“I was tired of viewing my kids through the bars of a shopping cart.”
This was a quote from Hillary Tattersal, as I interviewed her for my book. We were talking about how hectic her life was being a full time professional and then trying to spend time with her kids AND deal with shopping, cooking, etc. “When I began to realize that the most face time with my kids was while grocery shopping, I realized this was not what I wanted for my family.”
But leaving the professional life and becoming a full time mom was not nearly as smooth as Hillary hoped it would be. I will be detailing her difficulties and how she dealt with it in my book: HomeWork. Here’s an excerpt:
From Chapter 4 – Parental Pressures #1: Peer Pressure
I am not talking about the peer pressure that our kids experience. I am talking about parent peer pressure. Yes, parent peer pressure.
I think mothers in particular suffer from this. What I have seen over and over again is that most mothers tend to compare themselves with those other moms who are functioning in the 99.9 percentile—or at least appear to be. I recently read a mothers magazine that profiles local moms. The article went something like this:
“Susie is the mother of six children and works a full-time job as the executive director of a local nonprofit. She is very involved in her church and volunteers to bring meals to the elderly. Halloween is her favorite holiday because she makes each child’s elaborate costume by hand. She also bakes from scratch all the goodies for her children’s school.” And on and on…
I am not making this up. The magazine features profile after profile of these “Moms on Steroids” who are being highlighted as role models.
I would love to hear one of the profile interviews go something like this:
Journalist: How do you do it all?
Mother: Well, it was tough at first, but I eventually developed a system. First I found that I didn’t really need seven, or even six hours of sleep. I can do pretty well on about four. Then, I eliminated all of the things I used to do for me, such as working out, going to the doctor, reading, eating healthy meals, etc. When I finally focused on the fact that my kids come first, it wasn’t too hard.
What kind of role model are we highlighting? Don’t take care of you—just take care of everyone else.
I feel a bit presumptuous talking about this issue, since, clearly, I am not a mother. But I am concerned that these are the type of women we are putting on a pedestal for everyone else to emulate.
This idea reminds me of a real mother who shared with me her story about losing, and eventually regaining, her identity. Her name is Hillary. Hillary’s story is one that, I think, many mothers can relate to.
When you first meet Hillary Tattersall, your initial impression is of the epitome of the 40-something, high-level executive. Tall, attractive, and outgoing; yet she doesn’t take over the room. When you talk with her, you feel like she genuinely cares about what you are saying.
“I was the first generation of women that were expected to be professionals. Get good grades, get into a good college, so that you can be a great professional. All the focus was to be a professional. That’s all I was trained for. I never played (or even wanted to play) school or house as a kid. I played office.
“For years I was an executive for a national charitable foundation. It was a very stressful, very high- energy position. I honed some skills that I found very hard to let go of later. I was driven, I expected perfection from those around me, and I was impatient. Impatient people are rewarded in sales. It was around the time that my kids were just moving into elementary school that my husband I and decided that I would leave my career and be a full-time mom.
I think many families can relate to the Tattersalls. You get to a point where you would like someone to be at home with the kids, so you make the leap into becoming a one-income family. We do it for our kids, in hopes that this will be best for everyone.
Hillary continued: “It didn’t take long to realize that the skills I learned in the business world were not going to work at home. All of the sudden, I’m taking 20 minutes to tie a pair of shoes, and it was beginning to drive me nuts! I was the first generation of women to be trained and rewarded for impatience, and then I come home and realize patience is the biggest skill I need to be a good mom.
“I went from living my high-speed life on the autobahn, to putting along on a country lane. I began a mantra that helped me through at first, but it really began wearing on me: ‘You are doing it for the children. Be selfless, be selfless, be selfless.’
“My patience really took a hit when I began to sit at the kitchen table helping my kids with their homework. I would rather watch paint dry, than have to sit there with them during homework time. How come I can run a million-dollar golf tournament, but I don’t have the patience to help my children read? I was supposed to help them, but I was sitting there tapping my foot, doing my laundry list, and slowly going nuts.”
What happened to Hillary? She accepted the myth that, when we become parents we lose our own identity and focus completely on the kids. Especially because she had left a full-time career, she felt that pressure even more. Add to that the fact she felt woefully unprepared for the challenge, made it much more difficult for her to feel anything but pressure, pressure, pressure.
How to Conquer Parental Peer Pressure
What do we tell our kids about peer pressure? “If your friend jumped off the house, would you do it too?” (And by the way, after looking at the number of YouTube videos of kids jumping off houses, I’m afraid the answer to this question, from many kids, would be…“Yes!”)
If we challenge our kids to not give in to peer pressure, it’s important that we don’t, either. It requires us to stay concentrated on “why” we are doing something and checking to make sure it is not related to showing others that we are a good parent.
Another excellent suggestion was a saying I heard recently: “I refuse to compare my insides to other parents’ outsides.”
I love this quote; it focuses on the fact that we are comparing ourselves to the part of other parents that we see. Most people only show the parts of themselves they feel good about, not the parts that are insecure, anxious, cranky, and mean. We all have those sides of us, even those who seem to be perfect parents.