"Before every action, ask yourself: Will this bring more monkeys on my back? Will the result of my action be a blessing or a heavy burden?" --Alfred A. Montapert
It's that time of year again. Plans are underway for end-of-year recitals, end-of-year concerts, and end-of-year teacher appreciation brunches. I'm in the midst of them, getting ready for violin book graduations, three orchestra concerts, and a middle school graduation. The high school has already phoned asking for my contribution to Teacher Appreciation Day.
These are exciting times, but unfortunately they can also be times of unnecessary stress. One reason: misplaced passion.
One of the things brought to my attention over and over again in my ROCKET MOM! seminars is the misplaced passion amongst some very well-intentioned moms. Many of us made the decision to jump off the career track onto the mommy track in an effort to bring some level of sanity to our home lives. And indeed, there is a huge shift in the family paradigm occurring before our eyes. As early as 1994, the "experts" noticed significant changes. James Dobson called it when he said: "Large numbers of women are leaving the workplace and making the sacrifices required to stay home while their children are young. " (1) Barron's called it in their March 21, 1994 cover story a "demographic sea change." And noted trend analyst and author Faith Popcorn, called it when she identified this as a "huge trend." (2) Economist Howard Hayghe called it in 2000 when he reviewed the drop off in working married mothers with a child less than one year old from 59% in 1997 to 53% in 2000, and proclaimed the shift "huge." (3) Lisa Belkin called it in her October 1, 2003 New York Times Magazine feature story: "The Opt-Out Revolution." And Time Magazine called it in their March 22 cover story: "The Case for Staying Home."
Bright, highly educated women are consciously jumping off the career track. 1 in 3 women with M.B.A.'s are not working full-time. (4) Of Harvard Business School's women graduates of '81, '85, and '91-women currently in the fortysomething crowd-only 38% are working full-time. (5) 26% of women at "the cusp of the most senior levels of management" do not want that next promotion. (6) And 51% of GenX moms are home full-time, most who -after first-hand observation of the personal sacrifices made by their own moms in the family-work-balance-equation-decided that the sacrifices were just not worth it. (7)
Much of the passion previously reserved for corporate life is being re-directed into home life. The "brain drain" on the American economy is cycling itself into the American home. I am included in those statistics, having made a similar choice. But I am not interested in pursuing the unfortunate dichotomy of the typical "working-versus-stay-at-home-mom-debate." That's not my point.
It's this: many of today's women who have previously poured their passion into their careers are now looking for outlets in which to re-direct it. In most cases, this passion is being invested with energetic doses into the health and well-being of children and families. And that should be applauded of course.
But in a number of cases-which, unfortunately, are always painfully obvious due to the frustration and downright pain inflicted onto those of us on whom it has been misplaced-women are directing their passion into arenas which have no long-term impact on the health or well-being of the child, no long-term impact on the health or well-being of the family, and no long-term impact on the health or well-being of the community at large.
Let me give you some examples:
? a kindergarten class is having an end-of-year party and the room mom calls all the other moms asking for goodies. One of the moms says she'll be glad to bring sandwiches; the room mom replies that they must be a certain type, cut into fourths and individually wrapped and delivered by x-date and time. The volunteer mom states that she can't do quite that and cheerfully offers to bring something else; the room mom blows her completely off.
? the room mom asks for sweets for the end-of-year party; a mom volunteers to bake and bring brownies (with Ghirdadelli chocolate no less!) and the room mom tells her that she is not accepting brownies?only home-baked cookies. The contribution is denied.
? another room mom tells all volunteers that if they bring cookies they have to be sprinkled with the school colors or they will not be accepted.
? another mom hosting an end-of-year middle school reception tells a volunteer contributing mom that the two large bouquets of flowers brought in for the reception (purchased from a local florist) aren't good enough, and slams the mom-in the presence of other moms-for her effort.
I'm not making these stories up. The flower incident happened to me just last week. Others were shared by disheartened moms in my seminars; many more could be listed. I know you are nodding your head?because every single time I do a seminar, this issue comes up?and every single mom in the room is nodding her head!
This is nothing less than misplaced passion. With some ego thrown in for good measure. These unfortunate moms have lots of energy which they need to use up?but it is mis-directed. Just because one thrived with superb organizational skills in the corporate world does not necessarily mean she will thrive in the naturally chaotic world of families and home life. And managing those working for her on the business organizational chart is an entirely different task than organizing volunteer efforts by the willing and able hands of fellow moms frantically attempting to get through the frustrations of their 24/7 job.
As the end-of-school-year approaches and you are asked to lead a volunteer effort-or to just have one small part in one-please check to see that your passions are appropriately directed. If you are asked to lead an event which requires that you posses the "gift of hospitality," please do not volunteer to head it up if you have the "gift of Attila the Hun"-even if you have the organizational skills of a Fortune 500 CEO. Hosting events requires someone with a pleasant spirit, rather than a competitive or mean-spirited attitude. Before volunteering for anything, make it your firm rule to run it against your life message and your life passions. Is there a natural fit? Or are you volunteering for something because you feel a sense of obligation? Is there any selfish pride or ego going on here? Are you fearful that the efforts of others might reflect unfavorably on you? Does your effort make you tense and highly irritable? If so, you are probably not serving in an area which matches your natural giftedness.
Please be painfully aware that the moms whom you are asking to contribute are undoubtedly sleep-deprived, toddler-fatigued, or carpooled-out. Giving must always be from the heart. Giving should always be done cheerfully and generously. It should never be forced. Be sure that your level of involvement matches your level of passion. If baking cookies for your child's school doesn't float your boat, don't feel guilty about it; volunteer your gifts in a more appropriate way. If organizing luncheons isn't your cup of tea, don't waste another minute thinking about it! Politely decline and offer to serve in another area.
If you have not yet determined your life purpose and your life message, then you have some discernment to do in the days and weeks ahead. Consciously begin thinking about what you were put on this earth to do. Start figuring out where your natural gifts are, and areas where you can best serve others.
And keep a healthy perspective. Keep a cheerful attitude. Most importantly, keep those eyes focused upward. It'll help you put your passions in exactly the right place for service.
Carolina Fernandez earned an M.B.A. and worked at IBM and as a stockbroker at Merrill Lynch before coming home to work as a wife and mother of four. She totally re-invented herself along the way. Strong convictions were born about the role of the arts in child development; homeschooling for ten years provided fertile soil for devising creative parenting strategies. These are played out in ROCKET MOM! 7 Strategies To Blast You Into Brilliance. It is available on Amazon.com, in bookstores everywhere, or by calling 888-476-2493. She writes extensively for a variety of parenting resources and teaches other moms via parenting classes and radio and TV interviews.
Please visit http://www.rocketmom.com to subscribe to her free ezine and get a weekly shot of inspiration.
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