One of the reasons I started this blog is to share what took way too long for me to figure out that “It’s okay.”
The stylized, perfected families every single one of us sees on Facebook and Instagram, especially around the holidays, aren’t real. I know it but I still internalize it a bit with every posed, rosey cheeked, perfectly quaffed picture I see and a little part of me aspires to that fake ideal.
So, here’s my first in my weekly installment of “What Life Really Looks Like”. This is us UNEDITED. The most important part is that every single one of us is relaxed and happy in this space. Stephen is catching up on his work, I’m working on a plan for our spring planting, and the girls are happily creating art on giant pieces of paper in the floor. There’s marker on the hardwoods and dog fur, the table is a mess but that will easily be cleaned up later. My stomach isn’t twisted in knots worrying about it and IT’S OKAY.
I am grateful to have choices and as much freedom as this country can afford me. I well up knowing the freedoms I have. I am a female with a supportive husband and community. My husband is not only financially supportive, he is supportive of the choices I make and most any decision I come to. Just as importantly my family and community are there for me when I need them.
That being said, I’d like to kick the person in the teeth that said you can have it all. You can have it all but the thing they left out was you can’t have it all at the same time and without real support.
You cannot be June Cleaver and Mary Barra simultaneously. Which was the inference I understood when I began to internalize feminism. The option to do it all is there but the things we need to do it all at the same time is not part of that gift. Most women are born to nurture, even if we’re not, our culture assumes that the burden and joy of childrearing still lands squarely on us. At the same time, we are gifted with the drive and ambition to make a difference in the world outside our families.
I have come to this acceptance. It’s been a hard journey and quite frankly it’s made me sick, depressed and riddled with anxiety. I worked very hard to create a successful business before my children came along. I put all my drive and ambition into it and did quite well. Since then, I have worked hard in becoming comfortable knowing that I add to this world by raising children who are kind, empathetic and loving. I take the inherent drive and put it into our farm, where I can include my children’s homeschooling into lessons every day, while bringing in an income. Although outside of the box, it’s working for me.
I am coming to understand that the real gift of feminism is that whatever a woman decides to do IT’S OKAY and you should feel comfortable in that. If you decide that your efforts will go into a career, IT’S OKAY. If you choose to do some combination of career and mothering and you feel healthy in that IT’S OKAY. If you choose to stay home with your children, you should feel proud in that and when the inevitable question is asked “Do you work?”. You reply “Hell yes I work. I work hard raising children who are kind and empathetic and who are more thoughtful than to ask that question”.
From the time I was very young I had the idea that I was destined to do something great. I knew that everyone would know my name and see my face in magazines and on television. I expected my accomplishments to be recognized and applauded by the masses. I perceived greatness from where I was in the world and what I, myself, perceived was great.
Perhaps it is experience or perhaps it comes from the reflection that comes with turning 40 but greatness isn’t coming so much from the external “atta’ girl” that I had expected. I’ve begun to feel a greatness that comes from somewhere else and there is real and satisfying contentment in that. I questioned if I have just given up on my original idea of what greatness is because I know it is an unattainable goal. I don’t think that is what this is. I’ve started to really let go of the concern I had about how people perceive me. I feel like my moral compass is aimed in the right direction and that it is okay to move toward what my intuition tells me what is right.
Now greatness comes from mothering a child that feels loved enough by me to fall fast asleep in my embrace. It comes from the feeling of anonymously giving. It comes from gaining the understanding of something that I had not understood before.
I know that this realization isn’t something that is prophetic and may be trite but it’s what I’m working thru today.
My beloved grandmother passed away recently. She was the matriarch of our family without the auspicious power that often goes with that title. She earned the title through quiet kindness and love. The one quality that I always knew but never heard verbalized until her funeral, which the pastor said so succinctly, was that she was “content.” I never heard her complain or speak badly of anyone. She embodied contentment. Until her last few years, when her body began to fail her, she was constantly in motion in service of someone else. My grandfather, whose every want she attended to. Every grandchild always had some homemade treat, each great grandchild had a “treasure chest” waiting for their excited arrival. She was good thru and thru, and she was content. Was it this contentment something she was born with; did she work on it? It is something that I will have to work at. I recognize the good things in my life. My family, our love, the farm, but contentment is something I must work on. Her kind of contentment is something that I will aspire to. Does the judgement that I carry, which is one of the things that drives me to do the good things I do, cloud my contentment?
I sit here writing on the patio of my sweet little home that sits on our beautiful farm. This should be a time for gratitude and absolute contentment. My two beautiful, healthy girls play in the yard as my supportive, kind husband sits beside me. He is giving me the space I need to write as he knows it is catharsis for me. He answers each of the girls million questions that begin with “Mommy…”. I have gratitude but not contentment. Every “Mommy” I hear stirs a grumble and reaction “what do they need now?” as I try to concentrate. How do I reach contentment? This will be my work. To be content and not have these thoughts pop in my head and be content. Have my reaction be “How can I help you?”, rather than “What do you want!?”. Did grandma think these same things and never verbalized them? I don’t think so. Her contentment was so genuine that you could see it. She wasn’t surrounded by material things, in fact, her life was very modest. She didn’t have the attention that a high-powered career could give, she quietly served and loved and was content in it.