A Good Home, Children, Daughters, Family, Family Matriarch, Family Stories, Grandmothers, Home, Juggling work and parenting, Mothers, Parents, Raising Children, Relationships, Travel, Women leaders

My Proudest Achievement – Part 2

My career took flight during the women’s movement in the late 80’s and kept moving.

Each job paid more, demanded more, involved more travel.

For the most part, my life was unlike my mother’s (she never traveled abroad till she was in her late forties).  But, at times, my life was also strangely reminiscent of hers. For long periods, I got to work at home. Got to be there when the kids came home from school. Like my mother did.

I have two wonderful men to thank for that. My husband’s support allowed me to travel on business. My boss’ support allowed me to work at home often, in return for all that travel.

Image via airport-technology.com
Image via airport-technology.com

Support came from remarkable women.  My own mother, who’d been denied the career she wanted, sometimes moved in temporarily when my job took me abroad. My husband’s mother often cooked the Jamaican dishes we loved (but weren’t good at making).  My sister, who taught me to cook dishes my kids would like.  And a very caring nanny; we lived very frugally so we could afford her and it was money very well spent.

And so, my proudest achievement – raising children who’ve become strong, decent adults  — is something I’m not very confident about, had a lot of help with, and cannot claim as entirely my own.

**

Even with all that help and support, my husband and I worked hard at parenting our children, sometimes completely unsure whether we were doing the right thing. We got advice from our parents, but sometimes screwed up royally when we tried to apply that good counsel to our own family.

Looking back, we sometimes joke that the girls turned out alright, in spite of us.  We’ve watched with pride, astonishment and awe as our daughters have grown up and made choices about their lives.

They’ve done well at school and work.  They know when to “step up and stand up”: stepping up to help others going through tough times; standing up for what they consider to be right.  They have strong values.

Photo by Hamlin Grange
Photo by Hamlin Grange

And – to my astonishment — each has a great sense of style, is a good cook and a great wit.  These are talents which I’m sure come from their father and grandmothers, since no-one has ever accused me of any of those things.

Our daughters are strong, decent adults and I am proud of having had something to do with that outcome.   But, more than that, I am thankful for having had the chance to parent them and watch them grow!  As they have grown, my husband and I have also grown.

I’m thankful for my career. The doors it opened, the confidence it built, the money I earned.  The people I met, the travel to foreign lands.

But when someone asks me about the proudest achievement of my life, there’s no debate: I’m proudest of raising children who have become strong, decent adults.

Photo by Hamlin Grange
Photo by Hamlin Grange

Dedicated to my daughters, my husband and our mothers, with thanks. 

And to all those who, like us, learned parenting as they went along, and all the people who helped. 

A Good Home, Family, Mothering, Parents, Raising Children

My Proudest Achievement – Part 1

At the pinnacle of my career some years ago – and about to receive another award for outstanding achievement – a television interviewer asked me:

“What is your proudest achievement?”

I looked at her smiling face, at the cameras and lights surrounding us,  at the bare studio floors — and paused only slightly.

Thanks to: publicdomainpictures.net
publicdomainpictures.net

“Raising children who have become strong, decent adults.”

She stared back, surprised. It was not the answer she was expecting.

I knew she was expecting me to mention my professional achievements.  The award-winning television programs. Contributions to the media industry in Canada and other countries. Championing new program methods and technology. Mentoring women and cultural minorities in the sector.  Helping to transform South African public television after apartheid.

But she hadn’t asked me to identify my biggest career achievement. She’d asked about my proudest achievement, and I had answered truthfully.

Was that a look of disappointment I saw on her face? That a woman who had come of age during the recent years of the women’s movement, the years when we fought hard for gender equity in the workplace — that a woman who had climbed those challenging ranks, moving up from one influential role to the next – that such a woman should, after all that, point to raising children as her proudest achievement?

I didn’t mean to disappoint her. I didn’t mean to suggest to someone in the early years of her career that mothering should be her greatest aspiration.

I was simply voicing my own truth.

Not that I’d always known it. There were times when I was being lauded for my career achievements and I got a big head, and could feel myself getting high on my own supply.

publicdomainpictures.net
publicdomainpictures.net

But now I had been there, done that and won all the career accolades. And, upon reflection — as I thought about all the things that I had done with my life — I knew my answer as surely as I knew my own name.

**

Parenting was the thing for which I’d never received an award – and rightly so.  Indeed, I was still struggling at it. Parenting may come easily to some people. Not me.

Just a few days before, I’d rushed to give one daughter advice when all she’d needed was a listening ear.

A week before that, I’d missed an opportunity to hang out with my other daughter, only to realize later that I could and should have gone. I’d remembered too late, my mother’s advice: “When your children invite you to spend time with them, drop everything else and go.”

Ironic, then, that I should name parenting as my proudest achievement.

My mother, despite her academic brilliance, had given up her own dreams of becoming a professional teacher. Money was scarce after her father’s unexpected death.

Instead of going to teachers’ college, my mother had married, borne five children and become a seamstress – designing and sewing dresses for the ladies of our village, something she did at home.

She was a loving mother; a great mother. But I vowed that my own life would be different.  I wasn’t sure if I’d have children, but I knew that I’d have a career, one that took place outside the home.

image via brolero.com
image via brolero.com

Coming up next:  Part 2 – The Juggling Act