Last week I messaged a dear friend to meet for lunch. A mother of FIVE, she shared with me that she had recently gone back to work part-time and that her time had become limited. The iphone, in all its infinite wisdom and assistance, autocorrected the word LIMITED to LIFE MUTED. After some LOL’s and emojis, we agreed to adopt this great word and carried on.
For the next few days, I chuckled about it, but in reality, the term nagged at me. Life muted. This particular mom is no shrinking violet. She’s been a single mom, a stay-at-home mom, a mom with a chronic illness, and now a working mom. I admire her ability to balance and strive for excellence. To persevere and lead her children to their own greatness…to live OUT LOUD. The term didn’t fit HER, but it rang true with my own past.
Why do we go quiet?
Women, whether they stay at home, work from home, or work outside the home all make a shift when there are kids to raise. The kids take priority (as they should, or we wouldn’t need moms and dads at all, would we?), and our own dreams and desires take a back seat. We quiet the voice pushing us to take risks and I believe it happens very organically. To afford our children that ability to launch STRONG, we encourage their bravery while protecting them from real risk and consequence.
What message, though, does it ultimately send to our kids to put our own lives on hold while they launch?
With the birth of my second child, my company restructured and I took the voluntary severance. I desperately wanted to be home with my kids and felt guilty about working full time. Not much time passed before I did playgroups, planned zoo classes, chaired the parent board of the preschool (the best pre-school, of course, to give my boys the competitive edge that every ubermom believes is critical to proper Kindergarten placement), and became the high-achieving crafter I thought I should be to succeed in this mom thing 110%. To ensure my kids had it all, but also to connect with adults and use my gifts.
I’ve seen it in plenty of dads too. From peewee soccer coaches yelling from the sidelines to dads arranging private pitching lessons for their progeny, parenting became competitive and we pursued our kids’ success.
Why? Why was it SO important to achieve in volunteerism and why is it SO competitive?
For my part, it caused guilt to want something for myself still. Here I was as a stay-at-home mom (the thing I wanted SO badly) and I still wanted something more. MY dreams had gone quiet. My life was MUTED.
To make matters worse, Himself was busting his a$$ during those years. He worked crazy hours trying to make partner at his firm. He has ALWAYS supported my dreams, and often pushed them more than I was prepared to in those years. I started a direct sales business at that time. It supported some projects around the house and gave me the opportunity to learn and grow without affecting the delicate balance of our home and family.
This story isn’t unique to my family. Whether it’s ballet, Kumon, private music lessons—we in suburbia invest it all into our kids. And let’s be HONEST folks—the parents who prioritize their OWN interests are often judged as selfish.
I want MORE
Have you seen the new HBO series, “Big Little Lies?” I guess the whole world (except me) read this book, but I now adore and obsess over these characters. The story is over the top, but these women all seem somehow familiar. This past week’s episode included a scene where Nicole Kidman’s character (a former lawyer, now SAH mom of twins and a shell of her former self) fights city hall in a freedom of expression hearing. Here’s the clip from just after the hearing (language warning):
Kidman’s anxiety and guilt while sharing that she enjoyed a grownup moment and pursuit of her passion is gut-wrenching for anyone who has ever felt the same.
What if we didn’t mute ourselves for so many years? Would the kids really suffer to see mom and dad having their own life/hobbies/careers? Have you ever asked your kids?
Turn it UP
About a year ago, Tbone challenged me to join the adult rock band where HE takes music lessons. For months I fought him and declined to go (having not performed since high school). One evening he said to me, “Mom, you have nothing going on tonight. Dad is home to hang out with us. The weather is good and you don’t have a cold. You have run out of excuses JUST GO and try it. You never let me be afraid to try new things, and I’m not going to let you be scared of this.”
Our kids watch everything we do. If we shrink from challenges, if we MUTE our own lives, why should they be brave and bold?
Afraid it will shake up the family too much? Remember, your spouse most likely fell in love with your bigger, dreamier persona. Turning up the volume on HER may breathe life back into the marriage too. Soon it will be just the two of you again, so make sure you have something worth “listening to” as empty nesters.