A letter to my mom.
When I was 8 years old, my school had a field trip to visit the zoo or museum or something. (I don’t remember where, exactly, and it doesn’t matter.)
What I do remember was feeling lonely and left out. Why? Because about a dozen moms volunteered to chaperone the kids on the field trip that day—and you were not one of them.
I wanted that kind of mom. The kind of mom who was always available to be a field trip chaperone. The kind of mom who always made homemade cupcakes (from scratch, not a box) for the bake sale. The kind of mom who dropped me off at school every morning and picked me up every afternoon.
“Why can’t you, mommy?” I would ask.
“Because mommy has to work,” you would tell me.
At age 8, I had no concept of what “work” meant. All I could grasp was that “work” was something mysterious and unpleasant. Something that stole mommy away from me.
Then one day you brought me to work.
You might not remember that day—but I do.
You took me to the opera house where you were preparing for that night’s performance. You led me backstage to your dressing room. I watched the hair, makeup, and costume attendants transform you from “mommy” into some kind of bejeweled moon-goddess with towering hair and shimmering powder everywhere.
That night, I watched you take the stage and mesmerize the audience. I saw your talent. I felt your devotion to your craft—the decades of disciplined vocal training, the thousands of hours of practice and rehearsal. I felt the power of your voice.
During intermission, I overheard two women in the row behind me talking about you, raving about your performance.
“That’s my mom,” I told them proudly.
After that experience at the opera house, I understood what “work” meant for you. I understood that “work” is not a bad thing. “Work” can be something magical and important.
Mom: I don’t know if I ever told you, but I am so grateful that you pursued your dreams, because in doing so, you taught me to be brave and ambitious too. I am grateful that you weren’t around for every single bake sale because, sometimes, you had other things to do. I am grateful that you showed me that a “career” can be anything I want it to be.
The 8-year old version of me wished that you were waiting at home with milk and cookies every single day after school. The 31-year old version of me is grateful that you were not.
I wasn’t sure I wanted to share this letter publicly, because it’s very intimate and personal, but ultimately I decided that I should.
Because I know that somewhere, out there, there is a mom who feels guilty every time she goes to “work” (whether it’s a job, a business, a personal creative project, or any vocation that feels meaningful to her). Somewhere, I know there’s a mom who feels guilty about writing her novel, running her blog, or pursuing her dream job, because she feels like throwing herself into that type of endeavor might “steal” time away from her kids and her family. Because it might make her a “bad mom.”
I want to say to that mom: don’t be afraid.
Let your child see you in love with your work. Let your child see you pursue the yearnings of your heart. Let your child see you shine, and be happy, and give your gifts generously to the world. Invite your child into your work, occasionally, so that your child can see and feel what you do when you’re not at home.
If you do that, then your child will learn, through your example, what it means to create a life that is purposeful and filled with passion.
That is one of the greatest gifts you can give a child.
I am not a parent or a parenting expert, of course. This is just my personal opinion—speaking as the daughter of a passionate woman.
Mom: I wouldn’t want any other mom besides you.
I get it now. Each time you told me, “Mommy has to work,” what you actually meant was:
“Mommy loves you more than anything–but mommy also wants to leave her mark on the world, and create her legacy, which sometimes means that you have to spend a few hours with your brother or a babysitter or at an after-school program. One day you’ll understand.”
Mom: I understand–and I love you.
Happy Mother’s Day!