It’s always good to have choices. It’s not always easy to make them.
I’ve always had critics of my choice to be a working mom. I’m not alone in that. Neither am I alone in having strong supporters of my decision to have a family and maintain a profession. I have never been extremely pressed about what others thought of my life choices. As long as I felt like I had made the right choice, I was okay.
But what happens when even I don’t know if I made the right choice? That was my frequent nightmare as I debated my decision to open a restaurant in an extremely short amount of time.
I speak out against mom guilt all the time. I’ve even mentioned it a few times here in past blogs. But I have to confess: I battled it royally while working on Native. The time away from my children had me second guessing everything! Was I choosing my career over them? Could it be that I was giving my best efforts to my job and design projects and not my boys? The guilt felt endless.
Weekends were no better. On Saturday nights when the boys were with Daddy and I had all the time in the world to work, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was somehow less than a mother for pursuing my dreams. It didn’t help that, like so many other moms on this planet, I really had to depend on my delegated tribe to help make everything happen. We are all allowed to call on our friends and family to help when we need things. But even that made me feel horrible. I felt more guilt every night my nanny stayed late with my boys.
As a working mom, there are times when project deadlines may cause me to not put my kids to bed any given night of the week. The Native project called for that on more than a few occasions. I would find myself working on this great installation everyone believed was impossible, and calling the nanny at 5:15 to explain that I had to stay another hour for work…and then another hour…and another. I literally watched the clock tick by on the boys’ bedtime. That was fine for Monday. But it happened again on Tuesday. Wednesday was dad’s night with the boys. The end of the week would come, and I wouldn’t have put them to bed or tucked them in at all.
Then another voice within would smack me with cynicism: Poor Breegan can’t see her kids at night because she gets to pursue her passion. Get over yourself, girl. This was a two-month project, not a two-year gig. It’s an amazing opportunity that will ultimately benefit your kids. I hear and agree with ALL of that. It was just hard for me to recognize that sincerely when I felt less than, and when I felt like I was failing at motherhood.
Designing Native brought out fresh creativity in me professionally, but it also taught me a few life lessons. First, it forced me to be grateful and take advantage of a life commodity that I and so many people take for granted: time. Out of that mom guilt came an acceptance that my moments are limited at times. If I want to make impactful, meaningful, lasting memories, I have to embrace those moments fully. For me, that meant sacrificing as much as the boys had. If I couldn’t be there at night because of work, I committed to being there for them when they woke up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 7:30 in the morning. That was their time. Peek-a-boo, stickers, cuddle time, being silly under the covers time — it was theirs. I was tired and overworked, but they could have been mommy-hungry and emotionally starving because their mom wasn’t around much when they wanted her to be. My needs are no more important than theirs.
Through this particular design project I also learned that pressure, if I allow it, can turn me into my best self. It strengthens, challenges, provokes and causes a stronger interdependence with those in my tribe. I know now that I am only as powerful as the support I have, especially emotional support. I didn’t know that I needed it until it happened, but having my friends reaffirm that I am indeed a good mom, and that my kids love me, meant so much. I needed that reminder because i didn’t feel like a good mom at all.
Finally, this particular experience will allow my children to see me work, and work hard. Research has shown that the most successful entrepreneurs are children who saw their parents working a great deal, and that pushed me every step of the way. Working long hours became about being an example for my sons — not just an example that they would emulate as they become professionals, but even as an example of a dedicated woman they may possibly be blessed to work for. Yes, I said it! They may one day work for an amazing woman and be stronger men because of it.
Do I regret my choice to create Native? Not at all. It is beautiful in all its splendor, and the reception, both in person and in the media, has been nothing short of amazing. Do I still challenge how I handled my boys during that project? Definitely. But the reality is life will always be a balancing act. As long as I keep my children and passions in full view, I know they will be well-balanced, also.
And so will I.