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If I Want to Be a Great Mom, Something Has to Give

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I’m guilty of spending a bit of time on social media, and I have a weakness for online quizzes and personality tests. It’s not so much that I take stock in the answers, but I do find it insightful to notice my reactions to what the quiz has to say about me. The other day I was finding out what animal I am most similar to. I guess I had some preconceived notions of what the answer would be – I’m an introvert, so maybe a solitary hawk? I like nature and eating, so perhaps a bear?

Nope. My answer came up as a meerkat.

Yes, those funny-looking members of the mongoose family that live in colonies and are known for posting lookouts to keep watch for predators to protect the tribe. The word associated with this animal was “dependable”. I certainly had a strong reaction to that. Not the animal itself – they are kind of cute. But the word dependable was not a word I associated with in recent years.

You see, ever since becoming a mother, I’ve carried around a lot of guilt concerning my professional life and career goals. I’d like to think I was once a fairly good and reliable employee, but I now feel completely subject to the status of my family.

I’m divorced and have primary custody of my two kids. When they’re sick, I stay home. When there’s a doctor’s appointment, I miss work to take them. When the school calls because someone has spiked a fever, or fallen in a mud puddle (true story), or bonked their head, I’m the one to abandon work and tend to the homestead. This has changed my career direction – I’ve found it pretty impossible to have a full-time job, continue a fulfilling freelance career, help the kids follow their own passions, and keep the household duties going. I know other people do it, and I’m in awe. Truly. Because I couldn’t, and can’t, maintain that balance.

What I have learned is that the word dependable does pertain to me. I’m dependable and reliable when it comes to my kids. They know that I will move heaven and earth to be there for them. They know that I will make sure they get the help they need, professional and personal, for all the issues and illnesses they face. They know that teaching them to be independent, compassionate, happy and globally aware citizens is my top priority. I am more like the meerkat than I thought – I’m on the lookout for threats to my family and I will sacrifice my career to make sure that family comes first.

This means I won’t be pulling in a huge salary, buying a million dollar home, or having a flashy car. I won’t be VP of anything any time soon, unless it’s to do with laundry. I enjoy my freelance career as a writer, social media manager and yoga teacher, but with that flexibility and passion come trade-offs. Less money, but more time for my family. Less material goods, but more experiences. And even with the flexibility it is time consuming. So sometimes it’s eggs for dinner, or even grilled cheese sandwiches. Because I’m pursuing my passions, and putting my family first, for me that also means that I’m not putting gourmet meals on the table every night.

But you know what? That’s ok. Some people are great at excelling at absolutely everything. They are great parents, chefs, bosses and employees. Because I value my physical and mental health, and want to enjoy my current life, I’m not one of them. I’ve learned to be ok with not knocking it out of the park in absolutely every single avenue in life. I do think I excel in the areas that mean the most to me – my family, and being there to guide my kids through the obstacles of growing up and finding happiness.

So my apologies to my co-workers who used to squawk when I’d leave at 4:30 every day to get to daycare in time to pick up my kids. Sorry for missing a day here and there when my kids had raging fevers. Family – I hope you like mac and cheese, because that’s what’s for dinner tonight.

Over the years my priorities have emerged and solidified. My goals and passions have come sharply into focus. I’m a great mom. I love my paltry but passionate part-time career. I’m not a big shot in the corporate world, and I don’t run a flawless household. But for my loved ones, I am dependable. I am present. I contribute. That’s the meerkat motto, and it’s one that I plan to live by.

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