I have to stop going there (the self-help aisle). All those well-meaning books, with shiny and optimistic titles, practically leaping from the shelf and into my hand really screw with my head. With promises that if I do what I love life will be grand, and that if I think positive thoughts abundance and good health will flood into my cold-hard reality, I leave the aisle at first with a resolve that mirrors my determination on the morning of January 1 (insert any year here) and a just-watch-me attitude.
Doesn't last long, though. Perhaps it's my innate nature, but I come back to what I've known all along: that if I do what I truly love, I make no money. There's plenty of outlay, of course, far past the everyday expenses of daily life. But no revenue stream in the other direction. Why? Because being a mom pays nothing.
I never thought I'd utter these words, but I love being a mom. I love creating a happy, warm home that welcomes family and friends with open arms and tasty treats. I love being there for friends whenever they need a strong shoulder, a sympathetic ear or a swift kick in the rear. I love nurturing others, sharing their stories and celebrating with them when life is good.
The benefits of what I love are unbeatable and full circle; they encompass the rush of making a difference in someone else's life, the warm and fuzzies of knowing that my kids love me and love to be at home, and the personal satisfaction of creating something–an environment, a dish, an experience– that makes others happy. Problem is, I've yet to find a place that sends me a check every week or two for being a great mom. Seeing Alexis Stewart give interviews to promote her new book (I'm not linking here on purpose….just watching her makes me sad) about how her mom–the Queen of all things domestic–was, in real life, a terrible mother only reinforces the reality: success isn't what you do, but how much you make.
The advice that career coaches employ when they guide client on how to negotiate salaries, 'you get paid not for the hour, but for the value you bring to the hour', stings when it comes to motherhood. The value mothers bring to each hour? Priceless. Yet unpaid. Undervalued. Overlooked. This isn't news to anyone, I know. Doesn't mean it's not real, though.
So, instead of doing what I love, I live my own daily version of what I like to call the Single Mom Shuffle. Remember Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally when he said he does the 'white man's overbite'? Similar to the Single Mom Shuffle in my mind; we go through the motions, even when we don't feel it, in pursuit of a goal. His was to get laid; mine is to support a family.
It's not that I don't enjoy my work. I love listening, connecting and helping others not only admit they have great big hairy dreams but helping them get there. I love telling their stories and promoting their products. Problem is, I'm always doing that for other people. My kids? They get me when I'm not working. Myself? Definitively even less so. Someone asked me the other day when my book was going to be done; it's embarrassing to admit that I haven't worked on it all year. All freakin' year. Because business comes first. Keeping my promises to my clients comes first. That concept of balance that we're all looking for is completely out of whack in my world. Is it because I don't have a partner to diffuse the work load? Maybe. Is it because I just haven't mastered it yet? Probably. Whatever the reason–and if we're honest, we'll acknowledge that the reasons shift as often as the weather in Kansas–it's a reality many other single moms share with me.
So that self-help aisle will have to live without me, at least for the time being. Because, quite honestly, I can't handle any more broken promises or fizzled dreams. I have hands to hold, fairy stories to read and cupcakes to bake.