By Magda Pecsenye
I've been answering questions about how to parent kids for eight years. The question-writers sometimes think their questions are about details of parenting, like sleep issues and feeding problems, but the real undercurrent of every question is "I want to do this right, and I want how I care for my kids to feel aligned with all the rest of me." Being able to help people think about the questions that help them stay aligned during the challenging stages of parenting is important to me, and has given me purpose when I otherwise didn't have it.
I started writing Ask Moxie when I had a 3-year-old and a 6-month-old and a failing marriage. I did not feel like a full human being at that point, let alone a woman, and yet I was a mother. At times a mother was the only thing I felt like, because the only reason I got up in the morning was for my kids. It was perplexing. It felt like a trap, like I'd enlisted in this relationship that I couldn't leave and didn't want to leave, yet I had nothing else that made me worth the breaths I was taking, and being so empty made me not good at being the mother I wanted to be.
I didn't ever want another woman to feel like her total worth was in being a mother. Being a mother has transformed me, but it is not the only thing that defines me. Women have a right to decide who we are, and to live our lives, with or without children, contributing fully. When I started Ask Moxie I thought I was helping people trouble-shoot their own individual problems, but it soon became about approaching the intersection of being a woman and being a mother and how we design and respond to that.
I am interested in how we are women who are also mothers. I am not interested in dwelling on the minutiae of parenting, of leaning in so hard to the idea of "being present" in every task associated with child-rearing that we lose sight of our own narrative arcs. I resent the idea that we should care so deeply about time-delineated parenting problems that we put our own thoughts on hold while we pour everything we have into solving the problems of potty-training and night-waking and answering twenty "Why??"s in a row.
Women are artists and workers. We create things, whether those things are paintings, or books, or code that runs satellites or websites, or balanced accounts, or beer, or campaigns that sell paintings or books or satellites or beer. To be artists and to live lives creating things, we have to be able to flex through periods of learning and of creation, of focus and unfocus, of rest and work, of observation and production. Raising children is part of this. Children require unwavering focus and tending at certain periods, but need us to let them find their own paths in others. If we're told that we have to be focused on the neverending details constantly, for years at a time, not only are we doing the children a disservice by not allowing them to develop normally, we're also saying that women who are mothers are no longer artists, that we sacrifice our right to create things when we have children and bind ourselves to only serving children.
There is something deep and profound about being awake with your baby at 3 am. But that moment isn't the sum total of your life, any more than it is the sum total of your baby's life.
It is so easy, when all you are allowed to look at is breastfeeding or how your baby sleeps or whether your baby uses a pacifier and what kind of diapers your baby wears, to develop strong opinions about those things. To need those things to be everything, and for your opinion on them to be defended like Fort Knox, impenetrable and stable. But this disconnects you from other people, and from the rest of you, because it gives those positions more importance than they should take up, and blocks the rest of your life.
And this is why I'm not interested in telling women the right way to parent any more than I am in telling them the right way to be women. I am interested in giving them tools and rubrics and structures to help them recognize patterns, to define themselves as women and as mothers, to start investigating and solving problems according to their own skills. I want to give women permission to be who they are. Not because they need my permission--they don't. But because when someone else gives you permission sometimes that helps you find the horizon and give yourself permission to become yourself and support other women in becoming themselves. What if we could all be really ourselves, even in the crappy moments of parenting, and even in the boring moments of work, and even when we're tired and need to sit down?
No more polite apologies. We need our full strength too much.
At MotherWoman we believe that telling your story is a revolutionary act.
Magda Pecsenye writes about parenting and being a person at AskMoxie.org. She believes that you are the best parent for your child, and that you have the capability to do everything you need to do, once you figure out what it is. Her most famous post is "Free but not cheap," about why being a mother is a relationship, not a job. She is happy to support MotherWoman and its mission to support mothers to speak their own truths. Follow her on Twitter at @AskMoxie.
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