Children: Conner, 18, and Duncan, 11
Career status: Homemaker
Marital status: 22 years married to Darc, a director of engineering
Hometown: Kitchener, Ontario
What is a typical motherhood day like for you?
My typical day is never typical, but I think that’s what I like about it right now. I volunteer at Duncan’s school and at church events. I’m on the school council as treasurer, but I also help out in the office. My “typical” day starts out at the computer about 7:00 a.m. where I answer emails or work on fliers, financial paperwork or event planning, which includes two silent auctions each year. My boys get up and eat their cereal while watching early morning cartoons so that is a quiet work time for me as we’re not a chatty morning clan! This year, my typical day also includes an 8:00 a.m. check-in phone call from my mom. My schedule has had to incorporate her and all her appointments and needs, like groceries, etc., and I’m finding it’s like I’ve added in another part-time job. I take Duncan to school about 9:00 a.m., but it’s rare that I just drop him off. I usually stay to see if anything needs doing. Duncan likes to join every school team there is so there are a few practices he stays late for and lots of day trips that I volunteer to help supervise and/or drive for. Duncan is done at 3:30 and there are days when I get to be at home and just work on things I want to do around the house but most of the time I’m at some “project” and the day zips by and it’s time to get him again. By 2:45 p.m., Conner is home and on the computer. On the Mom front, he’s pretty low maintenance until I find out he’s been slacking off at school. After school, Duncan does homework or plays while I avoid thoughts of making supper. It’s a time of day where I can talk to Darc on Messenger without interruptions before he leaves for home, and we get a lot of our husband/wife/Mom/Dad communicating done. The evenings fly by and I seem to run out of oomph right after supper. We all watch TV together or the boys will ask to play a family game. Winding down before Duncan’s bedtime involves snuggling on the couch, and I wouldn’t trade that for the world. I know my lifestyle right now is not conducive to being fit and healthy – too much time sitting at the computer and not eating right – but I can’t wrap my head around leaving the boys to go running like some of my friends do or spend an hour at a gym. That may be bad, but I figure I’ll have leftover time when they’re gone and I’ll deal then!
Is there any part of your life and/or element of your identity, pre-children, that you miss and have not been able to retain to some degree?
Being a stay-at-home mom has been the best choice of my life and I will never regret it but as with anything, there are things you lose to gain the bigger picture. Being a mom in general has put most of my “hobbies” on the back burner for years. I used to knit, cross-stitch and I’ve even scrapbooked on occasion but they all sit there half done for now! If I were to pick one thing that I have forfeited to be a stay-at-home-mom that I miss is the social aspect that comes with having a real job. It only hits me every so often, but seasonal things really point out how I am “sort of” part of the school but not “real” staff, like when I’m not included in the Secret Santa swap. I can usually handle feeling excluded, but some days it overwhelms me and I feel lonely and disconnected. My “mom” friends all have jobs so getting together with them can be challenging, which is why I drop everything and go whenever someone is available! We get together for a girl evening out once in awhile, but it’s a heck of a job getting everyone out with their different schedules.
I only worked for a few years when Conner was little, but it was a time in my life when I think that I was like a lot of new Moms and I was starting to lose Me within Mom – especially when Conner started in school and I became known as just “Conner’s Mom” most of the time! Staying connected with people who knew me as “pre-mom Cathy” helped to keep that piece of me from getting buried.
How do you balance your different roles and identities (mother, friend, wife, employee, etc.)?
Balance is an interesting word. I don’t know that I do a good job of balancing things but I try. I think Mom comes first, Friend second because all my friends seem to have some drama going on that I need to listen to or help with, and Volunteer is next. Wife always seems farther down the list. The top three shuffle positions on a daily and usually hourly basis, but I will stop what I’m doing to put Mom and Friend before Volunteer. I can switch gears at the drop of a hat and turn my focus to where I’m needed and know that in that moment, that person needs me and that, to them, this thing in their life is a priority and as a Friend/Mom, I have to make it my priority of the moment as well. I know that the paperwork I was working on will still be there in half an hour when I’ve helped my friend or I know that I can keep working on those things while on the phone being a listener. Too many people can’t set their own “stuff” down for five minutes and they see their friends drama as another item on their too-full plate. I see it as just picking up a different plate and setting one down for a few minutes – or holding one in my teeth while I scoop more onto the one I was filling when the phone call came! The trick is learning how to prioritize the “plates” that need attention so that nothing falls apart when the “as needed Friend/Mom plate” moments hit.
Why do you think it’s important not to lose sight of who you are as in individual?
I know I need to keep Me because one day my Mom side will have much less to do (since I don’t want to be a clinging parent who mothers her grown children too much!!), the Volunteer will evolve away from being a school mom volunteer or turn into a real job again in the real world, and I need to have something there of me to bring to the table.
What is your biggest struggle in balancing self and motherhood?
Not enough hours in the day! The list still having things on it at the end and having to start a new list the next day. I have to remind myself to just walk away from it sometimes and just go squish my boys on the couch because time doesn’t go back and you don’t get do-overs when they’re growing up so fast. I have to also remind myself to just make some quiet time for me to read a book or something that mellows me that doesn’t have a purpose for anyone else!
If you could ask other mothers for advice on any issue related to balancing self and motherhood, what would it be?
I think I only need help figuring out how to say NO!