I was highly inspired to write this while sitting on my Women and Leadership class, taught by a lady who’s accomplishments are admirable yet her humor and laid-back feel gives out a positive energy and the “ I can do whatever I want” encouragement.
Now. My mother. As much as I wanted her to reach her potential and exploit her inner being – an amazingly talented painter artist, she chose the path of dull, hard, monotone lifestyle and career. Career, which in fact, was stopped by my birth.
As many would challenge the idea of leaving work to be with a child – before any judgments of over feministic individuals; not every child is alike and not every child’s needs are the same. Being a very weak and often sick baby, with multiple severe convulsions and problems with loosing conscious, ones who will defend the working mother regime and say “ hire a nanny, work on your career” have to SHUT up this time. Being a child who’s every night was a struggle to maintain healthy, is every parent’s nightmare. Forgot to mention other detail – she was also handling a young boy of age 7. While my father was a proud breadwinner of the family , and put all his efforts into one goal only – to grow his business NOT for him but for us, his participation in handling me, as a problematic child, and my brother was of same amount as my mothers. I am blessed to have grown with both parents having their roles aligned in same balance and with same amount of love and care.
So, before putting my mother in special brackets because of leaving her law career on rest (yes, law career- I did mention dull, hard and monotone.), one has to understand – not everyone’s goals are alike and who are WE to put significance of one’s goals over another?
Yet, very important to understand – I did not grow up in the Western European society nor I have grown in USA. Where I grew up, the “stay at home” moms were in fact an often repeated social occurrence. Mothers would stay at home and raise children, husbands were breadwinners of the family. With this said, it does not mean that the single work force were men - but the difference between my community and USA community and social standards, existed in vast span.
Yet, as my mother climbed the ladders first to graduate from university, then to be a part of a law firm, I am not convinced that she was chasing her passion, yet chasing the reality and making sure she will be able to stand on her feet alone and provide necessary care for her two children with or without a husband. The commonality she possesses is in fact the major attribute and pack of relevant needs of one to become a successful artist – she made her biggest talent just her hobby. Am I to blame? Yes in a way. Does she blame me? Never would. I remember her saying on multiple occasions “ if I haven’t stopped working, you would not be who you are today” . Well mother, I am sorry to burst the idea but we do mature at some point and choose our directions on our own. Saying this, I can also debate on myself thinking “ well, in fact, if she was not there for me 24/7, in society where there is a clear representation of discrepancy between parenting, yes I would not be where I am today. I would probably be left to figure out my own parenting at young age, unsupported and very lost”. One major factor in growing up in a society where people do not migrate as much as in USA is the “ grandparents” effect. While most of the grandparents live in the same cities as their children and grandchildren, they are a strong helping hand and encourage working mothers exceed in their career and in their parenting. With me being a “ 24/7 care need” baby, this helping hand was there however both of my parents being so overly protective felt like it is in fact THEIR OWN duty to provide care for me no matter when, no matter where.
So, what are mothers for? After 27 years (minus the early years and the embrio phase, swimming in my mothers placenta), I in fact can answer this question based on my own experience: mothers are there to build the foundation of your future self-parenting. Just like in construction, if the foundation was not set up properly, the construction might be built to the top but with severe problems and damages, until it collapses. Mothers are not there to guide us through life at every stage. Because, sadly enough, they will leave this world before us. But mothers should be there to built in the values and encourage us to choose our own path – which in fact is such a difficult task. During my early age I was involved in many things; elementary and music school which took my entire day, learning foreign language at evenings, coming home for dinner and bed - all that until I was 15 and started high school. My life became my mothers job and career. Juggling my activities and helping my father in our family owned business while I am in school was more than one artistic soul should handle. Yet, she did it. Let me also mention – I had a fresh cooked lunch (made from “scratch” of course ) EACH and every day.
I have an engraved fear of “what if I won’t be able to do all that and work on my career” , and I believe this fear is a part of every young woman investing in herself and thinking forward on her career. Should I have chose easier path then going into business and having goals of becoming a CEO or a successful entrepreneur? Should I just let go and take advantage of men being the primary breadwinners? With the way my love life goes, I should highly depend on having a kick ass salary to provide my children all necessary if this life-long partner deal doesn’t work out in the end (sarcasm. Or not.). We are bombarded with so many aspects of life where we are expected to be GREAT; great mother, great career person, great cook, great in keeping home neat, even great lover, great physique and appearance, run in the morning, do the dishes, pick up the kids, make sure your mascara is in place, do this do that. I know I can have it all. I know I CAN. But in fact, I do not know in what amount I will be successful in all of those demanding tasks. And I do not wish to lose the great parenting over anything else.
What my mother did poorly maybe was navigating me in professional sense. I was always an excellent student, very talented for music, talented in art and painting, this and that and had a variety of things that interested me. The span of ideas of “What I want to be” was overwhelming for her as each week I wanted to be something else. So I choose to go into business when all the other ideas seemed too unreal or realizing I will never be able to find a job in this field. I hated it in the beginning. As much as she put the right foundations in me, this step was somehow missed – realizing my strengths and navigating me to a right direction. Because, she loved me so and she believed I could be and do anything I want. Well, mommy you were wrong in this one. I lost couple years of finding myself through two bachelor degrees, now a masters degree and a job in hand. Now, I can say where I want to be in five years but this fear that I will be lost even then still exists. Although I am being selfish now and putting blame on her side for lack of navigation, on the other hand – it is better so, then the Godzilla moms who determine their child’s career path while they are still putting every object they see in their mouth and don’t have teeth yet. “You WILL become this and that”, it is your destiny. Well, truth is, in societies where some careers do NOT pay the bills, this in fact can be a positive strike. I grew up in a country where having dreams of becoming an astronaut does not really relate to reality. That is why we call them dreams, however if I grew up in North America, and with good set of skills, effort in school, good college, yes this dream might become reality. Being in a post communist country of 4 million with one small observatory – yeah not much so, unless leaving and moving to USA and beating the high competition of existing young USA scholars. You need money for that as well. A lot of it.
So mothers can push and navigate their children up to some point – but at certain stage, WE are the ones who will conduct how this foundation will become either an amazing skyscraper or collapsing shack.
My mother did not chase her dreams, in fact she did scarify and that I admire. But, shall I learn from her example or learn from her mistakes? Shall I learn from the way she juggled all the factors she had to be great at and apply them to myself with added career in hand? It highly depends where I am. But being a mother in village in Uganda and city of 100k in Croatia is still the same job – you have a child that YOU decided to make and bring to this world. This is YOUR obligation now and in fact your life now.
Yes, she left her career to be stay at home mom (even though when I turned 17, she came back to work force). But I feel responsible and sad she had to scarify her dreams. And each time I feel so, I remember her saying “ this was the life I CHOSE. And I have never regretted it, nor will I ever.”
Well, mommy thanks you for being happy and content for who you were and who you are. In fact, for whom you still can become!
Me, with this solid steel and cement foundation you (and let us not forget my father as well) gave me, I think I am on good way of becoming a skyscraper. Lovely one, high modern architecture J .