Sunday, January 8, 2012

Moms Under the Influence

"Well maybe you should just put your kids up for adoption and get a goldfish instead!"

Over the holidays, as we caught up with loved ones and talked about our plans for the new year, we let our friends know that my career break (which had been so enthusiastically welcomed by the crowd) is coming to an end and I'm gearing up to return to work.  Let's just say not everyone is keen on the idea.

And I can handle that - mostly.

The comment above was an obvious tease from someone I love.  I laughed politely.  Ha ha ha ha!  But hours later, I found myself wondering, preposterously, if maybe I shouldn't be going back to work yet?  Even though I am excited - like, really excited, about rejoining the working world.  Luckily I caught it, and was able to link the thought to the comment and discard it. I haven't always been able to do that.

I haven't always been clear on my choices as a working parent.  I gain a lot from exploring the topic.  But not all of it is helpful.  Sorting through the masses of opinion to pinpoint your own can be a bit of a minefield, especially for new moms in demanding fields.  For anyone with even a hint of conflict, the opinions of others can be as tempting and treacherous as forbidden fruit.

Much has been said of the influence mothers have.  Aren't we collectively responsible for the future of therapy as an industry?   As parents, as consumers, as a voting block, moms are an influential group.

But what about all the things that influence us?  Whether we are aware of it or not, we are influenced by a barrage of information and opinion from the media, advertisers, bloggers, online communities and friends, families, and of course, most powerfully of all, our own mothers.

Judith Warner's 2006 book, "Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety" in part recaps an exhausting history of dominating opinions about where and how mothers should fit into society and the socio-political factors that have ebbed and flowed over the last century and longer.  And how often, the attitudes of a generation of mothers is driven by the desire to avoid the perceived misery of the mothers before them, whether that was being stuck at home, or working full time.  Reading it you can't help but feel like a little bit of a chump for falling for any of it.  What a frustrating relief to find that generations of women have.  How liberating to recognize when the noise is, well, just noise.

How do you filter out the noise?  And what are some of the soundbites that have rattled you the most?


  1. you know just yesterday I was going through the same thing from some one who is not a direct relative ( my brother's mother in law...bla bla bla) she just commented on how can I leave my daughter for 10 hours aday in the care of daycare or even mom, she commented on how can i do this through school and sending her after school to daycare and that she will suffer academically well, I didnot reply and although i love my job and wont trade it for the world when i returned home i just started reflecting on what she said and when i was preparing my daughter's backbag i felt how terrible of mother i am then you know what i remembered one thing that my daughter will grow up safe and stress free unlike me cause there is food in the table unlike what happened to my family when my mom wasnot working and my dad lost his job there were days when we ate only pasta nothing else so i reminded my self with the security i am providing for my daughter...
    Bottom line is society doesnot know whats better for us, we only do

  2. It's so true. Hard to remember sometimes, but so true.

  3. I just came from an invigorating yoga class, feeling flexible, fit and young(ish). Now as I sit to write this comment, I feel old and wise. I have raised two amazing sons who are now 17 and 23. I have always worked with perhaps the exception of a six month, unsuccessful hiatus. At this point in my life I feel confident in declaring them both "cooked". I must admit I kvell (Yiddish for happy and proud) when I receive countless compliments on what a good job I did as a mother. Hands down, these two boys are my greatest achievement in life. While my success story is merely anecdotal, I share it often with younger working Moms out there in trenches. Not until recently, have I been able to take a breath and let go of the self-doubt that plaqued me since the first day I walked out the door, briefcase in hand, smelling every so slightly of vomit and baby powder.

  4. Thank you for that - I love hearing from moms with older kids who have the benefit of looking back.