This week my sister, Mary Martin Phd, the older mom of a toddler and ghost-writer does a little self contemplation at the intersection of motherhood and career. Her brain is going very fast and deep on parenting and privilege as she contemplates work life balance or the work-life merge.
On Barefoot Running, Parenting and Privilege
Writing about motherhood for a mainstream audience isn’t something I’ve embraced since I became a parent just over three years ago. There are a handful of good reasons for that, and one of them is that some people experience me as a bit of a buzz kill. I think about things many people don’t want to think about and I talk about things people would rather not hear about. Invite me to a dinner party at your peril, as though I’m adequate at superficial talk, I’d much rather talk about things that make life meaningful.
Right now, my sister Judy is regretting asking me to blog.
But here goes . . . Today I’d like to briefly address privilege.
Though I do things with intention and my decision-making is always a thorough process, the fact that I have decisions to make—that I have choices—is not something I take lightly. Everything from the timing of parenthood, to choosing to work, to the kind of work that I do, is embedded in the context of a person who has the benefit of a “world-class” education; who has had extraordinary mentors; who was in the right place at the right time at several critical junctures (and without privilege would never have been there at all); and whose work more often than not paid far more than the average person is paid per hour. Add to the mix—or start with—the color of my skin, my marital status, and my husband’s income.
Everything I say about what I do comes from all of that, and is colored by all of that. To write as if I’m representing the average mother is disingenuous.
However, another part of my experience is being invisible (stay with me, I’m coming back around). That’s why being a ghostwriter and editor is a natural fit for me. I’m an observer. And as an observer, I like to get what some might call uncomfortably close to things. I do a lot of barefoot running, which means I’m more aware of where my feet are and what my legs are doing than when I’m wearing a well-built running shoe. Barefoot running is hard work, but there’s a satisfaction in what it tells me about myself. I learn about myself when I barefoot run. It’s humbling.
The same is true of being home with a child, day in and day out, for three years. My daughter started to attend a play school one day a week six months ago, and her absence from the house was palpable. That brief weekly absence was so intense that it made her presence even more meaningful.
Everything about serving her was heightened once I knew she’d be going to school in August. She’s only going for half days, but I won’t be able to observe and interact with her for those three hours. I won’t be aware of her cycles and how she responds to things and what she’s doing. I’ll lose first-hand, deeply intimate, live information and experience about her how she is being in the world.
But this heartbreaking loss I’m anticipating is also a function of my privilege. I was fortunate enough to be home with my child, and enjoy being home with her until . . . she verbalized that she was ready and excited to branch out. And we chose an exquisite Montessori school because we could, and she is going only for mornings because I want to spend one more year eating lunch with her and napping with her. As we discuss the choices we make regarding our parenting and our careers, it’s wise—not to mention honest—to acknowledge the privilege that underlies those choices.
Mary Martin, PhD has been writing and editing nonfiction books for 25 years. She lives in South Florida with her husband, their daughter, one retired racing greyhound and one obnoxious cat. Her questionable work life balance is achieved through constant exercise and meditation. She is the less likable of the Martin sisters.