We often think our story is unique, somehow different from the other women who chose different paths then we did. Sometimes, we feel alone in our journey, like no one would understand what we are going through. I'm grateful for the courage and authentic stories of what I consider ultra-successful, educated professional women, women who chose a different path but that admit to struggling internally with some of the very gender-specific issues I do daily.
I'd often dream of going to university and becoming a career woman, traveling around the country as an educator working with people and projects. The women I've always looked up to and respected were women of strength, educated, and were professional. I thought they were very different from me. I didn't go to Harvard or Berkley, or any University for that matter -- I didn't even go to college until I was 36, yet the women that I admired the most did. Until these women started to speak up I didn't know how to 'Lean In', Step Up, or Speak My Truth. To read stories like Sheryl Sandberg's or to have the courage to speak up like Arianna Huffington somehow seem to give some of us the permission to speak and the realization that we are not alone.
I was what you may call your traditional wife and mother -- with a twist, of course. I got married, had a family, stayed home with my children, did most of the housework, all of the child rearing and fostered and supported my husband's careers. I felt as though I was living in a bubble. By the time I was 30 I had learned how to cross-stitch; I canned; I baked weekly and sewed items of clothing I couldn't find in stores for my children. Sounds' boring... for me it was! I made the best of it because I convinced myself that it was what I should be doing. That soon grew old and I was left feeling unfulfilled.
Looking back, I realize there was only one benefit to this: I was home for my children. My days were filled with meal planning, school activities, sick kids and a husband that needed more support to further his career. In fact, I believed that to be supportive, after he worked 5.5 days a week, a full day of Sunday golf was what he deserved for working so hard to provide for our family... really! This is a "don't try this at home" disclosure -- it doesn't work and was not an example of marriage equality or a good example for my children to follow.
The children and I grew together and are very close, yet for me, there was something missing, a desire that I knew one day would have to be filled. My career, skills, education and sense of self-worth weren't getting fulfilled and I didn't even know where to start. I didn't sit still and watch my life flash before my eyes; I got involved, I trained and read, and ended up going to college but still, I didn't truly know what I wanted to do. I was a professional mom -- it's all I knew.
I often felt stuck in the notion that I was a bad mother for feeling this way. After all, didn't I have the life every mother would want? How would I ever figure this out when I was a young mom and was guided by what the society I grew up in dictated?
For me, I desperately wanted a career and to be educated, I wanted to be challenged and to grow professionally and personally. I resisted because what would society and my family feel if I abandoned my children and husband who needed me more than the world did.
After years of living this and self-development I see how absurd this was for me. What I didn't realize at the time was that this need wasn't about my children, my husband or the world needing me; it was about fulfilling my needs, defining who I am while still being able to support my family's needs.
We need to keep talking about this, supporting moms for their very personal reasons to work at home or to work at the office. Most importantly we need to know that it isn't healthy for anyone if our decisions are made out of guilt or what our perception of what society feels is best for us.