I’ve been trying to write this post for the last three months. And as I type it now, I’ll let you know that I’ve sacrificed sanity to do so. I’m sitting in the sweaty humid hallway of a high school with laptop propped up on my knees, giant noise cancelling head phones covering my ears, serious face on, and a big bag full of peanut butter and goldfish and post-it notes and secret clues to the universe by my side. I look like I got lost on my way to an internship at the local air traffic control booth. I’m not sure that’s an actual job, but I promise that’s what I look like. And I will also say that there will be things I wish I could change about this post and that I wish I could do better, but the reality is that I will probably not get to it until 2026.
And that in itself is a great entry to this here post. You see, I’ve been reading quite a bit lately about motivation and efficiency. All this incredible data gathered from incredible research on what actually moves us to do incredible things and all this amazing insider info on how to propel yourself and others into that. Incredible, I repeat. The boiled down version, if I were to be a Cliff-Notes author, would be: We do the heroic things in life not because we want the rewards they might yield, but rather because we want the experience of a meaningful, engaged, and reciprocal adventure.
Yet, even though everything they are saying is right on, I’ve been grappling with this underlying sense of something being missing. And then the other day I looked at my pile of books and their authors I was like, humph. There’s a Steven and a Daniel and a Tim and a Malcolm and a Seth and a Dude and another dude and another even older dude. And before you think I’m about to knock the male voice down thirty five notches, I’m not. These guys are innovators. BUY THEIR BOOKS AND LISTEN TO THEM. But, but but but but but but but. Where are the women writing about motivation and efficiency? More accurately, where are the moms writing about motivation and efficiency?
Of course, there are some. I’m not an idiot. Well, rephrase: I haven’t been an idiot in the last two minutes. Some of these books are good. But, a lot of them are about how to get ahead by being a bitch or honing your masculine side or how to be happy by “insert some sort of annoying title that undervalues you as a mom who just needs to meditate.”
I don’t see a lot of this motivation and efficiency research applied to life after wild wee ones come trudging out of your body. I’d like to see these experiments done with the variables of extreme sleep deprivation, a ticking egg timer and a constant sing-song of “mom mom mom mom mom mom” in the background. And then I’d also like to add the variables of postpartum depression, traumatic birth experiences, men who go buh bye from their own valid postpartum freak outs, loss of identity, and pressures to make money so you don’t lose your house. What happens to motivation then, suckers?
Well, I can tell you. Nothing. Why? Because we’re paralyzed from stress and isolation that is modern motherhood. Our nervous systems are so taxed that we get locked in a very primal part of our brain that has zero desire to solve interesting problems and zero ability to do anything but make quick fire choices. We are not in a fluid, gray-area, frontal cortex, productive part of our brains where motivation and gusto live, and where content and fulfillment are born.
Why does this happen? Well, we’re all evolved enough (I hope) to know it’s not because women can’t handle more or that we’re flawed. It’s because the way we’ve
- NOT given women time to heal after giving birth and
- NOT given women adequate and reliable community support and
- NOT valued the person in the mother, whether her work is at home or in an office
(PS: I do not subscribe to a division of working or stay at home moms - we all work, just in different ways and it’s all equally difficult and equally brave and equally important)
Now, to the point. Why does this matter? What’s the consequence?
We dock ourselves for being moms.
We associate a lack of motivation and gusto not with the stress response but instead on some failing in ourselves and a reason why we are not worthy. WE DOCK OURSELVES FOR BEING MOMS in the following ways:
- We agree to take less pay or less promotion because we can’t work the same amount of time as our male or kid-less counterparts, even though we do as much work more efficiently and more thoroughly than them combined. An American woman’s earnings decrease by 4 percent for every child that she bears, a staggering statistic especially when compared to the fact that after men have kids, their earnings increase, on average, by 6 percent.
- We tell people, oh, I’m JUST a stay at home mom if we’ve decided to opt out of the professional world (even temporarily), when being a stay at home mom is not only the hardest thing ever, but extremely valuable to our world at large.
- We subscribe to the demands of the male or kid-less dominated professional world and we sacrifice the stuff that matters: Our kids needs for attachment, our peace of mind, our health, and our personal relationships.
What happens next? The inevitable. We lose ourselves and/or we leave our ventures and pursuits.
It just stops becoming worth it.
I can tell you right now that there is a definite time limit on me being able to operate as I am right now. I have three or four shifts to my day, every day. My dream bedtime, which never happens, is “before 2am.” When I am with my kids in the sunny afternoons, riding with bikes through puddles and digging in mud for worms and waiting for dusk to dip down into a neon glow on the treetops, I have to traverse the mental torture that remains after a day battling the Beast of To-Dos in the Land of Hustle.
But, for me, this is all worth it. This work is my Golden Thread. And I will protect it. Which means it’s solution time.
I will caution us that crying a river about the injustices is absolutely useless. Stating the unfairness is, sadly, ineffectual. Why? Because there are a gazillion other people without kids willing to do the jobs we deserve - and we live in culture that has zero interest in protecting your right to be a person AND a mother over the potential profit margin of a more available lad or lass.
So, here’s what I say needs to happen. We need to not wait around for the male-dominated, fast-paced, individualistic companies and communities to find our solution. We need to create one. Yes, you and me. Mommas. We need to create the structure and the support. We need to be more innovative than nanny-shares and carpools and co-opts. We need to demand that the workplace become less static and robotic for MAN AND WOMAN in order to expand our very flexible, unpredictable privileges as a PARENTS. We need to stop apologizing for those privileges and for feeling bad for even one more second of a day when we choose LIFE (flesh) over DUTY (to-dos). We need to take seriously the work we have to do as ballsy women in the world AND our right to also be a present, healthy, whole, and joyful mother.
The good news is that this solution is happening. All you have to do is spread the word and ask them how you can help. Go to Maybrooks.com to see what I am talking about. This is the solution. Women being cutting edge badass professional pirates with an eye not on balance, but on the reciprocal adventure of life in whatever way they choose and in however many different roles they want.