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November 2012 / Bronx/​Riverdale Family / Brooklyn Family / Long Island Family / Manhattan Family / Queens Family / Staten Island Family

Just Write Mom

Forgetting ‘the shoulds’

What were you like before you had kids? Can you even remember?

I was very young when I had my daughter, but before then, I was an introspective smart aleck — a slightly offbeat person. It may give you perspective to know I was voted “Weirdest” in the eighth grade, a denotation that I still hold in high regard. As a teen, I horrified my mother by dying my hair jet black and listening to Anthrax, but even after those outward eccentricities eased, I retained a quirky sense of self.

However, once I became a mother, I felt that I had to be “motherly.” Not in a sense that had anything to do with my children but I felt like I became boring. I developed an interest in “proper” things, began to dress differently, and started to worry about things like household furnishing, which I had never cared about before. When I leaped into the workplace, I tried my best to assume a similar role. It was a very reliable, sensible, and a neatly–packaged life of a young, working mother.

The problem was that I have always known that I wanted more for myself. I didn’t want to settle for the ordinary, even when I tried my best to fit into the mainstream.

“We are not cookie cutters of one another,” I often tell my children. It’s easy for kids to get a warped sense of self with the immense pressure they experience to fit in — to have the best sneakers, phone, or whatever. The truth is that all we should be in life is simply ourselves.

As parents, I fear we often forget that little truth. I know I did. For years on end, I did things I did not want to do to please others. Many parents lose themselves in “the shoulds” — what they “should” have, do, or wear. A look at our Facebook newsfeeds reveals how many of our “friends” do this on a daily basis — and how many of them need others to recognize that they are doing these things. We are models for our children, so It’s vital for us to remember that if we play the part of people who are consumed with acquiring things, settling, and ignoring our true feelings, then our children will feel obligated to do the same. And if they do, what chance do they have to become honest, content, and fulfilled adults?

After more than 10 years of editing and writing at local parenting publications, my job slowly morphed into something that did not represent who I was anymore. Eventually, I summoned the courage to quit and work for myself. Crazy? Perhaps. But all I can think is: why didn’t I do it sooner?

Most of my days now begin with feeding kids, animals, and anything else that shows up in my kitchen and announces “I’m hungry.” They end with my eyes closing, as they glaze over my kids’ horrific math homework or mounds of equally horrific laundry. In between those times, I write — about raising kids, surly teens, obstinate pets, and any parenting news that blows my mind (which, these days, can be plentiful).

Oh yeah, and if you pass my house, you’ll probably notice a Dave Matthews song blaring from my home office.

It is certainly not the life for everyone, but it is “just right” for me. In fact, when I was discussing the decision to write full-time at home with my husband and kids, my daughter told me to “just write,” because it’s what I’ve always wanted to do. So this column name (which is the title of my personal blog) has multiple meanings — it was “just right” for me to stay at home and “just write,” which may not be something a typical mom would do, but, it’s “just right” for me. And when you do what is just right for you, life seems to fall in place.

As a parent of three kids, each five years apart, I still have loads to learn, but the joy of learning is in the journey, and I plan on sharing it all.

So, I really hope you’ll join me because I know I’ll need some back up along the way.

See you next month!

Danielle Sullivan, a mom of three, has worked as a writer and editor in the parenting world for more than 10 years. Sullivan also writes about pets and parenting for Disney’s Babble.com. Find her on Facebook and Twitter @DanniSullWriter, or on her blog, Just Write Mom.

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