Before I had Gabe I worried that work would feel meaningless once I returned from leave. I worried I would sit there at my desk and think, “What am I doing here? My child is at home! I should be there instead!” Some people feel this way. It is a totally valid way to feel.
While on leave I worried that work would feel exhausting. I worried that 2 months at home would make work feel like a marathon. I worried that I would be tired from disjointed sleep. I worried it would feel like torture.
Like most everything, my fears turned out to be not at all the reality. Staying home with my kid is not for me, it doesn’t make me happy and it doesn’t make me the best person I can be. I had no issues with being home for 2 months – those months had a purpose and I knew the window of time would close at a certain date – it was not indefinite.
Everyone keeps asking me how going back to work has been. And I say, enthusiastically, “Good!” And I mean it. This post feels weird to me because all I want to talk about is how empowered I feel as a working mom. How amazing it feels to get up at 530 or 6, take a shower, feed or pump one last time before I get fully dressed, blow dry my hair, scramble to get breakfast and lunch packed, tag team with Kamel on who is watching the baby while the other handles their morning routines, pack my bag for the day, and head out the door. How liberating it feels to sit alone on the train, reading. How invigorating it feels to walk the mile to work and head up in the elevator to the office full of kind people who want to share chocolate covered strawberries from the cafe down the street, or coo over Gabe’s goofy baby pictures, or share stories of their own crazy kids and their shenanigans. How powerful I feel to sit at a computer and work at a task that I know I am good at, to attend meetings and conference calls, to contribute. And how safe it feels to know Gabe is with his dad at home for the month of May, and then starting in June with our lovely caregiver at daycare. To receive picture texts of him sleeping, eating a bottle, playing on Kathleen’s quilt.
There is so much talk right now about, “Can women REALLY have it all?!” and I haven’t really weighed in on it because I think the discussion is too simplistic. I think the bigger question is: what do you want? I think the bigger realization is: we all, every single one of us (penis or vagina included) have to pick and choose our priorities. There are many forks in many roads and we all have to decide a direction every now and then. Where do we put most of our energy? Most of our money? Our time? Our selves? How thin can you spread yourself before disappearing altogether? How thin do you want to be spread in the first place?
It’s not about “it all,” it’s about the goals you have for you. I want to have an engaged family. I want to have a meaningful career. I want to have a partner, a true blue partner, who I spend the rest of my life with and who I could not do any of these things without. So far I’m on that path. I didn’t choose to chase my previous goal of teaching because it would have sent me off into the middle of nowhere America, in a very small school, for god knows how long. I chose to piece together a different kind of career. I chose to have a baby at 27, sacrificing parts of my 20s that could have been spent traveling the world and having adventure after adventure to be a young parent and give myself some reproductive options down the road. Things are not equal for women, motherhood is filled with expectations, shame, and supposed personal limitations, but I don’t totally buy it. I don’t feel limited. I feel awesome. I don’t feel exhausted. I feel purposeful.
I think this is what it feels like when you make the choices that are right for you, no matter what they are. Do I have it all? Right now I do. Tomorrow or the next day or the next I’ll add another item to the pile of checked off tasks I have on my 100 mile long, revolving to-do list. Tomorrow, or the next day, or the day after that I’ll have some more work to do, another hill to scramble up, another puzzle to solve. Today, though, I’m enjoying where I stand.