Happy International Women's Day from Regina, Saskatchewan!
I am a big believer in women in business and on this wonderful day I feel inspired to share with you some of my journey in becoming an empowered and (mostly) guilt-free working mama.
The sad truth is - women are often plagued with guilt.
We tell ourselves lies that assume we should be thin, nurturing Stepford Wives, while simultaneously climbing the corporate ladder and earning as much as our partners and taking our kids to this activity and that activity - and still wanting to mess around in the bedrooms.
- I'm too fat. I should have lost this weight already.
- I don't spend enough time with my kids.
- I don't enjoy the time I spend with my kids.
- I am a bad housekeeper.
- I work too much.
- I don't earn enough money.
- If I don't satisfy my partner, he/she will look elsewhere.
- I shouldn't be so tired.
- I drink too much coffee.
- I eat too much sugar.
The list goes on and on. Why are we doing this to ourselves? You don't have to be anything that you aren't. Release yourself from those expectations and you can begin to lead a guilt-free and authentic life.
What I really wanted.
I learned a huge lesson about myself about a year and a half ago when I realized that I didn't like being a stay-at-home mom. I loved my kids (duh, of course I did - yet I still felt I had to make this disclaimer to justify having dreams) and I didn't like being around them all day.
Stay at Home Vs. The Working Mom.
Why do we have to have these arguments? Do what you want. Now that I've done both I can say - both jobs are equally hard. In fact, for me, I found being a stay at home mom much harder than being a working mom. At home, I couldn't stop my mind from wondering, learning, and my hands from creating. Yet my children needed me constantly and I was constantly torn about being an inadequate housekeeper and wanting to paint, or design, or read and write and not being so interested in playing with them. I was in a constant state of guilt and my intellect unstimulated. It is hard work to raise three gorgeous boys, and I wanted to do other things... but for some reason I felt I had to stay home.
The war on tradition.
I grew up happy, safe, and loved in a traditional conservative home. My parents did a wonderful job in giving us everything they could. However, my intrinsic values don't always align with their traditional values: assuming a woman will marry young, get a job that is flexible for when she becomes a mother, and once children are born the mother will stay home.
This was the assumption on my life. I studied as a teacher (and then didn't want to teach), had baby after baby, after baby. I stayed home with the three of them, starting side projects all the time to help make ends meet. Then, I hit a breaking point. In desperation, I challenged myself to revisit and unpack each of my beliefs.
It was then I realized that being a stay-at-home mom is a relatively new social construct.
For centuries, people lived in communities. Everyone had their role. Some imposed, and some chosen. If I thought about First Nations Cultures on the prairies I could imagine women gathering, women cleaning hides, women doing beadwork, and women playing with the children. I assumed, had I lived then, I would be coordinating the work to be done and designing new beadwork patterns - or a warrior. I am certainly not a gatherer - or a childcare worker! I am a creator, fighter, and orchestrator.
This revelation was so absolutely freeing!
I didn't have to be everything. I could hire to fill my weaknesses. I lined up a babysitter, and began to look - hunt - for a job.
I honed in on exactly the job I wanted - pursued it - and was hired. I had a fabulous year at Look Agency Inc., where my boss, Zlatan, asked me "Are you feeling guilty being away from your children?" and I surprised myself with a speedy "no." I honestly didn't feel guilty. Not even for a minute. Not even with my children having had a horrific week the week after I started, and two of them ending up in the hospital.
Why was I finally free from guilt?
Because I embraced my authentic self. I have a wild mind full of ideas and strategic insight that makes an impact. I wasn't guilty because I allowed myself to dream. I felt alive. More myself than ever before. I learned how to hire my weaknesses, and even did that my first week at work hiring a legal writer to supplement my creative vivacious style.
You don't have to be something to everyone - but you have to be everything to yourself.
What do you want? What do you need to do to give yourself that? I would encourage you to do some deep soul searching and embrace your unique design. As I walk in my dreams - and now have realized the dream of owning my own business,
I am happier and more fulfilled than I have ever been. Seeing personal victory is the most empowering feeling in the world. I am a better mom who can sit and build blocks when I am mentally exhausted. Without a stimulating brain work-out - I am dull and drained.
I will never apologize for having dreams - not ever again.
My hope for you is that you will do the same. You have dreams for a reason. Don't let anyone tell you that that reason is selfish. Go out and be your authentic self - and don't apologize if that self ruffles feathers. In the end, it is you that goes to bed with you each night.