Abandoning my Goals?

Posted by on May 14, 2012 in living peacefully, motherhood

I started off Friday morning listening to Motherhood and Feminism on the CBC’s The Current. The segment started off with quotes from Elisabeth Badinter’s new book The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women. Badinter believes that Attachment Parenting – particularly the obligation to breastfeed for years, to cosleep with our babies at night and to wear your baby in a sling – is all an unnecessary burden placed on women that needs to be rejected. A few guests then went on to debate the idea that Attachment Parenting is setting women’s rights back. (No word yet on how Attachment Parenting is setting back the rights of men, but I digress.)

At one point during the interview, Renee Martin of Womanist Musings said that “motherhood shouldn’t be solely about sacrificing everything that you are and have for your children”. Which is exactly what I had planned to write about that day. How appropriate.

I’ve decided to sacrifice my goals for my children. Sorry Renee.

This topic has actually been on my mind a lot for the last four months and especially in the last couple weeks. If you scroll back in my archives, you’ll read about my desire to become a lactation consultant. My family supported my decision and so I enthusiastically signed up for my first online class – biology.

Oh, it was a long four months.

The class didn’t go very well, mostly because I was just too busy to devote time or energy to it. I missed almost every online chat session. I fell way behind in the readings. I only passed thanks to Biology for Dummies – which I bought a week before my final out of desperation. The course weighed on my mind heavily every day – I felt stressed because I was behind and super guilty when I didn’t spend every spare moment with my nose in my text book.

Then during exam weeks, I was a bit of a mess. I was up late reading and a total bear to be around. I know that my family suffered for it. I had less patience with the girls and less energy to play. And the whole time, I really wondered why I was bothering. I’m a better mother when I’m not stressed by deadlines – and I’m a far happier person.

Take night time, for example. I’ve discovered that if I go to bed with my girls between 9:00 and 9:30, they fuss very little and we all fall asleep really fast. That’s right – the Princess is not up until midnight anymore! Hallelujah! I’m getting far more sleep too – and even though I’m still working out the details (I can’t figure out how to wake myself up early before the girls), I’m pretty happy with this new arrangement.

But when I’m distracted by work, then I tend to mess up the bedtime routine and the girls are harder to settle down. I then wait tensely for them to fall asleep – and of course they toss and turn for what feels like hours. Then I become so flipping frustrated because they don’t seem to get that I have important work to do! And then I feel guilty because who gets mad at a kid because they can’t fall asleep? And then The Princess will stare at me with a concerned look and say “Mommy, you should smile more” and then I’m just a blubbery mess.

Finally she nods off and I stay up super late and then I am even more tired the next day. The kitchen gets messy, and the laundry takes on a life of its own. We eat a ton of takeout and I just feel defeated. And for what?

Contrast that to a day with no pressing deadlines, when I’ve gotten a great night’s sleep. I wake up refreshed. I have energy to take my girls to the park to play. I can act out The Shoemaker and the Elves for the 57th time. I’m happier, and my whole family is happier.

Mommy Math:

Mommy + goals + the total support of the family = everyone is miserable.
Mommy – goals = everyone is happy and peaceful. Added bonus =Mommy even might get the chance to write in her blog from time to time.

I understand that goals involve sacrifice, but I also understand that some things can be accomplished later on when the timing is better and the sacrifice isn’t so great.

So I’m probably not going to take another course for awhile. I’m also scaling back on other commitments I’ve made. Right now, I’m trying to focus more on my family.

Am I setting back women’s rights by choosing my family’s happiness over my own goals? Even if it makes me happier too? Maybe my goals are just shifting rather than being sacrificed – I’d like to be a strong women with an interesting life, deep friendships, a successful business, and a thriving family, and that’s a good enough goal for now.

Renee, I hope you can understand.

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6 Comments

  1. Inspiring Tamara. I think we all need to step back and look at what is the most important in our lives and focus on those things. I know I will be! <3

  2. One of your goals is a happy family, and a peaceful home life.

    Dads give up goals for families too- It’s what parents do. Not what women do, not what men do. It’s not only one gender’s job. It’s raising a healthy, happy child. They put the health and happiness of their kids first. Sometimes that means delaying something that a parent will enjoy, be it a scary movie that must wait until the kids are asleep, or a career path that has to wait until the parent’s time commitment doesn’t put the whole family in upset.

    I hope you get to take your classes sooner, rather than later. :)

  3. hey! i’m on the IBCLC train too. mine got derailed when i got pregnant with my second child. somehow, going back to work, taking courses while paying off debts and parenting my first child didn’t add up to enough hours in the day (or money in the bank!) (–or patience in the world).

    the way i see it, becoming an IBCLC is a long-term goal. it’s the kind of thing that can be put on hold for a few years. my children cannot be put on hold for a few years. i know i’m not alone in putting my goals on hold because of motherhood, and when i have time again i’ll be getting right back on that train again – probably the local, which will take FOREVER to get to it’s destination, but eventually it will get there. if i change my mind between now and then, it’s because i’ve grown and changed. i won’t resent that one bit and i won’t foolishly cling to a dream that i no longer aspire to fulfill.

    on a separate note, i’m so sick of people saying that AP is about martyring yourself for your kids. Every single authority on AP (that I’ve read) says ‘these are the tools – use the ones that work for you’. there’s totally no pressure.

  4. May I be so bold as to point out that you DO have goals?

    Goals to raise daughters who know they are loved, valued and worthy of their mama’s attention? Goals to become an LC, to be a great wife and friend… I’m sure you can fill in a tonne of goals you have.

    I didn’t hear the interview myself, but my husband did and we had a chat about what I thought of it, and this is it…

    I believe (as a mom who practiced AP, and nursed my kids for 11 straight years) that to mother our children in the way we CHOOSE to mother our children doesn’t mean sacrificing our goals, it just means that we can’t have everything all at once. My religious beliefs teach me that there is a season for all things, and in the right time, all things will come to pass as they are meant to.

    We live in a “here and now” society, and as a whole, our society is not great at waiting for anything. This makes it a bit tricky to focus both on our goals for our professional/personal lives while also focusing on young children who need the care and attention of their parents.

    So, when all is said and done, I believe you can have your cake and eat it to, you just have to bake it first, and that takes a bit of time ;)

  5. I am SO proud of you (although I always am) I have tears in my eyes!

  6. What gets me is the attitude that feminism must equal pursuing work outside the home, or personal goals that are separate from family life. Here I thought the idea was for equal opportunity and choice. I get frustrated by women who feel the need to prescribe for other woman how they should choose to use their minds and their time. Is having other women tell me how to act any less oppressive than patriarchy?

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