Every morning, when I drop my nearly 10-year-old twin boys to school and every other afternoon when they’re not in the after-school program and I get to pick them up because I’m not working late, I see you. I’m the mom you talk about.
When you see me wearing heels and makeup at 8:30 a.m. as I drop my kids to school on the way to work, you don’t see an entrepreneur who started a business from scratch. You don’t see the barriers I’m trying to break every day in an industry where there are very few women at the helm and even fewer women of color.
You don’t see me struggle every day to fight stereotypes and to keep my business alive and thriving. I work harder in four hours than most people do in eight. But you don’t see that. You don’t see me working late at night because my days were hectic, like most moms, and I am consumed with guilt that my kids didn’t come home until 6 p.m. three times this week and I need to make that extra effort to be the mom they deserve.
You don’t see me cook for five hours on Sunday and freeze home-cooked meals so my family eats well throughout the week, because most days I don’t have time to cook. You don’t see me rush to and from evening activities as I sit in the car and send emails (when you own your own business, there are no 9-to-5 hours). You don’t see me go to the gym at 8 p.m. because that’s the only time in the day I can work out and I consider that “me time” so no matter how tired I am, I will drag my ass to the gym and work out, but you don’t see that.
You don’t see the many moments of self-doubt and exhaustion I experience daily, as a mom, employer, wife, daughter, sister or friend. You talk about how easy I have it being the owner of my own company, setting my own hours and getting to play dress-up every day and having a job I love with a passion (which I do — I love every bit of it and I consider myself one lucky duck because it’s my passion and I can’t believe I get to go to work there every day).
But what you don’t see is a woman who stayed at home until her kids began school full time and she realized she felt empty and unfulfilled and she needed to do more – be more than a stay-at-home mom. I say that with deep reverence for stay-at-home moms – that job kicked my butt, it’s tougher than any I’ve known (and I went through 5 years of infertility struggles, so I know something about tough situations). Devoting yourself to taking care of your family and feeling content in that choice demands a special kind of mettle, one that I’m not made of. I have worked since I was 16. I stopped working when I had my twins and being home with them for four years was about as much as I could take without completely losing myself.
When you see me, you don’t see my journey. You don’t see the woman who struggled to get pregnant, moving through a long and arduous journey that luckily ended up with two wonderful boys. You don’t see the woman who at 5’5”, weighed 200 pounds after the birth of her kids and went from being a happy, confident, outgoing person to an almost-recluse who was barely keeping her head above water because she immersed herself so deep in motherhood that she lost herself. You don’t see the woman who lost her identity as anything but a mom, because becoming a mom had come at a great price to her. She was determined to be the best damn mom there was and let everything else fall to the wayside.
But hindsight is 20/20 and today, 10 years after the birth of my sons, I have the distance and clarity to see that in losing myself then, I didn’t do myself, my kids, or my husband any favors. If anything, I short-changed them. They missed out on a woman who is dynamic, fierce, lively and interesting because she gave up on any aspect of her life that didn’t directly involve being a mother.
But I am more than a mother, more than the relationships and roles I play and own. I am a woman. Just like you. But you don’t see that. You don’t see the work I put in as the head of the parent council in the school where our kids go. You don’t see me volunteer my time and skills that I use to serve other parents in our community who are struggling either because they are new to the country or they have other struggles and barriers that I understand because I’ve been there as an immigrant, as someone who didn’t grow up here, who didn’t know a thing until my own kids started school and then I decided to get involved, volunteer, learn more about a system my kids were now a part of.
None of what you see has come easy or just happened to me. I work damn hard for the life I live and the image I project. So let me just say, mom to mom, woman to woman, talk about me or don’t, but know that I hear you. I see you. If you really saw me, you’d see a woman you would probably relate to, on many levels, and see that our lives as moms aren’t really all that different.