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GIRLFRIENDS' GUIDE TO FAMILY

The Toughest Job You'll Ever Love --and Sometimes Barely Tolerate

May 14, 2000|VICKI IOVINE

Dear Vicki: I have been experiencing some really mixed feelings about being a mother. I would love to wake up on Mother's Day full of satisfaction with my life choices and congratulating myself on the great job I've done raising these kids, but I don't think that's going to happen.

I don't think I was cut out to be a full-time mom. I loved my career as a stockbroker and gave it up only because my third pregnancy made the logistics impossible. And I sometimes wonder why my husband even stays married to me. I fall asleep before we even talk about having sex, and I have about 15 pounds on me that he didn't marry.

Plus, I have to confess that I whine more than I wish I did about how hard I find mothering to be and how unsure I am about nearly 90% of the parenting decisions I make. Is there something wrong with me?

--SHORT ON MATERNAL INSTINCT

Dear Short on Instinct: Let me be the first to wish you a happy Mother's Day and to give you a little gift: You are not alone in your ambivalence about motherhood. Sometimes just saying the things that make us feel lower than a snake's belly frees us of those crummy sensations. You sound like you have just the right amount of maternal methane to run your family's engine, but you happen to be introspective enough to wonder if "that's all there is?" Well, Peggy Lee, the answer to that question is, yes, but sometimes there's more challenge, fulfillment and pure joy than any one heart can bear.

If you didn't find the challenge of learning to care for the physical and emotional well-being of your beloved kids so consuming, you could have birthed those babies and returned to your former life as the Babe of Wall Street years ago. But you didn't.

Becoming a mother isn't just a momentary lapse in our professional and emotional lives. Our priorities, our sense of self, our relationships with our mates and the sanctity of our bodies are forever altered by becoming somebody's mother. It's shocking, sure, and a little claustrophobic in its complete lack of spontaneity and freedom.

As real and significant as I, too, find these essential life changes, I have three words of advice: Get over it. Think of it as a dinner out at which you've ordered the lobster and everyone else's Dover sole looks much more appetizing. You can whine about your choice and envy theirs, but you'd be a fool. Lobster is a harder shell to crack and the butter sauce can be messy, but it's the ambrosia of the gods if you're willing not to be a wimp about the inconvenience.

Only you will know whether your former career can be resumed at some point. But if you are thinking that the universe respects stockbrokers more than full-time mothers, you're listening to the wrong universe. Choosing to commit a major part of your head and heart to raising the world's future is a solitary act of courage. Let me be a buttinksy here and remind you that you're on the cusp of gaining three bona fide friends in your kids.

*

It's painful to be a baby boomer. We were raised to believe that our greatest contributions were ourselves, and our measurement of success was limited to what we did with our own talents. Wrong, Girlfriend. We are strategically placed in this human chain to make our contributions directly through the children in whom we invest our hearts and ethics.

Today is your day to congratulate yourself, and your girlfriends, on learning the lesson of gratitude and faith. Gratitude for the opportunity to have a front-row seat from which to witness the passing of the wand of life, and faith in your ability to be a good enough woman to impart the necessary skills to your kids (and their friends) while expressing your true self (by the way, sex goes under this category!). You're big, you're strong, you're fierce in your love and you're humble enough to know that there comes a time to bow out and make room for your kids in the line of life dreamers.

Don't get me wrong! You definitely deserve breakfast in bed today, or at least a cup of coffee, and a present or two wouldn't hurt. But you've already won the big sweepstakes, Girlfriend: You are Woman. You are Mother. You are Earth's greatest heroine. We honor and love you.

*

Vicki Iovine has a special Mother's Day announcement--the debut of http://www.girlfriendsguide.com--that the columnist calls the ultimate survival guide for moms.

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