I realized that I’d be in the midst of a Mommy War a few seconds after my son Norrin was born. While the nurse was wiping him clean, she asked me if I planned on breastfeeding.
Before I could answer, my mother said, “Oh no, she doesn’t have the time for that.”
Then the nurse and my mother argued for the next few minutes over breastfeeding and whether or not it was the right thing for me.
While I was on maternity leave, everyone asked who would watch the baby if I went back to work. I knew staying at home with him would not be an option. We could not live on a single salary.
The search for childcare was stressful. We couldn’t afford a nanny and we didn’t have any family or friends nearby. The one place we loved was too expensive and too far from our apartment. I worried for weeks, feeling like a failure for not being able to afford the best, and wondering why I was opposed to staying at home with my son.
Fortunately, I was able to leave Norrin with a neighbor and I returned to work in May when he was three months old. And by September, I was back in school determined to complete my Bachelor’s degree in English.
The spring I was to graduate, I began applying to Masters of Fine Arts programs. It was also the spring Norrin was being evaluated for autism. Two weeks before I graduated, Norrin was diagnosed. And I sat through my graduation ceremony, crying. Not because I was proud of achieving a dream fifteen years in the making, but because I felt guilty. How could I be so selfish?
I questioned every single decision I had made from the point of conception to the present day. What if I breastfed? What if I stayed home with Norrin? What if I didn’t go to school? Would my son still have autism?
Once again, people asked if I would continue working or if I would continue school now that Norrin needed all of these services. But instead of thinking about how I could stay home, I was determined to keep moving forward with my education. And the only way I could continue school was if I continued working.
I spent that summer researching, fighting for services, and working with therapists who could accommodate a working family’s schedule. By that September, Norrin started an Early Intervention preschool program and I started graduate school.
Friends and family asked me about my plans after I finally graduate. Was I going to look for another job? Would I make more money? Explaining my degree was a personal goal was hard for them to understand. And it’s hard not to question my own decisions when I’m feeling judged.
I have spent the last seven years taking classes in the evening (sometimes on the weekends) after working a full day. I’ve spent many evenings at home, reading, doing homework, and writing papers. All the time I was focused on my education, I was taking time away from my family. And these last few weeks, as I’m in my final semester, I’ve been struggling to keep up with work, school, blogging, and my kid. My weekends have been so busy writing I’ve had no time with Norrin. And I’ve felt incredible guilty, questioning if it’s all worth it. Wondering if I’ve just wasted my time all these years.
And what I realized was that with every doubt, I questioned whether I was worth it.
I have no beef with any moms who choose the breast over a bottle. I don’t care if you’re a SAHM, WAHM, WOHM. Or if you’re Tiger, Helicopter, Attachment or Free Range mom. I want no part of those mommy wars. Every mom should be able to make their own choices for their family – without any judgment.
The only mommy I’m at war with is myself. And I am long overdue for a peace talk. This is what I would say:
Autism is not my fault. I am doing the very best that I can. I am not selfish for wanting to work outside of the home and it does not mean I love my son any less. I am not selfish for wanting to go to school. I have not wasted my time. Even in my ‘selfishness,’ I have acted selflessly. Because everything I have done has been for Norrin. I believe he is worth it. And Norrin needs a mom who believes she’s worth it too.
Are you due for a peace talk? What would you tell yourself?
See what fellow Babble bloggers have to say on Raising America about the mommy wars below:
We’re continuing this conversation all this week, because we want that lasting peace, dammit. Read more posts on this subject in this section all week (you can start with Catherine’s kick-off post.) And tune in to HLN’s Raising America (12:30 EST) to watch The Mommy Wars: the Peace Talks, a 5 day collaboration with HLN’s Raising America aimed at wrestling this so-called ‘war’ into peaceful submission.
For more on ‘leaning in’, and for buckets of inspiration toward being intentional and empowered in our choices (motherhood-related or otherwise) and our lives (including inspiring stories from many Babble bloggers that you know and love), visit the Lean In community. And maybe join the Lean In community. It’s a movement for all of us.
Read more of Lisa’s writing at AutismWonderland.