In her third of blog post for TODAY Moms, supermodel-turned-activist-turned-director Christy Turlington Burns discusses the balancing act it takes to be a mom and travel the world advocating for quality maternal care. It helps that husband Eddie (yes, that Ed Burns, the film director) plays a crucial role as equal partner on the homefront.
I am often asked how motherhood changed me. I think the best thing about being a woman is our unlimited capacity to give and to love. This became clear the moment I became a mom. It’s an extraordinary gift that we women share and it is this universal capacity to mother (literally and figuratively) that connects us with our sisters around the world. Now that I'm aware of the barriers so many of us face in accessing quality maternity care, it's difficult to accept that not every woman has access to critical care when she may need it most, or support to be the best mom she can be. Without realizing this fundamental human right, a woman cannot live her optimal life nor will her children have their best chance at life.
After traveling the world over the course of two years to make, “No Woman, No Cry,” I am grateful that I am able to exercise my rights as a human being. I am also that much more resolved to advocate on behalf of girls and women, along with the families who depend on them, who do not enjoy such freedoms.
However, when I leave my own family to do the work I’m committed to, I am still torn as a mom. All it takes is a visit to any impoverished community in the world to see just how fortunate I am that I have an equal partner in my husband Eddie, a filmmaker, who supports the work I do. He understands the importance of the larger picture, not only for me and our family but for countless other families in the world. Like most working moms, I am conflicted at times. Many moms I meet in my travels are working moms, most of them doing it alone and without any support or partnering of any kind.
From the moment I became pregnant, Eddie supported all of my maternal instincts in pursuing our birth options. He was as involved as I needed him to be and then when our children were infants, he took on as much of the burden as I was willing to relinquish. These were not always harmonious periods of time for us as a couple; let’s face it, as joyous as becoming a parent is, it is challenging for every one of us on some level. But we have come out as great friends and true partners and our kids will hopefully grow up remembering their parents as a team. They will have seen us share responsibilities in the home, taking great care to take turns traveling so that they have the consistency of a parent always being there. When I'm on the road, Eddie takes excellent care of them, waking them up, getting them fed and to school (nearly on time) and even managing their extracurricular activities (with a little backup). This gives me great peace of mind, because there is nothing to feel bad about when they get their dad to themselves. He has never failed to step up when needed and is happy to fall back when I return to the helm. The bigger the kids get, the more equal our parenting roles have become and this is quite an accomplishment.
I believe that because we are so deeply enriched by the work we do, we illustrate daily that life is a balancing act and that while we both may wear many hats in our jobs and work very hard, we have chosen how to make the most of the incredible opportunities presented to us. Most importantly, I hope that my children will see their parents as having lives made rich through experience and diverse interests. I hope that we inspire them to break down barriers of stereotypes and gender.
I look forward to traveling and sharing the world with my kids in the years to come. I want them to see what I see in the faces of girls and women everywhere. That's why I founded Every Mother Counts, because I believe that those of us women who have become moms will recognize their own faces in moms around the world. I want to provide opportunities to unite them. Until the parents in every family can share equal responsibility in raising a family, we moms need to continue to support one another.
Christy Turlington Burns is the founder of Every Mother Counts, and producer/director of “No Woman, No Cry,” which premiered this month on the OWN network. The CD inspired by the documentary, with music from artists (and moms) including J.Lo, Madonna and Ani DiFranco, is available at Starbucks. Follow Christy on Twitter @cturlington and Facebook.