard drive to a CD when he was 7. He labeled it “Psycho Mom.” Made me laugh.
I felt guilty that I wasn’t home more – baking chocolate chip cookies together, arranging art projects, and taking trips to the park. Friends and co-workers assured me that my son, my husband and I had wonderful relationships and no one was suffering. It was the quality not the quantity that mattered. None of this relieved my guilt very much. But I was compelled. I loved my work, and I did not want to stop or slow down.
When Jordan was 15, I considered taking a job and no longer running my own business so I could spend more time at home. The teenage years are so very important and kids that age are vulnerable in so many ways. Jordan, my husband Bob and I talked about the change. Jordan was practically dumb-founded “Why would you ever want to do that? You love your work. You wouldn’t be you if you didn’t work, or did something you don’t love as much. You’d be unhappy, and that would make the rest of us unhappy. Things are good just the way they are.” That young man stopped me in my tracks. I had not valued one of the most important life lessons he was learning. Be who you are, your authentic self – and the rest will be okay, hard perhaps but okay.
Jordan is 19 and a college freshman. When the year began people asked how he was adjusting. The word “adjusting” never occurred to me in relation to my son and college. He is an amazingly social person and very independent. He began doing his own laundry at 12. At 14 he cooked meals for himself and often for friends. He shopped for groceries before he could drive. He loves college – the independence, the freedom, the life.
Recently a friend whose son is also a college freshman discovered that he had not attended classes at all second semester. Instead he slept late, played video games and partied with friends at night. I asked Jordan what advice he might give my friend about her son. “Get him out of there,” he said. “That kid doesn’t know how good he has it, and they shouldn’t be wasting their hard earned money sending him to college right now.” My son – I am very proud of who he is and what he values even if he didn’t have as many fresh baked chocolate chip cookies in his day.
We all give our children many gifts. Enjoy the ones you are giving them. Some day they will let you now how they’ve received and grown from these lessons.
HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!