Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Hanging in the balance.
"But why can't you just pick me up at the bus stop? All of the other mommies are there."
Dagger in my heart. The sentence above from Jake is on the list of things that no working mother (or father, for that matter) ever wants to hear (see also: Why were you late picking me up? Why do I have to go to daycare, other kids get to stay home with their mommy?)
Warning: this post will be long, scattered, and probably close to incoherent at times, as it's just going to be a brain-dump of all the thoughts in my head. Bear with me.
I'll be honest: I'm not cut out to be a stay at home mom. I give serious credit to those who do it, because I had a brief stint as one during the time I was laid off, and it was hard work. And no, this isn't about to turn into one of those mommy wars posts where I rant about why my kids are better off because I work outside of the home. I don't believe that, nor do I believe the opposite. Yet at the same time, I don't work because I am some career-driven professional, who finds my personal meaning of life in the work that I do.
So there I am, hanging in the balance. Stuck somewhere in the middle of not wanting to be at home full time, but also not being a full-blown "career woman"(wow, how 50's does that sound??) Wanting to be there for every single school event or volunteer opportunity, and bus stop pick up, but not willing to give up my job to do so. I'm not meant to be a stay at home mom, yet I'm also not a super career mom with huge aspirations or a compulsive need to climb a corporate ladder and get ahead at work. I enjoy the work I do, and I'd like to think that I do a pretty good job when I'm here. But that's it for me. At the end of the day, I am a wife and a mother, a friend and a daughter. And those are the things that matter to me most....yet there I am, at my office every day. Again, hanging in the balance.
Normally, this inner struggle is not a big deal. I work in a very laid back office, and thankfully have a very understanding supervisor who has no issues with last minute call-offs due to sick kids, leaving early for pediatrician appointments, etc... I don't work in a cutthroat office where everyone is racing to get ahead. And normally, my 2 worlds of mommy vs career don't clash...until recently.
I was scheduled to attend a conference in Seattle in December; it's one that I've been to in the past and it's pretty productive, and I do come away feeling like I gained something. Plus, I've never been to Seattle, so I had plans to attend. Shortly before starting to book flights and hotels for the trip, I received a notice from daycare with the date for the annual Christmas pageant, which, of course, fell at the same time as the conference. So what do I do? Stay committed to the conference that I was planning on attending, to show my coworkers that I take my professional development seriously? Or cancel those plans and see my baby perform in his very first Christmas pageant?
I'm sure you can guess what I picked.
Seattle will still be there for another time, and there will be other conferences I can attend.
But going back to the original quote from Jake above, it is devastating to hear those kinds of statements. Or to hear your 2 year old say in a tiny voice at daycare pick up, "I've been wooking (looking) for you to come get me". Or to ask your kindergartner what he did on the playground, only to have him respond, "I didn't feel like playing today, I missed you and daddy too much. I sat by myself and thought about you".
Those kinds of statements from my kids are the ones that fly around in my head when I'm at work. They're the sentences that echo in my brain when I'm faced with decisions like the one about the conference. I hate those sentences, and they make me feel sad...but at the same time they can be a blessing, because they make some things easy. Turning down the trip to Seattle to see Liam's little show was a no-brainer. Signing up to help out with a party at Jake's school? Easy choice.
I don't think there's any clear cut method to maintaining a work/home balance. I think that, as parents, we are doing what we can, the best way we know how to do it. I have failures and successes, but I'm there when I can be. And when I do make the wrong choice and mess up? And when I do spend time feeling guilty for working outside of the home? I'm learning to forgive myself.