Avoiding the Biggest Mistake that Moms Make

 By: Amy Tiemann
Here's the #1 lesson I have learned: Motherhood is not a job, it is a relationship.

Let that sink in for a minute while I thank Judy Stadtman Tucker, founder of The Mothers Movement Online, for introducing me to this revelatory wisdom. Motherhood is not a job, it is a relationship.

Buttttttt..... you protest, I work so hard at motherhood. I used to be an employed professional. I have all these skills, talents, and I am applying them to motherhood, so why shouldn't we all view that as my profession?

I know that feeling. I have been there myself as a professional-turned-stay-at-home-Mom. You are obviously free to think that way and you'll find support for this idea from authors like Darla Shine. The now-defunct magazine Total 180! "from briefcase to diaper bag" was founded on the premise of Mom finding fulfillment in her new role as a Chief Household Officer.

The problem is that if you look at motherhood as a professional outlet, you will start to expect motherhood to deliver the same rewards that a career does: Measurable achievement; results; advancement; and a sense of identity as you live your life through that role.

Motherhood can deliver some of these feelings on a short-term basis, but it will ultimately disappoint you if that's what you are expecting from it. You can start living through your children as your "product," as their achievements become the justification and proof of your hard work. A headlong collision with disappointment and resentment is nearly inevitable, because ultimately those expectations are something that motherhood shouldn't have to deliver. Your professional mojo needs another outlet.

Look at it this way--what if we substitute "wife" for "mother" in this scenario. Imagine saying, "My husband is my top priority. I quit my job so that I can give him 100% of my attention. I feel guilty any time I am not there for him. Hey, I have lots of professional skills and now I put them into this job. Being 'Michael's wife' is the most important job I'll ever have."

That sounds blessedly unimaginable to most of us. It was the pressure to think like that that led to the rebirth of feminism in the 1960's!

The bottom line is it is not fair to our spouses or children to expect them to fulfill us and form the basis of our identity. No one can deliver that, and it is wrong to ask. We need to be able to be with our children, and away from them, managing that delicate balance of connection without suffocation. Too close and we stifle each other. Too far away and we lose our connection.

To be sure, I think that being a stay-at-home Mom is a completely valid option. I did it myself for three years. But staying at home is not a one-way street into a cul-de-sac that must define the rest of your life. While you are staying at home you absolutely need an outlet for your professional and creative mojo; something to keep those embers alive to rekindle later. Even if you are in love with being at home with your little ones, please don't burn your bridges to the rest of the world. Maintain your professional skills and contacts. You never know when you will need, or want, to go back to work. In the meantime, I urge you to commit to enjoying and cherishing the relationships with your family, but resist the temptation to lose yourself in them.

I appreciate the wisdom of Kahlil Gibran's thoughts from The Prophet "On Marriage" which speaks of the separateness we need to maintain in all healthy relationships:

"But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Love one another but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls."
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