When I was in high school, I was convinced that I’d remain single, own a beautiful apartment in Manhattan and save lives as a neurosurgeon. When I started college, I changed my career goal. Realizing that I wasn’t cut out to deal with life and death situations on a daily basis, I was convinced I’d become a diplomat and live a life of adventure in exotic locales.
And then I met my future husband during junior year abroad in Paris. We stayed together as we completed our respective studies and I moved back to France after receiving my degree. We lived together in Paris for several years, got married, quit our jobs and moved to the States, thinking we’d stay for a couple of years. And here we are, 16+ years later, living in the suburbs of New York, with two beautiful daughters.
I am not a neurosurgeon. I am not a diplomat. I am a once-practicing lawyer and legal marketing executive, who recently decided to relinquish a six-figure income in order to focus on being a mom. If someone had asked the younger me 25 years ago if this would be my life at 44, the younger me would have scoffed. Never in a million years would I have predicted such a future for myself.
But life has a way of taking us by surprise and sending us down paths we don’t expect. My mom tragically lost her dad at a very young age and was raised with her two siblings by an alcoholic mother who didn’t quite know how to be a mom. And yet my mom figured it out on her own. She’s always been a terrific mother – supportive, loving, smart, positive. She and my dad treated my brother and me with respect growing up, encouraging our independence and having faith in our ability to figure out things for ourselves, even if we sometimes got hurt in the process.
She taught my brother and me to follow our dreams regardless of how ridiculous our dreams might have seemed to her. When I hopped on a plane the day after graduating from college to return to France to be closer to my future husband, she was heartbroken. But she didn’t show her disappointment at my leaving; rather, she kissed and hugged me good-bye and remained a steadfast cheerleader while I lived and worked as a young American in France with almost nothing to my name except big dreams.
She also went through some hard times with my dad and after he tragically died 13 years ago, my mom had to fill his shoes as well. Although my brother and I were already adults by then, I sorely missed his counsel. And although my mom and I have always been close, he was generally the one sought out to discuss my career. Suddenly, my mom was thrust into the position of listening to me drone on and on about choosing a law firm, being unhappy as a lawyer, transitioning into legal marketing, struggling to balance a career and mommyhood…it could not have been easy for her to hear.
I was approaching the age of my father when he died and I was scared. He worked and worked and worked, and was so stressed it most certainly played a part in his fatal heart attack. And I was afraid I was starting to head down the same path. I didn’t want to live my life that way. And during those challenging years, my mom listened and advised, and helped to convince me (along with my husband) to finally give notice and relinquish the paycheck.
So here I am today – it’s my first Mother’s Day where no other job defines me right now except for being a mom (and a wife). I’m trying to be as good a mom to my girls as my mom has been to my brother and me. And I’m hoping that Chloe and Sophie will continue to manifest as adults the wonderful qualities they’ve already started to display as children – independence, intelligence, creativity, empathy, humor.
Life is full of challenges large and small. Some of us have prematurely lost loved ones, suffered health setbacks, struggled with career choices, encountered financial woes. We work our way through the hard times, in the hope that they will lead to brighter days. And don’t get me wrong, it is work. Doing what we think is best for our families and ourselves is never a passive act. My experience has taught me that stagnation is so much easier than change, which can be heart-wrenching and nerve-wracking and so rewarding, all at the same time.
Tomorrow my mom and I leave for Peru. I can’t think of a better way to commemorate the bonds of motherhood and the magic that is our lives.