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Mothers from previous generations have been known to comment that we mothers today have lost our minds. We treat our children like projects. We helicopter and snowplow and obsess about creating magic and memories every single day.

The criticism is probably valid. But here’s the thing: I’m all in on motherhood. I’m not convinced it’s the best way or the only way, and I recognize it may come at a cost. I sometimes feel I’ve lost myself in this enterprise called motherhood. On the days I never make it out of yoga pants and a t-shirt. On rare occasions, I put some effort into my hair and makeup and see the shock in my children’s eyes at my altered appearance.

But I don’t know how to do it any other way.

My kids are pretty well-adjusted, but they all have tendencies toward introversion, sensitivity, and anxiety. I recognize it and understand it well—because they probably get it from me. I’ve struggled to leave them at preschool and with sitters. If the environment wasn’t a great fit, the results were disastrous. Handwringing, anxious eyes, furrowed brows, and tears. Begging not to go the next day. And even in a classroom suited to their temperament where they thrive—coming home exhausted, eager for the peace and quiet of home. 

Would they survive long hours in an environment that was likely over-stimulating and draining? Would they survive in someone else’s care, someone who maybe didn’t understand them so completely? Of course. But I don’t want to ask that of them at a tender age.

Then there’s the selfish piece. So many hours are spent at school, and the months and years fly by. I’m soaking up the time with my youngest in her last year before kindergarten. Next year all three will be in school. Those fleeting hours outside of school—I want that time with them. They often open up about their day on the ride home from school. At home with me, they’re able to tackle homework after school without a lot of stress. I have the time and bandwidth to keep tabs on school happenings, academic and otherwise.

There’s an element of self-preservation at work here, too. I loved my full-time career, but I found it all-consuming. I know there wouldn’t be much left for the kids if I went back to it. As it is, I savor the silence of an empty house, for a few hours every week. I find it recharging and energizing. I can manage the home front and the kids’ needs, leaving our weekends for family time.

I don’t helicopter or snowplow. My kids are learning to manage their own successes and failures. But outside of school, I want to provide them with the refuge they seek.

My mother often wasn’t able to provide that for me. She did her best, juggling work demands and parenting. As a kid, I remember thinking I had two moms. The mom in work clothes with makeup applied and styled hair. She was often harried and short-tempered. And the mom without makeup in a slouchy t-shirt and shorts. This was the mom who had time to read me a book and take a close look at the art project I was crafting. I’ll forever be proud of my mother’s professional successes. But I would’ve loved more time with slouchy mom.

I’m thankful for part-time and work-from-home and freelance opportunities. Most of our mothers didn’t have that. I’ve found freelance work that allows me to keep a toehold in the workforce. I occasionally mourn the professional path I abandoned. And I sometimes wonder what putting on a suit and heels on the regular would feel like. 

But I’m all in on motherhood, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

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Joanna Owusu

Joanna McFarland Owusu is a freelance writer and editor. A federal government analyst in a former life, Joanna now spends her days wrangling two tween-age sons and a preschool daughter.

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