Be beautiful. Be Fit. Be a compassionate mother who feeds her family well. Be smart. Be independent.
The list of societal pressures on women seems endless. All of us checking ourselves and comparing our ways to others whether we intend of not. The demand we put on ourselves feeds directly into competing with one another. Aggression often stems from fear.
There is this one theory that I really like, applying to life, which is “Every decision made is a pebble thrown into the water. The ripples vary, but there is always at least one.” I honestly can’t say where I first heard it, or who from, and I found it difficult to pin down an original source. But, I do know that I was around ten. I was in a particular phase in the fourth grade where I was utterly obsessed with sayings and history behind them. The fad eventually faded, but that one saying had stayed with me all these years. Because everything aside, that is the heart all of this.
Our choices matter. Every decision affects something.
Now this fact, this knowledge of life as you will, sinks into my naturally anxious mind and then transforms the information into pressure that I apply on myself. Let’s just say my unintentional hobby is making mountains out of molehills. My mind circles around endless ideas and possibilities on ravenous repeat. For the most part, I realize that this quality that brings all these fears to the surface shares a similar line to the routes that I create through. Not a single thing is one sided. That being said, I obsess about each decision (doesn’t matter the size) both before and after I make it. I have this funny idea that if I don’t do everything perfect it all falls apart.
I didn’t use to be so purposeful with what I did. I used to be completely reckless. In part, because I was determined to keep feeling, in part because I had no limitations.
Now, I consider everything to a point that I try to bypass my gut with logic—not always the best practice.
If I’m being completely honest, I’m still learning to trust myself. I wasn’t light hearted when I said I was reckless. I look back at certain moments and wonder how the hell I survived them.
When I was younger, I mastered in putting myself in impossible situations that I had to claw myself out of. Now, as an adult and being reasonable for children and a house and a pack of dogs and one cat with an identity crisis, I’m terrified of directing us all into a wall.
I can see this now as a symptom of a traumatic childhood.
I watched two adults drive everything they built straight into the ground. I think on some level I’m still getting to know myself. I grew up so fast. I try my best not to regret anything, but I went through some major developmental parts of my life at lightening speed. I tend to do things out of the traditional order. I guess you could say I get to things in my own time.
As a young mother determined not to follow in my mother’s footsteps, I decided I would stay at home with the kids and dedicate myself fully to raising them while my husband paid the bills.
In those early years, I really struggled to grow up alongside the babies. In the beginning, it wasn’t pretty, I stumbled through most of it, but eventually, I got into a rhythm. Happy kids. Structured schedules. Lots of trips out. Clean house. Nights relaxing with my awesome husband. Even a few awesome pets.
Writing has always been something I wanted to do (had to do) and wrote up until I had my daughter. Then I didn’t want to do anything but be a mother with an immaculate house. My son came, and at that point, I was growing so much mentally in ways I didn’t understand I started to lose my balance, and myself. Somewhere along the way, I lost the ‘Jayme’ in me, and the mom part of my head took over the show leaving the wacky, irrational fully creative me in the wayside.
At first, I only noticed it in glimmers. Having two kids under two is one of the most intense things I have ever done. Though, in the quiet moments, I couldn’t help but get the feeling something was missing. For awhile I battled this feeling, then decided it was just part of the stress of having a young family.
I remember the exact moment it dawned on me what I was missing. My kids were napping, and I was in the living room reading ‘Eclipse’ the third volume in the ‘Twilight Saga’ for the second time. I loved those books. I enjoyed every page. Then I experienced that moment very similar to the first realization that I had to be a writer when reading Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Patterson. I wanted to make others feel that way I felt when I read a story I enjoy with all of me.
That’s when I started writing the first draft of a novel. I was rusty but hungry.
Eventually, I felt more and more like the real me.
Last fall I went from part-time writer to full-time which meant I helped out less in the classrooms, I cooked fewer meals. Juggling the kid’s schedules and school projects turned into a fly-by-seat-of-my-pants operation. The house was half-trashed all the time, and soccer uniforms weren’t clean when they had to be. Everything became more complicated, but there was no sense of a missing piece.
One thing I found out about by myself this year was that I love to work. I enjoyed juggling multiple writing projects and logging full-time hours. Switching to full-time brought me alive in a million different ways. But, the brilliant moments and obsessive working were lined with a layer of guilt.
Of course, like everything in life balance is needed but even not volunteering in the classroom for the teacher’s surprise baby shower left a self-loathing taste on my tongue. Deadlines and schedule obligations outside of the family has definitely been something new to manage but anytime I worked instead of doing something family related I felt bad.
Some of the other mothers that I talked to when I was around the school more started making comments to both me and my child about how absent I’d been and not in the “I miss seeing you” kinda away.
It’s very rare that men are shamed for choosing a work obligation over a school function.
I shouldn’t feel guilty about pursuing my career, my dreams. But, sometimes I do.
I make jokes about wanting to figure out how to clone myself. But, to quote another one of my favorite sayings, “Many true words are said in jest.” I really do wish I could. If there was four of me, I could be the fully committed writer, the ever-present mother, the perfect wife, and a domestic goddess. But, that’s not realistic. All I can do is my best, even if my best doesn’t live up to my crazy expectations.
To go back to the other mothers I spoke of, I have often thought of saying something back, but they can have their opinion just like I have mine.
I am in no way saying there is anything at all wrong with being a full-time mother. It’s not something that I am able to do and thrive. To tell you the truth sometimes I envy those who can and wear it so well. With that in mind, I try to forgive the others who think judgmentally about my decisions to work full-time.
A good thing to remember (something I have to constantly remind myself) is everything is complicated, and no one is immune to it.
It seems like if we aren’t familiar with something, regardless of what is, it usually involves a judgmental reaction which often stems from insecurity.
I judge. I don’t want to, but glimmers indeed pass by my mind.
Judging those who judge unfairly is still judging. As far as my insecurities, some days are better than others. On some level, I believe everyone’s fears derive from some level of judgment. It’s a harsh truth, but the world we live in reinforces self-doubt with media and society pushing and spreading stereotyping cookie cutters over each individual multiple times a day in various mediums. Some I believe are more immune to this than others, but we all see it.
Don’t you see it?