When Kayla was little, I worked when she slept. This is how I managed to write a book in just over 7 weeks when she was a few months old. I was lucky she was a good sleeper.
As she grew and the daytime sleeping hours dwindled, I wrote in those moments she was occupied by something else. We’d set up the computer in the living room, so I literally snuck in a sentence or two while she ate or built blocks or explored the cupboards. Sometimes, I even stuck her in front of the TV, gasp, just so I’d have a few work-free moments when my husband was home.
I wrote into the early hours of the night, got up before Kayla to write some more, and wrote in every stolen moment between. Looking back, I’m not sure how I functioned with so little sleep.
The fact is, when you’re a work-from-home mother, you’re a mother, for sure. You need to help with the potty, read the stories, cut the crusts from the sandwich, kiss the oopsies, sing baby shark for the twentieth time, do the seeking, pop the bubbles, push the swing, all of it. The moments with your child are precious and wondrous and you learn not only about her, but about yourself.
But here’s the thing. You’re still a person. Motherhood isn’t your defining quality, and you still have dreams that don’t involve your kid. It sounds horrible, but it’s true.
You were a being with hopes and dreams before your child arrived, and will continue to be one when your child has left your home.
Is it wrong to want more? To chase your own dreams? Does it make you a bad mother? No.
First of all, if you’re worried about being a bad mother, you’re probably not a bad mother. With the internet, so many experts, all the articles in all the magazines, and the how-to books, and whatever else you’d like to list, the standard of ‘good mother’ is almost constantly being raised.
I honestly think making us believe we’re somehow lesser is a marketing strategy. If we doubt ourselves, we believe we must buy that book, go to that seminar, and then we’ll be good mothers.
The truth is, nobody on earth or in history, not the parenting guru with the most experience in the field, or the smartest person ever to live, will be able to tell you how to parent your child in the best way. Each family unit is totally unique, with totally unique needs, totally unique backgrounds, and a totally unique frame of reference.
All you can do is your best, provide for your child, and be available to them.
Second of all, your kid isn’t always going to live with you, and probably shouldn’t be the centre of your existence. When they move out, and they will, you’ll need to keep on keeping on. Getting into a new hobby will be so much more difficult if you didn’t have a hobby while they were under your roof, especially if you have to work through the strangeness of an empty house.
I’m still in my early thirties, and picking up something new takes so much more effort now. How much more of a challenge will it be when I’m in my forties or fifties?
The same can be said about chasing that dream. Yes, there are people who go for it with all they’ve got, regardless of age. But the reason those people are so inspiring is because they’re breaking the mould. Most people have settled into a comfortable routine by the time their kids leave the house, and really don’t want to begin chasing a dream only then.
More than anything else, though, I don’t want my kid to look back on her life and say, sure, Mom was there for me, but what else has she achieved? I want her to see me living my dream, putting in everything to make that dream a reality, so when she has a dream she won’t fear chasing it.
I also want to be proud of myself, to contribute something worthwhile.
Raising a happy, well-loved child is certainly an important part of what I must contribute to the world, but striving to be a happy adult, satisfied with life, should also be a priority.
The truth is, we break ourselves with this idea that we must be perfect mothers.
Perfection is an illusion. All we can do is strive to be the best we can be, flaws and all.
So when do I find the time to work from home, to follow my dream?
I make the bloody time. If that means my daughter must play by herself for a few hours, so be it. She’s at an age now where she understands we must work so we can pay the bills and buy food. She’s at an age now where she’s learning that the world doesn’t revolve around her, and she won’t always get her way. She’s at an age now where she’s accepting there must be sacrifice sometimes so we can reap the rewards later.
These are all lessons she must learn to survive in this world.
Since she goes to school in the afternoons, she’s home in the morning. I try to be done with work when she comes home after school, so we can spend that time together. That’s how we rolled when she went to school full-day in Toronto, so she understands the routine.
Of course these things don’t always work out this way. When she needs me in the morning, I’m available in the morning. But then I make time to work in the evenings.
Being her mother (and being my husband’s wife) is extremely important to me, but so is writing and making art. I’m still a person with wants and needs, and it’s harmful to always place the needs of others before your own.
When the plane goes down, you must fasten your own oxygen first, before you help anyone else.
If you continually squash your own dreams in the name of being the perfect mother, you’ll diminish a part of who you are. You’ll lose the spark. You’ll feel useless, less than what you’re supposed to be, which will just give power to the anxiety.
Don’t give up your dream so easily. Make the time.