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Francine Graff, MH Columnist


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I always criticized my Candidate Mom for going back to work when my brother and I were in elementary school.

Like most women who came into wifehood and motherhood in the 1950’s and 60’s, my mother traded her life of cooking, cleaning and negotiating fights between my brother and I for a job in politics where she could dress up, collect a paycheck and discover what the boys in the back room were doing every day- taking a lunch.

When I became a mom, I carried each of my babies around in a sling and breast feed them until they were old enough to ask for it. (Not as old as the time magazine cover) I vowed I would not abandon them. My career was on the back burner until some faraway time when my kids were on their way to college.

I had even written to our Bernard Madoff Feeder Fund head about how grateful I was for the investments and how that extra money allowed me to not work and stay home with my children.

I originally came to Los Angeles to find fame and fortune. As a 20 something single girl, I was filled with ambition and fire in hot pursuit of an acting career. I worked at temp jobs during the day, hopefully had an audition or two, went to acting class at night, rehearsed for scenes, worked part time as a massage therapist (women only) and spent any extra hours that I had sending out photos and postcards to casting directors who might like my curly hair and quirky personality. Picture Sarah Jessica Parker in Square Pegs.

I loved what I did and knew this was all for a higher purpose. Like Angelina Jolie, I would fly around the world (wrapped in a silk head scarf) giving starving children renewed hope as they got a hug and a few words of encouragement from my movie star self. A check to the charity would then be handed over as I flew back to my movie set, an indie film about peace finally happening in the Middle East. The film would win the Nobel peace prize and serve as the true inspiration for peace, which occurs the following year.

As my narcissism faded, I found a tiny bit of satisfaction behind the scenes as a producer. I married a great guy who was willing to tame my inner shrew and found the last two eggs available to have my daughter and son.

Three months after my thank you note, Bernie Madoff was arrested and I was on the phone frantically calling my friends desperately looking for a job. The next week, I was working as a Segment Producer for a Discovery Channel show called Extreme Peril.

Picture a girl jumping out of a plane, parachute malfunctions, girl plummets to the earth and survives…boyfriend films it all from the sky screaming at her the entire way down. My days were spent trying to convince traumatized people to re-live their worst nightmares on camera. They were to do it for free since my Executive Producer felt that we were doing them a favor.

I’m no longer a single gal plowing through endless days with no one else to think about but myself. When I’m not on a television project, I have two to four hours to find more freelance work, finish my side production jobs, deal with house chaos and walk the dog, who has been stuck inside the house for two straight days. That is without furlough days, teacher conferences or sick kids.

My one pointed focus is sliced in five. We women know this as Mommy Brain. How do I wrestle with my mommy brain, which works the opposite of my work brain? How can I combine the two and find my MOMBITION?

Can one find it in the park while answering emails on your smart phone? In the supermarket while yelling at the kids to put the Lucky Charms back, or chasing the escaped dog down the block? How and where do I find my Mombition? Can a mom have a successful career and still be child focused? Or do moms have to burn out to break through?

As the constant kid hovering gives way to independence we watch as they take charge of a small part of their lives. Finishing 15 minutes of homework in less then two hours, brushing teeth without punching each other, and reading to themselves gives us a small piece of our pre-kid lives back.

I hate to admit this (especially to my mother) but there is a part of me that likes leaving all of the child rearing and house operations behind and going to work.

At this point in the motherhood journey, my kids are their own mini people with big personalities. They harangue and harass to play computer games (my son), shimmy around in high heels (not my son), and sassy talk back like ICarly and Justin Bieber wannabes (both of them).

While I was fortunate to have been with my babies’ full time, it’s exciting to watch this other part of life reemerging again. There have been 2,920 days of poopy diapers, night feedings, teething, pre-school transitions, kindergarten transitions, and first and second grade transitions. Coupled with nighttime trips to the bathroom without pull-ups, learning to crawl, learning to walk, learning not to hit, sleeping through the night, and eating something other then candy canes…not necessarily in that order.

As I carve the path to this next chapter and find my inner Mombition I need to let go of the clean house (Noooooo), children who won’t need therapy later and seriously limit my screen time! Can I disable Facebook, People and TMZ on my computer?  

At 77 years, my mother (and feisty Grandma) is currently the Senate Majority Leader in the New Jersey State Senate. She is the best mother and grandma around. She is less judgmental, doesn’t worry like I do and was a hover less mother. As we stumble through life, less then perfect, she shows me that there is time for us late bloomers. In finding our Mombition we must figure out a way to balance it all.

Mothering Heights columnist Christine Fugate once said to me everything has its price, everything has its sacrifice. Perhaps a giant mortgage isn’t feasible. If my kids aren’t able to take big vacations, get iPods, or have college savings will they complain to their therapists wondering how we could’ve made such ridiculous choices? I would.

In the end everything does have it’s price. It’s all a gamble. While I plan to be there for my children as much as possible, I bow to my inner Mombition and do a ceremonial dance (when no one else is around) to re-awaken her spark and fire.


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Reader Comments (8)

Francine. Wow. I am not kidding. This is an awesome piece of writing that got me all teary-eyed actually. As another kindred mama spirit who is always looking to tap into my mombition (love that term) while also feeling like I am "there" for my kids, this piece really hit home. I guess it's what we are all looking for.

Great writing, great stories, awesome. I need to come over and read this more often.

May 15, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterlee
Trust me, Francine--you've got lots and lots of years to fulfill your Mombitions. (I didn't start working until age 40 and, not voluntarily, retired at 67.) My kid didn't have a college fund either and she's turned out just fine. We do what we have to do, and then, hopefully, what we want to do (best done in that order). Keep laughing!
May 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBarbara
PS Good words to live by: It'll all turn out fine in the end, and if it's not fine, it's not the end.
May 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBarbara
awesome article foof..I will share it
May 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDW
Great piece! Don't sweat the kids - I worked mine turned out great (in their 30's). My sister who stayed home - her son complained to his therapist about her always picking him up on time, always making him brush his teeth, not leaving him home alone...

BTW - your mom is the best!
May 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJac Willis
Great insight and great writing.
May 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLoretta Weinberg
Great insights and great writing
May 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLoretta Weinberg
This is fantastic. You are able to see, name, and analyze what all of us are experiencing, simply amazing. We all muddle through in our own way, feeling like we are not doing any one thing well. You, Francine, write very very well.
May 17, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjcn

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