Thanks to the women who came before us, mothers today have choices. We can work. We can stay home with our kids. We can do both. These choices were hard won. I will never forget that. We are still fighting for balance today-sometimes just with ourselves. Mothers, heck just women in general are still fighting for the work-life balance that is imperative to our health and well being. We are also fighting with our own minds about what work-life balance even means. It seems now that our rights are broadened it is time to broaden our choices and then work to feel comfortable in them.
The downfall of all these choices, for someone like me is that they can be paralyzing. I once worked full time with my children in traditional day care. At first, I hated the job so much I thought I wanted to stay home with my baby. Then, I changed jobs and realized my working mother life suited me just fine. My life was chaotic, but I really enjoyed my job and probably wouldn’t have left had we not moved. When we moved the first time it was back to that old job. I did not want to go back into a situation I knew I hated so I opted to stay home. The following years were a roller coaster of choices, decisions and second-guessing. The results are that I stay home and work a job that can be done on off hours. I couldn’t not work, both for the money and also for my soul. I need something that is for me, that occupies the non-mom side of my brain. I also need to contribute financially to this family (even if it’s pennies on the dollar) or I will wilt and die. That I know for sure.
What I question, seemingly all day is WHAT I should be doing. Should I keep the job I have? Should I pursue another that gets me out of the house more? Should I change the way I’m doing what I do now? Is this a career or a true calling? Do I NEED a career? Is motherhood my calling and I’ll work to support it? Mostly I wonder, would my life work better some other way? Would the world spin slower and my mind slow down if I had it some other way. It’s exhausting. Too many choices.
I have two great friends who work. One is a full time teacher, one is a part-time nurse. This is what they studied in college and in post-grad. They did not let motherhood halt their careers. It may have adjusted them, but not obliterated them. They are happy. Their lives are crazy, just like everyone else I know, but neither one openly questions what they are doing. I so envy them. Somewhere I missed the gene that allows you to make a decision and move on. Motherhood didn’t end my first career. I did. That I don’t regret. I never think about going back to that particular job. Yet, I constantly wonder if the grass is greener with the other choice-the one that is different than the one I’m making.
You know what happens with all this gazing at the other lawns? I forget to lie in my own and smell its sweetness. And let me tell you, is pretty darn soft and green. I have a job that I like. No one tells me how to do it. I have these three nutty kids that are both funny and highly annoying but only because we spend so much time together. I won’t regret that later. I am sure. What I will miss is the noise and the madness and the constant change and energy that we have around here. When my calendar is clear and I have time for puttering or working a job that fills all my time, I am certain I will miss the days I am in now. My choices are my own and I am an intelligent woman. I need to remind myself of that when I start going down the road of wondering and waffling. My life is good. The crazy is both normal and sometimes rather fun. If I changed my professional life my family life might look different but not better. I wouldn’t be any more calm, or organized or energized. Mothering is chaotic and hard and that doesn’t change whether you spend your days in an office, classroom or kitchen doing crafts.
Today I decide to be happy. Today I decide to embrace the chaos as correct. My life is grand, not in spite of, but because of the decisions I have made. I get to spend precious time with my kids AND I get to leave them sometimes too. I model for my children the beauty of choices. I model for my children the power of planning and execution. I model for my children the importance of nurturing both them and myself. What I also model to my children is self-confidence in the way I do-every day-what I have chosen to do. Because of that, I choose to say, I am doing it right. My way.
** This post was inspired by the book Just Let Me Lie Down, Necessary Terms for the Half-Insane Working Mom by Kristin von Ogtrop. Kristin is the Editor of Real Simple Magazine (my personal “Newman) and has written a HILARIOUS book of definitions that I am certain fit all of our lives. I received a copy as part of Silicon Valley Moms Book Club. I would run out and get yours today. Seriously, hilarious.
P.S. Looking for more parenting guidance and tips for self-care? Check out From Chaos to Calm a guided training to help you feel better in this tough season.