Change happens for us all every day. We do not always realize how much change hits us on a day-to-day basis, often because of how we handle the change. At some level we all have a bit of dislike to change. Some individuals are more flexible than others, some are more set in their ways or routines, and yet others relish the freedom and excitement of having things constantly changing in life.
Whatever level of tolerance we have for change, we often do not have a choice of if it happens to us. Whether that means changes at work, at home, with our family, there is change that happens by choice and change that we would rather not come close to with a ten foot pole. These past few weeks for me have been emotional to one extent (thank you hormones) and a little nerve-racking on another level. I know I am not the first woman to have a baby, and I know (because everyone tells you) that my life is about to change in numerous ways. Some of those changes will be amazing, and some will knock me on my ass.
I have to say that what has been hardest (besides my body no longer being mine, the endless peeing, and little to no sleep because of the endless peeing) has been being a professional woman with a team. When you read about others that go on maternity leave, they talk about the baby side of it, but what they do not really talk often about is what it is like for the working mom. I have been working since I was 9 years old. I had a paper route, and babysat kids in the neighborhood. This means that I have been working non-stop for the last 28 years. The most time I have taken off (other than a period when I was laid off), is the two weeks I took for my wedding/honeymoon. I have never not worked for a longer period than that.
Now, judge me all you want, as I think some mothers might — when I say it is going to be hard for me to be away from work. There are some pretty involved and intense projects happening in the coming months and, while I have the most amazing team, it does not make it easy for me to be away from it all. I have poured my heart into the work and my team, and having a child does not necessarily change my dedication to my work. Sure, some of my priorities will change when I meet Mini Conk, but I also want to raise a son that not only understands the importance of hard work, but also sees that I have an identity that is different from just being a mom.
Folks rarely talk about how hard it is for a working mom, instead I see more judgement that my place as a mom is at home with my son. Why should I have to choose, and why should I be judged for how I want to live my life? As more and more women have leadership positions at companies, not only do the rights for women having children need to change, so does the behavior for how we treat women that work and want to do both.
It has been a while since I have read a book that I could not put down — until this past weekend. I read a book titled: “After Perfect: A Daughter’s Memoir” by Christina McDowell. It is about the Prousalis family and their demise. Think Bernie Madoff. Think scandal. Think fraud. At first when I started to read it I thought this is going to be an annoying book. It will be all about the 1% that had it all and so much more and lost it due to lies and deceit. And it is, but also about so much more.
The book is told by Christina, Tom Prousalis’s daughter. It is her story. It is how she learns about her father and his crimes. He goes to prison for three years after taking a plea deal. They lose everything and she and her sisters and mother must learn how to live. Her mother has never had to pay a bill and Christina realizes that her mother has been taken care of for so long that she does not even know where to begin to pick up the pieces of her life that is now in shambles.
It gets worse. Christina finds out that before heading to prison, her father had taken out multiple credit cards in her name and racked up debt to the tune of $100,000. She believes that he will fix her credit and pay off her debt. He makes her believe on the infrequent calls and letters from prison that he will take care of her. It takes her years to learn who her dad really is, and to truly understand the lies, and deceit, until eventually he literally vanishes from her life.
You might look at her story and think she is a child that had it all. She lived in such extreme wealth, she had things most others did not. Yet, in a lot of ways she was just the victim all along. She did not know about her father, the kind of man he truly was, she knew only what she knew. Her 20’s turned into a period of abuse. She lost the footing of who she was and turned to drugs, alcohol, and sex. Until she had enough. She came clean and searched for the truth. As painful as it was to find. She changed her name, and set up a new identity, free from the past, free from her father.
“After Perfect” was a page turner. It makes you see into the world of the 1%, and those that fall from that world. How they deal with it, how they do not, and in the end they are people just like the rest of us. If you are looking for a book to read (especially a memoir) I highly recommend it.
I do not really think about the idea of feeling mothered too often. Until a few weeks ago. I met a woman who calmed me. It was not anything she really did, but I wondered if the vibe she gave off was one of a “mother.” Random I know. This woman is slightly irrelevant to this post as I may never see her again, but the hour I spent with her began a chain of events in my thoughts over the course of the next few days. Mothers. Mothering. Lack of a mom. My mom passed away 20 years ago. I have lived more of my life without my mom then I did with her.
Yes there have always been individuals in my life that have “mothered” me in different ways. I have tears in my eyes as I remember the ones that had a lasting effect on me. And, while many of those that mothered me are not deeply present in my life today, they are still in some ways always present with me. I saw how they mothered their own children, how they loved me, or how they taught me to love. It is interesting for me to look back over those 20 years of the diverse mothering in my life.
Jump to today. I am a bit of a hard-core person. I go all into a project. Usually it is hard for me to stop until I am done. You know you can count on me, trust me, and that I will not let you down. But with being hard-core there is an intensity that I exude that sometimes is well: intense. This woman a few weeks ago calmed me for that hour. I have no idea why. I have no idea if I would like her, or if she would continue to have that effect on me. It makes me wonder about all my friends, family, and co-workers who have lost parents, siblings, friends, co-workers in their life. How do they continue to feel fathered, mothered, taken care of? Why did this women calm me?
Is it that I need more mothering in my life? Do I need to let go a bit and allow myself to be mothered? I guess it depends on what our definition of mothering truly is. Sometimes I think it is knowing that I could pick up the phone and cry, share of my day, or ask for advice. Other times it is to tell me that everything is going to be okay, or to tell me how proud she is of me. Whatever the definition, I imagine a good amount of us could use a bit more mothering in our life.
My sister is having a big birthday today. It is funny when you think back to when you were a kid, milestone birthdays really mattered. When you turned 16, 18, 21, 30, 40. They do matter, and maybe they always will, but sometimes life just happens and a birthday is just another day. Maybe I feel that way because growing up birthdays and holidays were often a non-event in my life. Real life shit was happening and was often way more important than getting one year older. Due to that fact, I do not put much stock in Valentine’s Day, Easter, Halloween and many other holidays. Often I think we wait for these Hallmark holidays and take those moments to spend time with our family, buy them gifts, or even to pay attention to them. Rather than wait for those dates on the calendar, why not make them important all the rest of the days of the year?
I digress. It is my sister’s birthday. I told you all that back story to say that while she might have too much happening in her life to worry about her birthday I want to share what she means to me.
We have been through a lot together. I will not go into detail, but we had to grow up early and fast, and that does something to a person. My sister spent her teens taking care of me and my mother, and holding my father up in life. She spent a good part of high school never sleeping through the night because my mother needed her (and I was too heavy a sleeper to know otherwise). In so many ways she was a mother before she left high school without ever giving birth. There were times during that period when we fought horribly with each other. Each trying to find our own place in a world where the adults in our life were dropping like flies. Both badly just wanting to be loved, to be held, and to know that somehow everything would turn out okay. That we would be okay. No one was there to tell us that, we only had each other.
As each adult we took care of passed away and our own adult lives began to take shape, I watched my sister become a child again (in a good way). She adventured down many different life courses learning and charting her way. Sometimes creative, others financial, and others to find the stability we did not have for many years. She continues down that path, always curious for a new and engaging endeavor, never willing to stay in something that did not nourish her soul. In addition to all her travels and professional explorations, she has explored writing personally and professionally, taught herself how to cook (we did not learn from our mother, and I still have not learned), and now she has paved the way into motherhood.
I have loved watching her this past year as a new mother. I see that she wants 100 times more for Charlie than she ever had (and I want that for Charlie too). While she is a quiet, gentle mother she is also a rock for her. In some ways I see my mom’s quiet strength come through, always wanting to teach us and understand the context behind something. I know that she will always encourage Charlie to try new adventures, be okay with her being as Punky Brewster as she wants, while also being sure she knows she is loved. As our lives have ebbed and flowed from childhood through college to adulthood, Charlie has helped to bring my sister and I even closer and make our sisterhood even stronger. Wanting to protect a little one makes love fierce and strong, and reminds you of all you already have in life.
Happy Birthday, Penelope. You are loved, everything will be okay, and I am always here.
Giver. She gave, and gave, and gave. I suppose that is why it is in my nature to help others, to problem solve, be a listening ear, and support to those around me. I saw my mom give her time to her children, her mother, her husband, the kids she took care of, the children she taught in school, her church, and when there was time left over the few friends she had.
I often look back and wonder why my mom did not spend much time socializing with friends or neighbors and I realize now that she did not have the time. Often she worked two jobs, helped us with our homework, made dinner for the family, at times packed our lunches, planned the grocery list and meals for the week, cleaned the house (separate from the jobs that were our chores), and took care of all those people in the above list. I often wonder how she did it all, and yet I am in some ways living her life, minus the kids and two jobs. Yet, how many of us work the hours of two jobs? Life will definitely change for me when little bambinos enter our home. Focus will change, priorities will change, life will change. Yet, will I do less?
Whatever happened in the world that made us (women especially) think that we had to do it all? Is there a time when the cord that keeps us going begins to fade — sort of like your laptop battery that eventually no longer holds the charge? Or are women of the “rechargeable” battery variety that after enough recharge we can continue like the Energizer bunny? Is there ever a breaking point? I love it and I hate it. I love the energy, the problems to solve, and that no day is ever the same, but is there ever a reset button? If you walk away for a day or a week, it becomes almost impossible to catch up on emails, voicemails, and pieces of projects that need to be adjusted. Do we do too much? Do we give too much?
My mom was a giver and she died at the age of 50. Was it her lifestyle, or just the journey of her role in the universe? I will never know if she loved or hated the roller coaster she was on. She did it all for everyone else, I can only imagine and hope that she was invigorated by those she helped, all she did, and that her life never had a dull moment — there was not time for that!