Something Beyond Motherhoodby Barbara Machen
Barbara Machen is the co-author of The Mothers of Reinvention: Reclaim Your Identity, Unleash Your Potential, Love Your Life
There is no validation in motherhood alone. Validation is a big part of who we are as human beings, but it is not something we should be actively seeking as mothers.
Yes, you can feel joy when you see your child do something you taught him. You can be relieved he looked both ways before crossing the street and has a sense of keeping safe or be proud when you watch him walk down the aisle at his high school graduation.
But none of this is really about you. You molded the clay but the clay was there. You helped the clay become something magical but the magic was already inherent within. You don't make your children what they are... you bring it out of them.
Being honest with yourself and seeing things as they are is a very important part of obtaining happiness. It's impossible to find self-worth solely in being a mom, and honestly, you shouldn't be looking for it there anyway. You may be the center of the universe to your family, but that's just because you hold it together . It may be a difficult truth to face, but if you want your only validation as a human being to come from your role as a mother and/or wife, with nothing else to hang your hat on, you're going to be disappointed. Motherhood is an "invisible" job, a selfless job. Validation of who you are has to come from various places, not motherhood alone.
That is why I wasn't surprised when I read the Wall Street Journal article, Is Working Good for Mom's Health? Our society no longer respects or values the stay-at-home mom (SAHM.) Unlike the 50's where roles were clearly defined and a mom/homemaker was a respected job, it seems to be looked at as some type of "luxury" now. Both by society and men/husbands. No wonder SAHM's were the most unhappy and had the highest depression rate. No matter how clean your house is, how beautiful your meal is on the dinner table, how smart your kids are, how much you volunteer, there is no validation offered. As a matter of fact you could encounter criticism that you are an "overbearing" mom, a "helicopter mom" and that you should "get a life."
Woman now come into marriages working, financially contributing to the marriage. We are independent and interesting women with world experience. We are not coming from our parents' house to our husband's house anymore. Unfortunately, the role of a SAHM hasn't changed (if anything they have added "guilt' to the mixture.) At least back then women were free to get their hair done, play Gin Rummy, smoke and cocktail in the middle of the day.) Try to do any of those things now and not only watch the judgment pour in but you will probably have social services knocking at your door. Our husbands are used to independent women who can contribute financially (because that is how we entered the marriage), and now suddenly they have all the pressure of being the sole provider, while being a SAHM is viewed at some kind of "vacation." The model doesn't work for anyone, the result nobody is happy.
I am in no way minimizing the role of a mother. It's the most important job anyone could ever have. All I am saying is that in order to be happy you need to have something beyond your role as a mother, something you are passionate about, that you can unleash from within, that will bring you a sense of joy that's all your own. I guarantee your husband does and so do your kids, why not you?
Barbara Machen, co-author of The Mothers of Reinvention: Reclaim Your Identity, Unleash Your Potential, Love Your Life, is the mother of twins, India and Soraya, and lives in Los Angeles with her husband of twelve years, Shahrad. Raised by a single mother on government assistance, Barb received a full scholarship to the University of Southern California, graduating with a BA in Communications. By age twenty-five, Barb owned her own marketing company, but after becoming a mother, she quickly learned how it felt to go from a confident woman to a scared and insecure mother. This led her to co-create and co host the award-winning web series "Jen and Barb, Mom Life."For more information please visit http://www.jenandbarb.com, and follow the authors on Facebook and Twitter.