Last week, I had the pleasure of attending an invigorating retreat, hosted by the Missouri City Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., the first Greek letter organization founded for African-American women. The attendees were all fabulous, college-educated women, many of whom were mothers and grandmothers. All of the seminars were dynamic and energizing, but perhaps the most powerful workshop was the one on balancing work and family life.
It was obvious from the ensuing discussion that the vast majority of the workshop participants felt overwhelmed by their day to day responsibilities.
No big shocker there. It’s a well known fact that balancing work and family life is hard; even when you have help. What did surprise me, though, was the large percentage of women, in the small group, who are still struggling with losing their identity to motherhood, in this day and age. Although, “losing their identity” is probably not an accurate assessment of the dilemma, since most mothers, especially new ones, are seemingly all too eager to simply give it away.
Don’t get me wrong, I surely don’t believe any mother intentionally forgets what her likes and dislikes are for the sake of motherhood. To the contrary, I think it all starts off rather innocently.
When a child is firstborn, he or she is totally dependent on his or her parents for everything. And let’s face it; in the majority of households, the mother is doing the bulk of the providing. To attend to the needs of her helpless baby, mothers often forgo their sleeping, eating and even showering time.
As the child grows, she stops hanging out with friends or attending sorority or other community functions, so she can take the child to a birthday party or soccer practice. And this trend continues until the kid packs up and heads off to college or some other adulthood destination.
Please understand that I am not condemning mothers, who take an active role in their kids’ lives. As a matter of fact, I honestly believe being present in your children’s lives is the only way to successfully parent them. To this day, I know most of my kids’ friends, classmates and teammates personally, because I regularly served as their class or team mom. However, as soon as my kids got old enough to be dropped off or coordinate a carpool (and now one is driving herself- yikes), I took a step back and got a life.
In order to be the best parent they can possibly be, I think it is imperative for mothers to carve out some time for themselves. Some time to refresh and renew or resentment will certainly ensue. I believe it is important not only for the mom, but for her children too. I think this is especially true if you have daughters. You don’t want to perpetuate the cycle of sacrificing your identity for your children’s sake into the next generation.
When I was young, I thought life ended at 30. I never saw the mother figures in my life doing anything, but going to work or the grocery store. There was no such thing as meeting a friend for lunch, a movie or a play. They had no life and they were miserable. And guess what, they took their frustrations out on me and my siblings.
When my daughter got old enough to notice, I wanted her to know that you could be a career woman, wife and mother and still maintain an active social life. As a result, at a minimum I continue to go to my regularly scheduled community meetings and gym sessions, even when I don’t feel like it. Occasionally, I manage to throw in a lunch date or meet a friend for a drink. I make sure my kids know that this is my time. Not surprisingly, when I return from doing something just for me, I feel refreshed and renewed. With a greater sense of self and I am able to focus on what I want and need out of life.
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