I posted an article to my Facebook page and there was quite a conversation that followed. I shared the article about Meghann Foye who believes that she should get a maternity leave even though she doesn’t have kids. She thinks that women without children should get the opportunity for space and time for self-reflection just like the moms who take maternity leave. You read that correctly. She thinks that parenthood offers flexibility that women without kids don’t have.
There’s a lot I disagree with in the article and for me it centers around categorizing the first 6 – 8 weeks as a new mom or a mom again as weeks that provide time for self-reflection and “a whole new lens through which to see their lives.” Sometimes this occurs, but women don’t sit down and take stock of their lives and write goals while sleep deprived, healing from delivering a baby and feeding baby around the clock. It just doesn’t happen quite like Foye thinks.
Here’s where I agree with her – we do need to take time to understand who we are and our purpose in life, however, this has nothing to do with maternity leave. This is basically what she was after: if I am not my job, then who am I? Am I more than the role I fill at work? Moms ask these kind of questions too – am I more than a cook, the launderer, the cleaner, the educator? The trader on wall street looks up at the tall buildings and wonders if this is all there is to life. The father exhausted from a 45-50 hour a week job comes home and plays with his kids, even though he is running on fumes, and wonders as he tickles the three-year-old if pursuing the next level in his career is what is right for him. We all wonder.
We all wrestle with self-doubt, as did Foye when she took her year and a half ‘meternity.’ Did you catch that? We all wrestle with self-doubt; the new mom, the single man chasing his dream, the corporate executive about to close a huge deal, the single woman spinning her wheels trying to be everything she is supposed to be, the college student about to graduate, the retired gentleman who wonders what is next. All of us wonder and no one will take maternity leave and use it for self-discovery and few will take a meternity leave, but we still must wrestle until we find the answers.
People everyday seek to understand their purpose on earth. We contemplate in the carpool lane, while flying to NYC for a business meeting or writing a song. Is this what I am here for? What am I meant to do on this earth? What am I supposed to do that only I can do? These are questions that moms, the career-driven single woman, and the factory worker approaching their 30th anniversary need to ask. We owe it to ourselves and our families and our communities to be the best we can be and so these questions must be asked – and answered.
I believe we can support each other in this. When we start comparing and listing the advantages to someone else’s life and set of circumstances, we turn away from the very question we are trying to answer. If this is self-discovery then it really has nothing to do with anyone else’s circumstances. We can find ways to encourage each other when we feel overwhelmed whether you are a working mom of 3, a homeschooler of one or a single woman with career ambitions. It’s not that hard to identify with someone who is asking the same questions I am. I can sympathize as you wrestle with tough questions as a career driven, single woman because I am still figuring out purpose in this new chapter with three kids in school.
I also believe that when you search for yourself – that’s what you will discover – yourself. It’s kind of like self-discovery in a mirror – what you think and feel is simply reflected back to you. It’s great to be tuned in to your own dreams, desires, and needs but I don’t think that I will find my purpose within myself. Here’s the danger: as a mom of three under the age of two there were draining days and hard weeks. I didn’t always like where I was and if I attempted self-discovery I would have looked in the mirror and said “This is too hard. You need a long vacation. This isn’t for you, maybe you aren’t meant for this.” However, I believe in all my heart that I was right where I was supposed to be – my purpose was clear to me – I am a mom and even when it’s hard (like yesterday), that’s a huge part of my purpose. My purpose is found through my relationship with God. He directs my steps, he knows the future and he knows me better than I know myself – he even numbers the hairs on my head! He has plans for me and so I go to him – outside of myself – to learn my purpose. This is where my confidence comes from.
We were meant to walk beside each other in this thing called life and sometimes that’s a challenging thing to do but I believe it is part of our purpose as humans. We can’t allow our differing circumstances to get in the way of being an encouragement to each other. We can reach out to people who differ from us. I like to think that if Foye and I sat down to coffee together we would realize that we are more similar than different. I believe we could encourage each other in the pursuit of the answers we are all looking for.