Thursday, July 4, 2013

When I Grow Up

I don't need to tell y'all how much I love my mom.  Anyone who reads here for more than a second can figure that out.  The woman has had to be both mom and dad for more than 14 years and has taken care of her 3 girls all on her own and, if you ask me, done a pretty darn good job at it.

Then again, I might be just a tad bit biased.

Anyway.  As you might imagine, growing up in a house with only sisters and only a mom led to many a lesson on the power of women and how I don't need a man to make me happy or complete me or take care of me...or what most people would call feminism.  I think that lesson's only really begun to stick for me in the last few years, but hey, better late than never.

Tied into that lesson was the much emphasized idea that we could have any career we wanted and shouldn't depend on husbands for financial security.  Her push to have us, especially me because of my genius IQ (and that's not meant to be a brag, it's just a statement of fact, my IQ really has been tested), make big dreams for our futures and work hard to chase after them was a big part of my childhood.  Of course, the frustrating part was that she never saw the pressure she was putting on me, her perfectionist, people-pleasing child, even outright denying she did such a thing.

Agh, I'm getting off point.  My mom had a lot of dreams when she was my age and younger that she never fulfilled because, in short, her dad told her she wasn't good enough for it to happen.  She wanted to go to East Carolina and major in Theater.  Instead, she was told to pick a "practical" major and ended up at NC State in English because teaching made sense to my grandpa, especially since my grandma was a teacher.  Granted, my mom doesn't regret ending up a Wolfpacker, meeting my dad because he gave her us, or becoming an English teacher, but she made it a point from a very young age to make sure my sisters and I knew that we could do whatever we wanted to do and be whomever we wanted to be.

Except for that time when I was 9 and, stroke-like nerve damage, physical defects and all, came home and told her I wanted to be a dancer.  For the sake of her sanity and my self-esteem, she was forced to crush that dream.  I have no idea how she didn't bust out laughing.  The love of a mother, I guess.

Her belief in me is probably a huge part of the reason that my first career goal at age 6 was to be the first female president of the United States (I later realized the stress would probably have me institutionalized), then a doctor (until I started having a bunch of procedures and surgeries and realized I hate blood), then a lawyer (then I realized prosecutors get paid almost as bad as teachers and defense attorneys would inevitably have to defend guilty people and my conscience couldn't take that), and then I have no idea what I wanted to be until I landed on the whole ambassador-State Department gig when I was about 15.  That one's stuck with me, and the idea of her daughter traveling the world working in international politics still makes my mom as giddy with excitement as it did when I picked my major before I started at Campbell.

But here's what my mom doesn't know.  What I don't have the courage to tell her yet.  A lot of days, I catch myself thinking about my future and know that I'd be just as happy as ever being a stay-at-home mom taking care of my four kids.  Yes, four.  Only four.  Not three.  Not five.  Four.

(I may or may not have inherited my mother's anal tendencies.)

I guess part of me is scared to tell her because it'll feel like I'm letting her down, like I'm crushing her dreams all over again.  And I keep telling myself that maybe I'll change my mind once I get into my career field and start working.

But then I read this book.

I mentioned BigMama yesterday when I wrote about what I learned from BooMama's book.  I'll admit, I read this one second because I wasn't quite sure how a book about the beauty of motherhood would really reach and touch me, a single, childless, 21-year-old nerdy college student.  But I wanted to read it, anyway, because like I said yesterday, BooMama and BigMama are two of the most well-known voices in the blog world.

Man oh man, I am so glad I read this.

Reading Melanie's tales of trying to get pregnant with, being pregnant with, then having and raising her daughter brought me back to a piece of me that got lost in the midst of all the anger and sadness of my childhood.  I was the little girl who would sit around coming up with names for my future kids, the number slowly decreasing as I got older, the names changing as my tastes did.  I would plan out house designs so all these kids could have space, and I'd write stories about taking care of them.  For as long as I can remember, I've wanted to be a mom.  That dream has not changed or decreased in the slightest, even as young me had no idea what college major I wanted or what job I wanted to have when I grew up.  If anything, it's only gotten stronger since Blake was born and I've seen the fun that little kids can bring in the midst of all the exhaustion.

Reading Melanie's book made me accept what I knew in my heart to be true, especially as I read about her decision to become a stay-at-home mom: not having a career and focusing my adult life on taking care of my kids wouldn't make me any less fiercely independent or any less headstrong or any less of the woman that my mom worked so hard to mold me into.  It'd just be a different version of her.  One quote from the end of Melanie's book particularly touched me.

''I would say I want her to be a better version of myself, but that's not accurate.  I want her to be t he best version of who God has created her to be - to embrace her individual qualities and gifts."

And even if my mama can't say it out loud, I know that, in her heart, she wants me to live my life and do what makes me happy, not what fulfills the plans she has for my future.  I know this, actually, because of how my mom reacted to a quote from Tina Fey's book Bossypants.  "What's so great about work anyway?  Work won't visit you when you're old.  Work won't drive you to get a mammogram and take you out after for soup."  That's not a slam on working moms, but my mom nearly cried at that quote.  And she's shown me time and time again with her actions that my sisters and I will always be more important than her job.

I'm not saying that I have my future planned out, especially because I'd need a husband for the whole stay-at-home-mom thing to work out and there's no one even close to in the picture, but what I am saying is this:  if ten, twenty years from now, I am a stay-at-home mom, raising kids to love Jesus, my heart won't be lacking for anything.

And hey, I might even throw being a writer in there for good measure.  I can do that from my my one o'clock in the morning.  Because that's when my mind works best and all.  Melanie will understand.

Melanie, if you ever read this, thank you.  Thanks for making me laugh until I cried for 200 straight pages and for reawakening a part of myself I'd thought for too long wasn't enough.  I'll definitely be adding your blog to my list tonight.

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