by Katina Grays
My three year old daughter, Seraphina and I have talked about me climbing this mountain in Tanzania called Mt. Kilimanjaro. I’ve shown her pictures of the mountain and Seraphina has taken a curious interest in what I do at the gym to train. She has randomly said to people, “You know what? My mom is very strong.” It is the cutest vote of confidence and at the same time, I feel a little unworthy of that endorsement. Honestly, I am still quite nervous about a lot of it (e.g., the altitude, no showers for 7 days, the cold, my fear of open heights…did I mention no showers?)
June is here and I actually can’t quite believe that in days, I will be up there…on a mountain…in Tanzania!?! I lead a pretty regular life – I’m a 44 year old, working mom in New York City. Like many mamas, my week typically consists of commuting, work meetings, errands, and spending time with Seraphina. Kilimanjaro feels like a world away from all of that.
There’s certainly a part of me that’s always loved a good adventure and a new experience. While those new thrill reasons are there, my biggest motivator for this is Seraphina and my experience as a mother.
I believe that one of the best things that I can do as a mom is to live a full, holistic life that allows my daughter to see me as a whole person, with my own interests, dreams and goals – in addition, to being her mother. Motherhood is often portrayed as pure loving sacrifice. And sometimes, it is that. But having come to motherhood later in life, I knew that I still wanted to be the complete person I was before Seraphina. I never wanted to diminish or martyr myself to meet society’s “sacrificial mother” standard.
I recognize that it’s much easier to say that than to do it. Pursuing this Kilimanjaro dream means that I am choosing to focus on my own desires and needs. It means that I am choosing to spend a considerable amount of time away from my daughter, probably with infrequent opportunities to communicate with her. *Blinks away tears* I don’t take those choices lightly (and I recognize that it is a privilege to even have these choices in the first place.)
I am making these choices precisely because I want to push my own particular boundaries as a mother. I want Seraphina to hopefully remember the experience of her mother pursuing a personal goal and trying hard to see it through. But more than that, I want to expand her awareness of everything that is possible for her. As Alice Walker once wrote, “My mother has handed down respect for the possibilities – and the will to grasp them.”
But I also make this choice because I want other moms to know that they are seen and that their personal goals and dreams matter. While those dreams may or may not involve anything like Kili, I’m hoping that my trek up the mountain offers a metaphor, or a moment of reflection for them to see themselves achieving anything they set out to do.