When I started consulting part-time, I was ecstatic. My old identity started to creep back into my bloodstream. My brain began to fill with creative ideas and business knowledge instead of just nap schedules and grocery lists. I felt smart again. I had really started to miss being something other than “just a mom.” I wanted to be a mom AND… something… anything…
One of the first (and only) books I read after Q was born was When Did I Get Like This?, by Amy Wilson. It’s hysterical. At one point, Wilson discusses how hard it is to talk to people once you’ve transitioned into SAHM-hood. Someone will ask you what you do for a living, and as soon as you say you stay home with the kids, you see their eyes glaze over as they tune you out and you’re “immediately rendered uninteresting.” So you find yourself hurriedly following up with what you used to do back when you had a Big Girl Job so people know that you’re smart and educated and you hope they will once again see you as a contributor to society. They have no idea how smart you have to be to out-smart a toddler!
I think many career women who become SAHMs have the same idea. We’re going to stop working for a little while, spend some great quality time with the kiddos when they’re little, and at some point we’ll go back to work. Maybe full-time, maybe part-time. Maybe we’ll wait until the youngest starts school. Maybe we’ll give just a year or two.
Whatever we decide, we know the best of both worlds is within our reach. We’re intelligent women! It’s 2013! And this America, for cryin’ out loud! We now have the freedom to choose whatever we want. We can make this work, and everything will be perfect!
That’s what I thought when I went back to work part-time. I would still be a full-time SAHM and spend lots of quality time with Quinn. I would also get to be the old me just a few hours a week. It would tough, but manageable.
I thought a little separation would be good for both Quinn and me. I would learn to let go a little instead of being so particular. Quinn would learn some independence and not be quite so attached to me. I would actually enjoy my rush hour commute because I would listen my music for a change. Instead of listening to Elmo and Choo-Choo Soul, I could blast “90’s on 9” and “Backspin” and listen to hip-hop without worrying about cuss words.
But in reality, I’m really struggling with letting go, Quinn cries every Wednesday morning when I leave for the office, and I cry all the way there and rarely even turn the radio on.
I realized that working and mommy-ing is a whole lot tougher than I thought. I feel like having the opportunity to do everything just gives me the opportunity to suck at everything because I’ve convinced myself that I’m expected to do and be everything. Of course, no one actually expects that but me. That’s what happens when you’re a perfectionist who’s fueled by accomplishment. You take on too much and become an anxiety-ridden stress case who doesn’t sleep. (Someone please send my husband a trophy of some kind. He deserves one.)
When I’m with Quinn, I’m worrying about work, and then I feel guilty for not focusing on Quinn. When I’m working, I’m worrying about Quinn, and then I feel guilty for not concentrating on work. I know most working moms can relate to that! (Can I get an amen?!)
And now that I’m pregnant again, I feel like I’m being extra selfish by starting this job. I think I should be spending the next few months savoring my last alone time with Quinn and ensuring he feels loved. But instead, I’m trying to squeeze in as much work time as I can so I don’t have a four-year gap in my resume and become completely irrelevant.
*Sigh* The problem with never settling for less is that you Never. Settle. For less.
That’s the tough thing about choices – you always wonder if you made the right one. So I keep going back to my 2013 theme word, CHOOSE. If I make the choice that makes me happiest and the one I think is best for my family, it will be the right choice. And right now, that means I should keep my part-time gig. And if at any point that changes, I can make a different choice. I don’t have to do or be everything. I don’t even have to do it right. I just have to do my best.
Besides, perfection is really boring anyway... right?