The decision to stay home after having my first child was incredibly challenging. My job wasn’t family friendly and I don’t have family nearby to help. My daughter had colic, and she needed me. Still, I deliberated until the last-minute. And I questioned my decision almost daily during my first two years of motherhood.
When telling a friend (who is a VP at a fortune 100 company
and doesn’t have children) about my choice she said, “Being a mother is the most important job you could have”.
“That is nice of her to say,” I thought, “but no one really thinks that”. “Mom” wasn’t a respectable career title for my résumé. And I know from past business jobs that women without kids often judge women with kids. If she is a working mom, she is seen as “compromised” and less effective. If she stays home with her kids, she is sized up to being “just a mom”. Sigh.
In effort to get my daughter to stop talking about Elsa and Anna from the crack-infused movie Frozen, I let her watch the movie “Bears”. This real life nature movie takes place in the vast and untouched land of Alaska. It’s like the good old Discovery Channel (but made by Disney, do they have a monopoly or what?). “Bears” documents the daily life of a new mother and her cubs as they walk hundreds of miles through some of earth’s most majestic mountains to find food.
They have to be punctual to not miss the brief salmon migration. The mother bear also needs nourishment so her milk doesn’t dry up. But the cubs slow her down. And they make the journey vulnerable to attack. The mother, “sky”, has to defend her cubs against wolves and other massive bears who include bear cub on the menu when other food is scarce. One of the male bears she stood up to was three times her size. Her will outlasted his strength.
When she and the cubs finally reach food, they are run off by the larger bears and wolves who threaten the cubs’ safety. They walk miles further in search of food in a safer place. In the end, they find salmon aplenty among friendlier bears. They survive the first year of the cubs’ life, which has a mortality rate of 50%.
While watching this movie I was in awe of the courage, bravery, skill, and selflessness of these mother bears. “She is my hero!” I said to myself.
Maybe like you, I forget, in the midst of wiping noses, butts, and high chairs, that I’m a hero too. We would give our lives for our children, we fight for them, we are brave, we teach them skills to make it in this rough world, and we are self-sacrificing. Though still imperfect, moms are heroes.
It took watching a movie about the strength and resolve of a bear to give myself the credit that’s due to the formidable role of being a mother. Sometimes we can only understand our own world when we step out of it for a moment to become the observers of another.
And, my plan worked. Rather than my daughter pretending to be Elsa and shutting the door in people’s’ faces while saying, “don’t feel!” she chooses to be a mother bear, taking care of her cubs, going to great lengths to nourish and protect them. Because moms are heroes.