This is a post I’ve put off writing because honestly, it’s embarrassing and I’m not proud of what I’m about to tell you. But it’s a truth and it needs to be told, and besides, I’ve embarrassed myself on this blog so many times before.
Why stop now?
Last year was a big one for me. I covered the presidential election for CafeMom, traveled to the White House, the GOP and Democratic conventions and many other places across the country, reported on cable network news, and got to develop and star in my own web series. Last year was a culmination of all I’ve been working toward my whole professional life, really. I was able to use all my past work experience as a news reporter and anchor, television writer and producer and blogger, and combine it into one job. And that was awesome.
Since then, I’ve gotten lots of affirmation from the people around me. My readers and social media followers have increased. My e-mail inbox is full. PEOPLE WANT TO TALK TO ME AT THE GYM. I’ve gotten the acknowledgement and admiration we all secretly dream of having. And now, everyone in my world is praising me and saying I’m on the right track. I’m doing great things. I’m getting what I deserve after years of hard work.
Everyone except my kids.
Things have slowed to a more reasonable pace since the election, and I’ve had time to think about what went right last year and what went wrong. As ashamed as I am to admit it, I can see very clearly now that my children have suffered over the last year. You might not notice that they’ve suffered, even if you see them every day. But I notice. I notice when my daughter sadly says, “It’s okay, Mommy. We can spend time together another day. I can see you’re really busy.” I notice by the dependency my son has formed on video and computer games, born from too much downtime when Mommy had to work. I did the best I could last year to be a good mom to my children, despite my workload and travel. I tried to make up for my time away from them with fabulous vacations and summer camps and presents.
But surprise! That’s not what they wanted. They wanted me. They wanted my time and my undivided attention. Those were the things I couldn’t freely give them. And after a year of this, they’re different.
I have had to come to terms with the fact that I can’t be a television and Internet “powerhouse” and raise my children the way they deserve to be raised. I have to choose what comes first.
I’m choosing my kids.
This seems like an easy and obvious choice on paper, but as many of you know, it’s far more difficult to live out– particularly when career opportunities open up and we see possibilities for ourselves and our families like private school and vacations. Parenting doesn’t earn you a paycheck, nor is it a job that receives acknowledgement or admiration. No one cheers or congratulates me when I help my daughter ace her seven times table. No one praises my talent for character voices when I read my son three of his favorite Star Wars books in a row. No one tells me I did an incredible thing by leaving my computer closed after the kids got home from school. My own children may never appreciate the effort I put into parenting them.
But I truly believe that the more time I invest now in my children and the harder I work to give them a stable environment, the more likely they are to be confident, compassionate, honorable adults. My effort is absolutely no guarantee of a positive outcome, but it does increase their odds. I know that for a fact.
This doesn’t mean that I won’t be writing anymore or making videos or taking on interesting new opportunities that come my way. I still have a job and I love it and I’m very grateful that I’m able to do the bulk of my work from home. But thanks to last year, I now have something I didn’t have before- perspective.
I am making an effort now to be done with my work by the time I pick up the kids each day, and when they’re here, I’m doing things with them– baking banana bread or working on an art project or reading or going to the library, or just listening. I’ve learned that my children seem to want my husband and I to really listen to them more than just about anything else.
That’s the easy part.
The hard part is drowning out that voice inside telling me that I have to achieve more, do more, earn more, be more, in order to be relevant and to please everyone else. I know myself well enough to realize that I’ll be struggling with this for the rest of my life.
I’m writing this now to hold myself accountable to you. If I seem to be getting off the rails again (and knowing me, I probably will), feel free to remind me of this post.
I’m also writing this to encourage anyone else who’s fallen into the trap of letting those around us define our success. No matter what the world says, I believe our jobs as parents really are the most important jobs we will ever have. I still have a chance to correct the mistakes I’ve made with my children. I still have time to be the mother they deserve.
I really don’t want to mess this up.