On Being a Student-Mother, or Simply a Woman
** Warning: This piece is on gender equality. May be triggering so decide accordingly**
This morning, I woke up at 5:30AM to get ready for my last class of the semester, which takes place 6AM on Friday mornings every other week. This practicum has been running for almost a year, and I absolutely love what it brings in and out of me. It teaches me how to do my part in supporting schools founded on compassion and understanding, it teaches me about how to become a better mother, it teaches me about the simple respect for one another despite our differences. It also teaches me that supportive, loving women circles do exist. It runs for 2 hours straight. So by the time it finishes, my kids are already out of the house, and well on their way to school. Who’s responsible for the kids during this time? My loving husband. I am so grateful for my partner in so many aspects of my life, father of my children, my confidante and anchor.
After class, as I poured myself an ice-cold coffee, I suddenly felt guilty for having such a quiet house to myself. I felt guilty for having had 2 hours of uninterruptedness of my favorite class. I imagined my husband frantically taking care of the kids from waking them up to preparing breakfast to changing their clothes and just hauling ass while I joyfully meditated with my teacher and colleagues, followed by a luscious cup of brewed coffee. Yes, we don’t have help at home. It’s just the four of us, plus 4 other animal babies.
As guilt came up, comments from other people in the past started circulating in my mind. Wow, your husband is so amazing for doing this. He’s okay with it? He lets you go to school? That's unheard of. Still learning to practice nonjudgement, I allowed the feelings to come up - breathing into the tightening of my heart.
Then, I came straight back to my laptop. My heart needed to be heard.
Since I got into my grad program, It’s funny that the first thing many respond with after asking what I've been up to is a quick dismissive congratulations followed by a lingering 5-minute guilt-trip on the “poor husband of mine.” How is he doing? They ask. You’re so lucky, he’s so supportive of you. Sometimes they feel the need to go further. How are the kids handling it? It must so hard on them. For a while, I used to immediately agree with their statements, justifying how great my husband is and how insane this arrangement has been for my kids. But as time passed, I started getting angry at myself because that’s not what’s happening nor how I truly see it.
Of course I am lucky. I’m grateful, and continue to be grateful, for my partner no matter what. In my mind, we are a team - as parents, for the business that we've built together, for our own individual families - with everything in life. Sure, we've made many big mistakes along the way, but we continue to make it work as we grow together on this life journey. I got so upset thinking about my conditioned response as well as the conditioned questioning of others. Why is a mother, let alone a woman, required to ask permission to enjoy what fills her heart, especially if it’s for the greater good of her family?
Why is a mother, let alone a woman, required to ask permission to enjoy what fills her heart, especially if it’s for the greater good of her family?
If it’s not obvious, I’ve clearly thought this through and worked out my decision of grad school together with my family, including my four-year-old. This decision affects me most actually, as it is an addition on top of my existing responsibilities as a mom, wife, daughter, sister, employer, not to mention all the internal fires I have to put out to make it all work. But I went for it anyway, knowing the consequences, scaling back and adjusting where needed. Again, together, with my family.
How much do husbands, dads, men have to “take” specifically when it comes to traveling for work/vocation and sacrificing family time? My own dad was never around, and it was the norm then. I still see it these days (before COVID), where dads traveled every week while the wives raised their kids. Perhaps they also feel many mixed emotions about leaving their families, but usually they're not publicly blamed for this conditioned norm. In no way am I undermining men’s hard work and the responsibilities they have to carry, but why do women have to take on that automatic guilt of seemingly not living up to our expected responsibility as wives/mothers when we also have aspirations? When he’s out, I take over. When I’m out, he takes over. We're talking about mentally, physically, emotionally. When we’re all together, we are present with our family, enjoying each other in the moment. Why is it still the norm to hold SHAME for a mother to a be “whole” woman?
A woman is not just a mother. A woman is not just a wife. A woman is a person with physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual needs that is unique to each individual. It’s triggering to have to explain myself in the context at this day and age.
I simply want to put the notion out there for all humankind today, especially as we step into Mother's Day weekend. Whether one identifies as a woman or a man, no matter where we are from, look inside ourselves and ask what it is that we want out of our limited time here? There are aspects in our lives that are uncontrollable, but we have choices in how to make use of that space in between. I’d say don’t ever regret our decisions when it comes to taking care of our souls. We sure don’t owe an explanation to anyone (unless one feel like its necessary like me right now). This right here is simply a reminder that our well thought-out heart decision-making are always loved, by ourselves, and that is enough.
I hope to continue practice non-judgement, encouragement, and compassion for one another in this heavily competitive, linear world we live in. I do believe the physical quarantine of COVID has highlighted many uncomfortable aspects of all of our lives and the daily responsibilities we carry as a man or as a woman as we're forced to be inside together. For me, it more so brings appreciation and gratitude for one another as I witness each person for their individuality. And I appreciate you for reading my rant. I felt like it had to be said. Thank you and Happy Mother’s Day!