A few months back the internet was ablaze after a mom wrote a letter to her daughter about why she chooses to stay at home. I had so many questions for the author after reading it (primarily why she didn’t also address the letter to her sons), but I left with one striking question to ask myself. Am I, as she described working women in her piece, an absent mother?
I intended to write about my thoughts on this topic timelier, but, appropriately enough, her article surfaced during the grueling days of one of the worst tax seasons I have experienced in my career. On most days, I was at the office before the children woke up and Facetimed with them while they ate breakfast. On a good day, I made it home just before we tucked in our three year old and was able to read her a story and sing her a song. After a quick bite to eat, I would fall asleep with our infant on my chest feeling better that we had some bonding time before my husband would put us both to bed. As I drifted back to sleep the words ABSENT MOTHER would play on repeat in my head. Am I an absent mother?
Three years into motherhood, I have grown confident in my role as a working mother. Returning from maternity leave the second time around was a much easier transition for me than it was the first time. I gained so much wisdom from my first-time mom experience and one of the most important lessons I learned was the difference between feeling guilty for not being with my children and feeling a longing to be with them. One was a feeling that was not healthy for me and indicated that I was doing something wrong by going to work. The other simply recognizes that while my work makes my mind feel full, my children make my heart feel full and I miss them when we are not together.
And yet, with all of that confidence and all of that wisdom, I could not shake her words. Absent. Absent mother. It was like a punch in the gut. What does that mean anyway? Because I was not present, was I truly absent? Is it possible to be present in their lives without physically being there as much as you’d like?
After I tormented myself over this for days, I finally realized that only I could determine how I was to be defined as a mother. And I am an amazing mom. I know that sounds bold to say, but I am going to say it again. I am an amazing mom. It is not because I am a perfect mom. In fact, it is quite the opposite. I fail at motherhood every day; but every day, I wake up working to be the best mother I can be for my children. Every day, I ensure that they know they are loved. Every day, they hear the words “I love you to the moon and back.” Every day, I share something they have done that makes me proud to be their mom. Every day, they make me want to wake up trying harder to show them that being present in someone’s life is more than just being there.