“You’re like a stern but loving mother.” That’s how my friend Jen characterized my work with producers, back when she was working for me at PBS.org in the early aughts. I was the editorial director of the site, and I expected producers to share my passion and commitment – when they didn’t, I rode them hard. As Jen observed, my strictness came from a place of love, for the PBS mission and for the stories producers were trying to tell.
Her comment really struck me. It was the first time some called me out for my (pretty obviously) maternal nature.
While on some level I always knew I had these maternal tendencies, I never wanted to be an actual mother. Kids just didn’t speak to me, and the life of a parent seemed unappealing – who wanted to be enslaved in that way? If you showed me a dog and a baby, I would coo over the dog.
And then I changed my mind.
When my husband and I were falling in love, he said something incredibly wise. (Granted, I was 17, so the bar for “incredibly wise” was, well, incredibly low — but I think his observation stands the test of time.) I was going through a break-up of sorts with a friend, and it left me feeling like maybe you could never really know another person. After all, we’d been so close, and now her behavior was foreign to me. “Maybe it’s not that you can never know another person,” he said. “Maybe it’s just that sometimes, we can’t keep up with the changes in other people.”
(See what I mean? Wise.)
I look back on that earnest, uptight 20-something who cared so much about a website, and I feel almost, well, maternal towards her. I am so glad that these days, my maternal instincts are channeled toward my beautiful baby daughter, and my passion toward my art, my family, my life. I’m still plenty loving, but stern? Life’s too short for stern.
Besides, I’m too busy keeping up with the changes in myself.