Excerpt from Surrendering to Motherhood
We look at our children, with joy and wonder, but also with a profound sadness, as they change in an eye blink from babies to third-graders to students in colleges too far away. For me, my absolute centering as a human being comes from holding a child in my lap, or slumped over my shoulder. Soon, too soon, these toddlers will be strapping teens who won't sit still for their mother's kisses.
Although my generation was reared to crave big careers and worldly pursuits, I have come to realize that true fulfillment and passion, and I'm talking about real passion of the soul, comes not from ascending in the work force but from spending time with our families, precious time we can never get back.
Surrendering to motherhood is about yielding to the higher power of childrearing, and letting go of the dangerous myth that we can be Superwomen who can do it all, all at once.
What I have found time and time again when I do try to have it all is that having it all feels exactly like having nothing. I have changed over the years since I was a supersonic journalist who roamed the world to profile celebrities for United Press International. I used to think I could do everything, that my babies would be fine squeezed into the rest of my Herculean To Do list.
Surrendering to motherhood has meant shifting into a woman who has sworn that she will never again give more of myself to strangers in the workplace than she gives to her cherished children at home, the people she loves the most.
I remember when I was a college student home on holiday breaks, the sight of my own stay-at-home mother wearing her red-checked dish towel over one shoulder and doing crossword puzzles and puffing on Kent cigarettes used to rile me over the oppression of wives stuck in their kitchens. Today, I am exhilarated by the wife-mother role I once believed to be the death of dreams.
Spending lots of time with our children is actually the convergence of the feminist ideals our era of women embraced -- power, freedom, self-expression and independence. Nothing ever felt so powerful, so free, so spiritually right, than being a mother who organizes a home and fights for her children on every front.
After splintered years of chaos and climbing, searching for meaning and self-identity all over the world, this me called mommy feels like who I was meant to be all along. I can tell you that the higher I climbed in my old life as a UPI feature writer who interviewed celebrities such as Queen Noor of Jordan and Billy Graham, I'd often be struck at how empty I felt.
The epiphany that shook up everything came, of all places, as I was crawling around a carpet, picking up cold pieces of scrambled eggs that four children, then ages four and under, were throwing.
Amid the noise of the boys and my swinging emotions, I suddenly got very still inside. Wrapped in the bathrobe four babied had nestled against while they nursed, my brain started clanging this jubilant message: There are no shackles in this house, this is no jail.
These kids are your ticket to freedom like nothing you have ever tasted, the kind that is not hinged on TV appearances or being a size 6 again. It's the liberation that comes from the sheer act of living itself. When you stop to be where you are, then your life can really begin.
On that gray carpet, with egg under my nails and egg in my hair, I realized that for the first time in my life I was exactly where I was supposed to be.
As I shifted from the world of global journalism to a world at home with four, wild sons, I grew certain that for all these long debates among ambitious women on ways to balance our lives, the task is insurmountable -- with young children there can be no balance. Children get the best of you time and time again.
When you surrender to that fact then real balance comes, of having your soul and mind and heart in sync. Most accomplished women can go back to rebuilding careers as our kids grow up. We can never go back to the fleeting moment that constitutes our children's childhood. We only get one chance to get it right. And doing it right takes a lot of time. How we choose to spend our time is ultimately our greatest power as human beings.
As parents of young children we should listen hard to successful older women who are full of remorse today about letting their jobs overshadow family lives. In a wonderful interview conducted by the late journalist Oriana Fallaci, Golda Meir, then the prime minister of Israel, had this to say about trying to run a country and run a family both at once:
"I know that my children, when they were little, suffered a lot on my account," said Meir. "I left them alone so often. I was never with them when I should have been and would have liked to be. Oh, I remember how happy they were, my children, every time I didn't go to work because of a headache. They jumped and laughed and said 'Mamma's staying home! Mamma has a headache!"
Every modern and enlightened neofeminist with a child in her arms should feel proud and expectant bearing Mother as a job title: We are in a position to shatter the glass ceiling and blast our full potential. No other profession takes more guts, tenacity, courage and intelligence than protecting and structuring the lives of children. Never should we think that we are abandoning feminism. There is nothing we can do more powerful as women than refuse to abandon motherhood.