Getting Off The “Mommy Track” I Didn’t Know I Was On
Twenty-one years ago on April Fool’s Day (no joke!), I birthed my first daughter — Morgan Elena. Of course, no matter how many birthing anecdotes you hear and birthing classes you take, you don’t *really* know what you’re in for until that first contraction. Twenty-three hours later, I found that I had both reserves of untapped strength and the potential for madness if pushed too far. If anything is both empowering and humbling at the same time, it is childbirth.
In another seven months my second daughter — Phoebe Amelita – will turn 18. It was the occasion of her birth that had me make a move into the freelance/solopreneur space. Like many life-altering decisions, I didn’t know at the time how much of my life would be defined by this choice. It simply felt like the right thing to do – and so I did it.
It never felt to me like I had chosen a “mommy“ track. I never felt like a victim of my circumstances, or like what I was doing was somehow “less than” what I would be doing otherwise – or what anyone else was doing. That just isn’t how I had it.
In those early years I was a freelance copywriter which turned out to be quite lucrative. And my major in college was creative writing/English and literature – so I was even “working in my field.” Kinda! (Poetry, then and now, doesn’t pay the bills.)
Over time, I began mentoring and coaching newcomers to the field. A second thread of my life experience has been working with individuals and groups – teaching, training, facilitating, and leading in areas of social justice, and personal and professional development. So it felt natural to eventually make the shift into my current business. Once again, without any awareness that I was still “mommy tracking“ myself. My identity as a professional has always been as solid as my identity as a parent.
I share all this to say that no one has been more surprised than me to notice the sensation of completion I’ve been feeling this past year. As if my “mommy track” has come to an end, and it’s time for a new chapter.
Every step of the past 17 years has felt guided by my passion. Has felt like my choice. Of course, I expected to feel a lot in this next window — but feeling “complete” was unexpected.
Do I shut everything down? Ditch all these years and everything I’ve created? Everything I’m in the middle of creating? Has it all been more pastime than profession?
What is this feeling??? Perhaps the sister of postpartum, postparentum.
I won’t lie. It’s been terrifying. First, because I am not even close to completion of my parenting liabilities (can you say college x 2?!)
But perhaps more jarring has been the reckoning with my soul, which has been telegraphing me the message that I have merely been on loan to these children. And it’s time to get back to work.
WTF? Back to work? What have I been doing?
I had a primary mandate to bring these children into the world, and to heal and re-route the trajectory of my ancestors through this act of parenting. I knew this from my early 20s and it is probably the most faithful I have ever been to a commitment in my life.
But it is far from my only mandate – which I have also known since my early 20s if not earlier. This second mandate is a lot less clear but no less important.
All of the threads that I’ve woven into my practice – social justice, sexual liberation, embodiment, creativity, aliveness – have been part of this mandate. But I’ll admit, I’ve been slightly less faithful to this soul calling. And now, I find myself out of excuses. I can no longer use my first mandate of parenting as an excuse to do less of my second mandate.
But this birth has been completely different from the first two! And while there is a fairly reliable map for parenting (even though you stumble through the woods alone in the dark plenty!) the path for this has been a lot less linear.
Several times I thought I was on it – only to be presented with an insurmountable obstacle or a dead end, and have had to adjust. I thought that I had to be able to see the end to make my way through the middle. It turns out that’s not true, or even possible. All I really have to do is collect breadcrumbs. One after another, trusting that each one will bring me closer to a goal that remains elusive, but undeniably strong in its signal.
So after many months of silent contemplation, of false starts and painful ends, of fantasizing about “retiring” (whatever that is), of wrestling with midlife changes, of transitioning from mother to matriarch, and still hearing a call — there’s more — I’m starting to follow the breadcrumbs to see what wants to be born next.
It’s so tempting to wait for a ta-da moment. To unveil a shiny object and hear you ooh and aah. It’s vulnerable to pull back the curtain and reveal myself tinkering in the workshop. But I’m convinced (as I’ve always been) that I’m not alone. And that when I let you see behind the curtain, you realize that you’re not alone either. And that maybe, if I share the steps of my transition, and my willingness to follow breadcrumbs, you’ll feel emboldened to do the same in your own life.
Clearing my head space: I’ll be communicating more here than on social media. I’m trying to quit. Or at least cut back. It doesn’t bring me joy. It doesn’t bring me clients. It steals my time and energy. And I’m pretty sure it’s even robbing me of productivity...and maybe IQ points!
More writing, less marketing: Ten years on Facebook has trained me to think in posts. This felt so liberating when it began. So easy to say something and share it. BOOM! It also got me off the hook of publishing more, writing longer, deeper pieces, and sharing more edgy, controversial material. It doesn’t feel like the right container anymore. What once felt expansive now feels constrained and stale.
And the pressure to constantly enroll clients in what’s become a very crowded field has taken the joy, and maybe even some of the truth, out of my writing. Has made it more marketing, less fire. In an effort to be a “brand” that people could readily understand and easily follow, I’ve felt more and more constrained and less and less creatively free.
Pause public events: I truly love all the group work I do — but it comes at a great cost, both in time and resources. As Maxine Waters said, I’m reclaiming my time! Instead of self-producing, I will be doing more speaking and presenting at other people’s events and conferences so I can reach more people with less effort and investment. (If you are connected with any groups that host events or retreats, drop me a line! And I’ll be sharing more of what I’m offering in that space soon.)
Focus on individual clients: Pausing public events gives me more space to focus on my work with individual clients — which feels really decadent and fun for me. The only event I will continue to self-produce is one annual client retreat. This year’s is in San Diego in August 1-4. (If you want to attend it’s not too late to become a client!! Check out my new Pulse Plus Program.)
Feed my head: And last but not least, it’s time to head back to the classroom. This time, as student. I’ve been accepted into the fall cohort of Arcadia University’s International Peace and Conflict Resolution Master’s Program!
What finally became clear is that all the years I’ve spent working solo is what I have completed. That has been my “mommy track.” Working alone and independently gave me the freedom I needed to always put my children first, while also providing the resources I needed to raise them.
But the next iteration of my work will take place inside a larger container, among colleagues, on a different scale and stage, and hopefully, for a greater impact in more of the areas that I care about and believe I can influence.
I’m equal parts excited and terrified about these changes. As it should be! And it feels good to be sharing it with you.
I hope you’ll hang in for the ride, and maybe even join me as either collaborator, client or co-conspirator. I truly believe that all of the work I’ve done over the years has been leading me to this place, and that what grows from this petri dish will be of value and service. And I also know that I continue to attract powerful and insightful people around me. I can’t wait to see how that combination might unfold.
I also want to encourage you to listen closely to whatever your soul might be whispering in your ear. I can tell you first hand — you can only press pause for so long! Eventually the whisper gets louder, until you finally have to sit up, pay attention and act.
Take courage. You are not alone. We are all in this together. Looking for our place. My guess is, it’s closer then you think.