Did Motherhood Steal My Ambition?

A long time ago (six years, two months and thirteen days ago, to be exact), I took all of the grand ambitions that I had for myself, and I crumpled them up into a tight little ball. And then I took that ball, and I shoved it into a deep, dark hole somewhere inside of me. And mentally, I labeled that hole, “Things I Will Do Once My Children Are Fully Grown and I am a Bored Empty Nester.” And I forgot about them. I got myself a cushy, mom gig; writing books, writing this blog, consulting on a television show. And for six years, two months and thirteen days, I’ve been telling myself that I am the luckiest mother in the world, because despite what everyone says, I have figured out a way to have it all.


And then a few weeks ago, something happened. I sat down one day, intending to work on my (almost finished) novel, and instead, I found myself writing a script for a television pilot. It’s an idea I’ve had for a long time – an idea that’s been sitting in that deep, dark, hole – but I’ve always figured that it can wait. There will still be tv when my kids are in college, and a good idea is a good idea, no matter when it comes to light. But it just sort of came out that day, as if I were channeling a television network executive through my keyboard. I wrote night and day, for two weeks straight, and I swear, I have never had more fun writing anything in my life.


When I finished, I gave it to my agent, with the following conversation running through the back of my mind: nothing will happen, he won’t even like it, he must get a thousand of these a day, I got it out of my system, now I can go back to writing my book. Except that actually, he did like it, and a few days later, I found myself having lunch with a tv producer who also likes it, and all of a sudden I have a new conversation running through the back of my mind, which is: Shit, shit, shit. What have I done, shit. Because creating a television show is not a cushy, mom gig. Creating a television show is major, high-powered, full-time job.


Which brings me to the point of this post, which is, namely, Do I Really Want to Work That Hard? And the answer is, well, the answer is, I do, I do, so badly, I do…just not right now. Because right now, my son still has two years left of preschool, and I want to pick him up at 12:00 and take him out to lunch, just the two of us. I want to hang out with him at the park before Harper gets home, and I want to go to Gym class with him. And Harper’s going into first grade, and I want to be there to help her with her homework at night, and in December, I want to stay at her school until ten o’clock in the morning every day to watch her class rehearse for the holiday show. I want to give her a bath at night while she’ll still let me, and I want to eat dinner together and hear about her favorite part of her day. And if I gave all of that up, I would forever be sorry.



Great post. But please do tell me how you have become so lucky. You have my dream job. I have all the ambition one needs but I'm not sure how to make things happen. To be able to write these wonderfully entertaining and witty articles and books, earm a good income and soend time with your children is the kind of thing that I wish for on stars at night. Please share the path to your current postion, I would love, love, love to know.


Great topic. I used to work 50 hours a weeks in technology. Then I got pregnant. I had every intention to go back to technology, but my son was born with a heart condition and so went my plans to go back. A few more kids later/ four years off, I was ready for a new challenge. I started my own maternity boutique and online store Htt[://www.bumpfashion.com. I have found with this I get the best of both worlds. I am not sure you have to wait 100%. The fact that you finished a script is amazing. So now finish the novel and see where that takes you.


your thread caught my attention. I would love to know more about your job and how you manage with your children. While reading through the threads, I too have a great Mom job. I am my own boss, make my own schedule, and until the economy took its turn, I was quite successful. Still I felt unsatisfied with my career path, therefore at 35 I am going back to school, and looking towards a degree in urban planning. Anyway, I would appreciate any info. I will take the slow path, so that hopefully when I am done with school, the kids will be more self sufficent, School will now be my full time job, at least most of it will be while they are at school too. thanks in advance.


Risa, what did you decide?

It's funny because I am going through an identical crisis. I was planning on quitting my current job to become self employed, when all of a sudden my DREAM job is landing on my lap! I want desperately to be able to spend more time with my kids. But I also would probably really love this new job, not to mention the fact that the money could, if it works, be enough to put my family in a secure place -forever-. How much time is one year to be away from the kids?

I may try to negotiate the new job as part time, but I don't think that it would work.

Life is so complicated, isn't it?



I'm in the middle of a similar quandry (although I don't have an actual offer or anything). I have the chance to go after something that could be a great opportunity for me. But I know what you mean about "cushy mom gig." Cushy doesn't necessarily mean you're coasting along... it just means that everything is sort of in alignment so that you can spend time with your kids while getting a certain level of fulfillment from your job. You've got flexibility. I haven't decided whether to pursue this opportunity or not... In addition to the joys of seeing my kids grow, I do love being my own boss!


Some others have already said this, but I think you have to try to follow your dream. Your children are obviously a priority to you, so I believe you will find a way to have the special times with them that you describe. However, you could end up spoiling your relationship with them if you abandon your lifelong goals "for their sake." I'm no psychologist, but I think you could end up harboring some sort of subconscious resentment about never living your dream. Besides, you said it yourself - television is a hard business. You may not be successful. But at least you'll be able to look at yourself in the mirror and say that you tried.



The balance between being there for our children and satisfying our own needs is such a tricky one to find. Running my own business I know is integral to my enjoyment of motherhood. In finding a space where I can outwardly achieve I am much more present for my children.



Well said, and great job pointing out how this language can affect our perceptions. I doubt any of us would say that our work - as mothers or professionals in another area - is easy or involves little effort. :)

leslie morgan s...

Leslie Morgan Steiner

I just want to question the term "cushy mom gig" and the way those of us who've found ways to be involved mothers without totally giving up work are implicitly denigrating ourselves and our accomplishments. I am really PROUD of Risa's work as a writer, speaker and consultant; it's totally cool, impressive, and rewarding. I am puzzled by what could possibly be MORE impressive than being a fulltime mom and a writer, tv consultant and speaker -- all at once.

Why is this "cushy"? Is there something weird about us that instead of congratulating ourselves on finding such fabulous ways to combine work and motherhood, we belittle our solutions with a term that the dictionary defines as "involving little effort for ample rewards; easy and profitable". Risa and others like her (and I count myself in this crew) are actually brilliant for finding such good work/family balance.


Your story is so familiar - thank you. There's no doubt, you'll do well.
Becoming a marketing consultant now, is what I most desire to enjoy the flexibility of not just calling myself a Mom of 2 beautiful boys, but being that Mom as full-time as I possibly can. Your quotidian Mommy-time activities are soo precious, I too have the same wants and dreams.
After 10 years in high-profile marketing positions, it took the announcement that our corporate office was moving, to give me the incentive to plunge into a more 'cushy', mom gig. I feel exhilirated, motivated, and accepting of the notion that you CAN be a Mom and be ambitious.
Congrats to all you great Moms! Let's not miss this wonderful episode of our lives.
- Ana
Marketing Professional