I am proud of my kids for so many reasons.
They are empathetic, independent, and funny. They saunter through their days with unshakable intention and tenacious curiosity. They make my heart burst in the most wonderful ways.
Sometimes I wonder if they will be proud of me when they are old enough to understand the feeling of the word, if not the meaning.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve become more and more secure. I know what I like and what I don’t. I dress my body, say the words, and stand up for the things in life that fit my definition of happiness. Yet, one thing that has nagged at me is my job, the work I do to support my family.
Until I became a stay-at-home mom 18 months ago, I owned a cleaning business called OCD Cleaning Services. In simple and factual terms, I was a house cleaner. I cleaned other people’s toilets and floors. I stripped their beds, picked cooked food off the walls of their microwaves, and took out their trash. I was described as a maid, cleaning lady, housekeeper, and — my favorite — house angel.
As my kids get a little older, they will understand the tasks of the job I did for almost 10 years because I will require them to pitch in and help with the daily maintenance of our own home. But will they be proud to tell their friends that their mama cleaned houses for families other than their own?
I started my business before I had kids, mostly because I was miserable at my office job, but also because I wanted more time to write. Now that I have kids, I realize how much time I actually had to do said writing, but my unhappiness sapped my creative energy and motivation.
Being a trustworthy and hardworking business owner reenergized me. I began to write more, I was published a few times, and I still have the $5 bill which signifies the first monetary gain from my early writing success. The goal was to be a full-time writer, so that writing could pay the bills and my soul. I was halfway there.
My partner and I had one child, and then we had two more. My writing gigs became more consistent but it was still considered a hobby. Minimally paid writing was not considered real work by the IRS. But I felt successful because I was doing what I loved. I was nurturing the drive in my heart and burn in my belly that begs me to sit in front of a blank screen with a blinking cursor waiting for me to start a new draft.
When I shut down my cleaning business and stayed home with my twins, I was terrified. My oldest daughter left for school each morning and didn’t understand why I wasn’t going to work. She didn’t know that staying home each day was the hardest work I had ever done. My twins didn’t understand any needs other than their own, and few people know how lonely and exhausting being a full-time parent can be.
None of my children knew that I was out of bed every day at 5:30 a.m. or awake until 1:00 a.m. to write reviews for children’s products for $10 an article. This money paid for ballet and swim lessons; it kept me working toward my dream.
Nor did they know that on the days I couldn’t sit down at my computer to finish assignments or purge my head of thoughts, I felt like I was suffocating. Until I was able to chip away at what I needed to do to reach my definition of success, I couldn’t breathe.
Even with this struggle, will my kids be proud of me when they tell their friends that their mama stayed home to take care of them?
I have called myself a writer for 17 years. It has only been two years since my work has been accepted more than rejected, and every piece I publish now comes with a paycheck. I have unfinished manuscripts, ideas waiting to be explored, and a fear of not accomplishing enough in my lifetime. I fear regret more than anything else. I never want to look back and wish I had worked harder, feel like I missed an opportunity, or wonder if I had done everything I could to reach my goals. This fear I have is comforting. It means I have a passion that is solely mine. We all need something that is ours. We need something that fuels us and bleeds into all of the pieces of life that make us whole.
There is a lot I don’t do as well as I should. And on my best day, I don’t feel like I will ever be good enough. But I am focused. I am setting an example for my kids. If I am not working toward my definition of success, I am not breathing. I am not happy.
Will my kids be proud of me when they tell their friends that their mama is a writer?
I hope so. If my kids get up early to see me working, I am in pajamas, sipping coffee, and staring blankly at a computer screen between bursts of typing. None of this is glamorous, but it would mean a hell of a lot to me to hear a bit of pride in their voices when they tell people what I do.
Why? Because writing is more white collar than blue? Because it implies intellect and education? Because our society is more obsessed with fame, fortune, and the next reality star than putting in a hard day of physical work to make ends meet?
The answers to these questions are varied and tough for me to articulate. But on the spectrum of yes to no, they would fall closer to yes than no. My kids won’t and don’t need to fully understand the sacrifices my partner and I make for them until they are much older, if ever. But I do want them to understand the value of hard work.
While writing can be hard work — it’s certainly not as hard as cleaning houses all day — it’s the work I have put into having the job I love the most, the job that is the easiest to keep going back to, that I hope they appreciate.
Will my kids be proud of me? I hope so. Because despite my insecurities, I have always followed my heart. And nothing will make me prouder than if they do the same.