Changing perspectives: A new metric for success

*This blog is designed to uplift others through sharing insights I have had on my journey as a mom. I do not suggest that all women should stay home and be moms, but rather that all women and men should search their inner selves to find their life’s greatest calling, and then give themselves entirely to it.


At the time I got pregnant with my son, I was into a lot of things. I was loving young married life and working full-time as a professional conference and event planner. In my position, I supervised dynamic teams, and partnered with community organizations to plan and carry out events for groups upwards of 7,000 people. I loved my job. It was exhausting but exhilarating. My professional trajectory was beginning to take shape—I would continue in my job, attend graduate school (I had been accepted to a couple of programs) and work towards my dream of someday starting several non-profits that would affect positive change in the world.

When I found out I was pregnant with Henry, I had some big choices to make. Was I going to continue on this trajectory that I had felt so excited about and focus on accomplishing my professional dreams? Or was I going to put that world on hold and stay home to be Henry’s primary nurturer, teacher and caregiver.

I knew inside what I felt. I had always known I wanted to stay at home to raise my kids. But part of me, a big part of me, also wanted those other things. With the support of my sweet husband (who would’ve supported me in either decision) I decided to put my other dreams on hold and focus on the dream of being a mom. I notified both my employer and the graduate program of my plans. Both my employer and the university were very supportive and kind towards me in regards to my decision.

And so began my journey into motherhood. I left everything I had known and threw myself headlong into a completely new world. As my delivery neared, I readied the nursery, packed my diaper bag, cooked meals to freeze, and did everything I could possibly think of to be prepared. But as all parents know, there is really no way to be entirely prepared for parenthood. It is a learning journey. It is a growing journey.

Both my husband and I were absolutely enchanted with our new little son. I was so in love with this tiny little peanut, I had no desire to do anything but snuggle him and look at him. That lasted for a long time.

But then, after several months, something inside me started to grow restless. I began to yearn for some of the things I had left for this child. It was not that I missed my job specifically, no. I missed the validation I got from it. The validation I had had my whole life through school, or sports, or music. You see, we grow accustomed to evaluating ourselves based on very exterior factors. When we perform well it is easy to measure both effort and success. We also often receive praise for our efforts or performance and can tell ourselves “I did a good job. I am having success with this.”

Motherhood is not that way. No one tells you at the end of the day, “Wow! I noticed you changed eight diapers today and prevented your baby from getting a diaper rash. Good job!” or “You did it! You cleaned the kitchen!” You know why? The visible accomplishments of child rearing and housekeeping appear simple and mundane. However, the outside indicators of the work of motherhood are not accurate reflections of the real work that is going on. The real work of mothering is not easy to discern when looking for immediate results. For example, it is impossible for anyone to know how you are shaping the development of your child’s brain by reading and talking to him or listening to music and dancing in the kitchen together. There is no way for anyone to know the emotional wellness you are helping build in your child by treating him with genuine love, compassion, and patience or how you are building in him a positive self-image with your words and actions all day long. No one can know the diseases and health conditions that may be avoided throughout your child’s life because you taught him how to be healthy.

You see, parents are agents of becoming. A parent’s success has absolutely nothing to do with accomplishment. It has nothing to do with outside praise or recognition. It has everything to do with your heart and your effort. And you are the only one who knows how well you are doing in those two areas.

I realized during that period of restlessness that I needed to adopt a new metric for evaluating success. I knew there was no rubric for me to measure myself up to, no boxes I could check to know if I was doing “OK.” This new method would require regular and honest evaluation of my heart (my motives, feelings and attachments) and my effort. I have learned that this type of internal self-evaluation is much more difficult than measuring success based on external expectations. It is more honest, more self-revealing and in my experience more powerful at effecting real change when change is necessary.

Since I took this intuitive approach to self-evaluation, I have found that I am better able to recognize when I am doing my job well. I am able to feel great satisfaction when I am giving my all to my family, regardless of whether my kitchen is spotless or the laundry is done. Rather than judging my day (and myself) by how much I “got done,” I now examine how well I loved, listened to and interacted with my kids.

Perhaps the greatest contribution we can make to this world comes in the form of the next generation, those booger-faced kids who right now are pestering you for more peanut butter and jelly. If you and I can facilitate the “becoming” of intelligent, honest, compassionate and hard-working people, then we have truly changed the world for the better.


Learning to Choose

When I was a child I always felt a thrill of excitement when an adult asked me the classic question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” My little sister would always pipe up “a mom” when she was asked this question. I would think “boring” and then rattle off my auspicious list. “An author, a violinist, a singer, a soccer player, an actor, an artist, a scientist.” The adult would smile patronizingly and think “what a cute, confused answer.” What they didn’t know is that I DID want to do everything. And I thought I could.
My mother faced a similar challenge with me as I grew older and starting to acquire extra-curricular activities and commitments. I wanted swim AND do track AND soccer AND be in the plays and musicals, sing in the choir, take dance lessons and violin and guitar. I filled positions in student leadership such as class president and student body commissioner, registered a schedule full of honors and AP classes, took on leadership positions in student clubs, and continued taking art and producing pieces for art contests and competitions. All the while I kept my social calendar full of boys and friends and who knows what. Are you exhausted yet?
I recall one afternoon, when I felt particularly overwhelmed, my mother threw up her hands in exasperation and exclaimed “You can’t do EVERYTHING!!”
I remember thinking, why not?? I just LOVED everything. But I frequently ran into this problem—I would pile I little bit of everything on my plate because I just wanted to try it, or I thought it would be interesting, or thought I would be good at it. And before I knew it, my plate would be too full and I would become overwhelmed.
I continued to live this way through my college years—achieving great success and scholarships along the way, but I don’t feel I was entirely satisfied with my life. You see, I had failed to learn what my mother patiently tried to teach me all those years. You have to choose. We can’t be everything, we can’t do everything. If we want to be satisfied and feel fulfilled with our lives we have to choose the things that are most important to us.
I feel that I only recently have begun to learn these lessons. How does a chronic over-achiever like myself learn to choose and simplify? Well, simply put—she has a baby and decides to stay home to raise him.
Keeping my commitment to give up my professional career and some other exacting pursuits to become a career mom has been one of the most challenging endeavors of my life. It has required a lot of mental discipline for me to remain focused on my goals and a lot of emotional awareness to keep tabs on my contentedness and make sure I am doing what I need to do to feel fulfilled. But let me tell you—no professional accomplishment, no academic achievement and no leadership position has ever even approached the depth of joy and fulfillment that I experience when I am fully engaged in my job as a wife and mother, working full-time in my home to care for, nurture and teach my family.