Sunday, 20 November 2016

Permission to Be a Person

Motherhood, mom guilt, grumbling grace, mom life

This post was originally published before my epic West Coast Trail adventure in September 2016 on as part of her Let's Talk Modern Motherhood series.

When Emily invited me to be a part of a series on modern mothering, I had the fleeting notion that I might just be included to make everyone else feel better about their parenting. Only this morning, my 14-month-old ate a cheese stick in the car for breakfast as I considered the merits of turning her stained sweater inside out to avoid judgment at my older daughter’s preschool drop-off. 

Don’t worry, friends. Deep in my mother heart, I know we’re a sisterhood raising up the next generation and my kid’s processed dairy coexists with your child’s homegrown kombucha… but there’s the rub. 

For me, the trickiest part of motherhood is a privileged millennial’s problem: so many choices.

From vegan baby purée and organic diapers to 24-hour babysitting services and Netflix, we’ve got options. Did previous generations of mothers obsess over small shop equitable baby sleepers and excessive screen-time?  While I recoil at dictatorial advice as much as the next free-thinking 30-something, if there’s no ‘wrong’ way to parent, it’s hard to know if I’m getting it right and I become my own critic. 
Often this tension stems from a conflict between my perceived (or actual) responsibilities as a parent and my own desires. COINCIDENTALLY, I’m currently preparing to take off on an 8-day hike with two friends, an adventure that’s been in the planning for the last three years. My husband’s cheering me on and everything’s arranged so of course I’m elated. 

Just kidding. I’m a complete basket case. I need to clean the whole house. I must finish all the laundry. I have to pack. I’ve got to jam four months’ worth of exercise and training into the next 48 hours. I’m basically terrified. 

Here’s what’s going through my head:

It’s the first time I’ve left my baby for this long. 
Will she be okay? What if she IS okay? What does that mean? What if she’s not okay? What then?

This is selfish. 
It’s expensive. It’s eating into our family vacation time for me to be away. It’s inconveniencing other people. 

What if… 
What if I die and my girls find out that I chose an adventure over the rest of my life with them?
What if my kids are emotionally scarred and all my parenting work is negated in one fell swoop?
What if I don’t even have any fun?
What if I have to be grateful for this trip FOREVER?
What if everyone has more fun at home without me?
What if they’re all fine?
What if they’re not all fine?
What will _________ think of me?

Maybe I’m not the first mom to struggle with this internal dialogue or the feeling of needing permission to want something outside of her children or home (duh).   
Whether it’s a girls’ trip or working full time or going back to school, the question that plagues my parenting choices is:  How do I balance being a person with being a good mother? 

The answer is, I GET permission. 

I’m not talking from my husband; I don’t believe he has ever vetoed anything I’ve felt strongly about. I’m not talking about faith; I believe God created us to be creative adventurous souls. I’m talking about inner freedom to embrace a choice. 

Mamas, sometimes we can be so practical, gracious and kind to everyone in our lives EXCEPT ourselves. So now, I sit myself down and ask these questions:
  1. Do I need permission to make this choice? 
  2. Who has the right to participate in this decision? 
  3. Are the resources available to do this?  
  4. What is the cost of this choice to myself/to others?
  5. Get permission in writing. 
I‘m sure some people just do this naturally so it may seem tedious but this process is becoming a habit for me. Somewhere along the way, decisions become direction and my inner dialogue translates into outward convictions. Instead of floundering around fretting about what I should or shouldn’t do, I’m learning that getting my own permission quells the guilt over trying to please or measure up to everyone else.  It helps me stop second-guessing and to move forward in freedom. 

So I’m going on a trip with my girlfriends. I’m going to smash some goals, enjoy nature, be encouraged and come home to my family refreshed and full of gratitude. Because, as it turns out, growing into myself and choosing confidence in motherhood begin with giving myself permission to do both.  

Have you ever had to give yourself permission to be present in a passion outside of your family? I would love to hear about it below and if you enjoyed this post, please consider giving it a share!

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