I was in Marketing Class for my MBA and we were learning about journey mapping- a process of drawing each step of the consumer experience in order to analyze the ups and downs. The idea is to use this framework to elicit consumer feedback and identify areas for product improvement.
To really grasp the concept, our study groups were given an hour to map the MBA experience from the standpoint of a “persona” that was based on one of the group members’ identities. Even though my group includes some incredible stories of how my fellow members, all men, came to the program- they really liked the idea of mapping the journey of the working mom… which we dubbed “mom on the go”. I was touched by their interest, and at the same reminded that I’m an endangered species. Working moms are small in number in business school programs.
As we got to work mapping the activities and emotions of the experience (from applying for the program to our first day of class) – I relived some of the highs and lows: There was the moment I first decided to apply and felt the rush of excitement in pursuing a long-held dream (high!) and the support of my husband who encourages me to pursue my career (high!). Then there was the price tag and the logistics of figuring out how to pay for school on a non-profit salary (low). There was the moment I was accepted and learned that I had been awarded a partial scholarship (high!) and then the moment I was handed a 10-lb corporate finance textbook in my welcome tote (low). Among many additional moments one stood out…a question that didn’t really sink in until after I had been accepted and made the decision (my emotions often follow my decisions, not precede them).
The question lurking to the surface was, “am I a bad mom?” Put another way: do good moms, given the choice to further subdivide their time when already working and raising young children, decide to add business school?
As I wrote the question down on a post it note and stuck it on the board in front of my colleagues I felt a lump rise in my throat. The reality is the language of “good” mom or “bad” mom is not helpful. I’m not either all the time. Good and bad are words from a fixed mindset, a perspective that says the world has two types and you can only be one and once you’re classified it’s hard to change. Good moms stay good and bad moms stay bad. Asking myself in the quiet moments whether or not I’m a “bad mom” is a false question.
Yet in the absence of a better question, this is the one I have asked myself – over and over and over again – since my first daughter was born over 6 six years ago. Such a question is exhausting, disheartening, and can even lead to feelings of grief and regret. I love my daughters with all that I am. In fact, I recently told an expecting mother in my MBA program that being a mom is the very best job in the whole world. But I also feel called to my work, and so the tension pulls at me as I keep trying to serve out love, productivity, instruction, leadership, and care-giving in big spoonfuls from a bucket with sometimes low supply. Some days it’s fuller than others.
Which has led me to my new statement- which is no longer a question at all. Instead of asking “am I a bad mom?” I affirm, “I am a growing mom”.
In all areas of my life, every day, I’m growing. I’m growing in how I lead my team members and give them direction. I’m growing in my ability to be present and love my kids even when I’m so freakin’ tired. I’m growing in love for Eric, even though our relationship is different than when we were first in love. I’m growing in how I respond when I make mistakes and get corrected. I’m growing in self-discipline and self-care so that I can have more energy to fulfill this purpose I feel called to.
Which brings me back to the question for the MBA. Was it right to do this now? Is it benefiting my family? Can I handle everything? To which the only answer I am sure of is that I am growing. Hell yes I am growing!
My pastor said a few weeks ago that Christian discipleship is not about saying yes to a single decision, it’s about submitting oneself to a process. A process inevitably involves daily “micro decisions”. This struck me as a similar shift from a fixed point of view to one of growth. Growth can be hard and painful and scary and overwhelming and uncertain but for those who believe their growth is done under the watchful eye of a good God – there can be sense of rooted-ness. A sense that the growth is formation of something more beautiful in time. A sense that in the careful hands of a good gardener, the process will lead to redemptive ends. This has been true thus far in my life, so how can I continue to ask “am I a bad mom?”
I shouldn’t, and I won’t anymore. I am growing, and so are you.