I’ve been wanting to respond to your post, Just-ified. One of the things I think is interesting about our dynamic aside from our geographic settings is the difference in our work lives and we don’t talk about it as much here.
Background for others: At the end of August, I switched jobs. By design, the work will have a lot of similarities. And, by design, there will be a lot that’s different. Much of it driven by my want to be more present mentally and physically with my family.
A predominant piece of my decision was based on the commute, the ever-expanding responsibility and, as shallow as this might sound, buttoned up to the collar 1980’s dress code. Coupled together it was taking a huge toll. Juggling work and our family from the moment my eyelids fluttered open until Luke’s head hit the pillow at night was exhausting. Things I had found exhilarating before becoming a parent were added burdens to an endless stream of hurdles I had to navigate each day.
When I was at work I was thinking about being home and when I was at home I was thinking about work. I felt like I was coming up short across the board and bad enough, I didn’t really see an upside to any of it. I no longer enjoyed pulling on a suit, driving with my coffee while on a conference call, running from meeting-to-meeting and collapsing at the end of the day without a second to myself. I’ve found a new position that’s eliminated the commute and some of the add-ons that’s allowing me to focus more on the part of my career that I love.
It was interesting to me that as I was talking to colleagues about my decision, I got varying responses depending on the demographic.
A few women my age or younger, with and without kids, commented to me that it seemed like I had been juggling it all. That it gave them hope for how they would navigate their families and their careers when the time came. In a way, I’m sad that my profession in PR gave me the ability to gloss over the struggle.
Women further along in their careers who had walked this path before me simply remarked, enough said, or I’m surprised you didn’t do this sooner. They talked about taking time off from their careers and being home with their kids, or pulling back for a few years to reprioritize before picking things up again.
I feel lucky that we’re far enough in the women’s lib. movement that we get to choose the life we want to pursue. But in a lot of ways I’m sad we haven’t come further.
While I think the fact that we say “work” like one path is and one path isn’t adds an additional dose of judgement, it makes me sad every time I see mom-bashing online over who has it harder a “working” mom or a stay at home mom. Can’t we agree that parenting is hard and doing the best thing for yourself and your family is harder still. Finding time for your own passions, a moment where you feel like your pre-kid-self and navigating it all with out a sticky handprint of cereal on your top are the universal challenges any mom faces. We don’t need the baggage of judgement on top of it. Who has got time for that?
I’m in awe of mothers who are home day in and day out with their kids. I don’t know that I would manage it gracefully. Anyone who says you “just” stay at home should spend a day with you. I always felt the same way about my sister Heather who spent 7 years working to raise her boys and has recently resumed her career.
I’d also note that there is judgment from certain crowds at moms who spend their days working away from their kids and that can be hard to swallow too. While I feel lucky to have found a career path that let’s me do work I love and substantially contribute to our family’s wellbeing there is a melting pot of emotions for me as a mom that works outside the home.
I’m sad that there are songs Luke sings differently than I do because his daycare teacher sings it that way. I cried when I found out they put him on a swing before I had a chance. Then there are days I breath a sigh of relief as I walk out of the daycare knowing my kid will eat well, sleep well and play well and I don’t have to manage it…and most of the time I feel guilty about that. But each day, when I pick him up I’m thrilled at seeing him run to the gate. I can’t wait to hear what he got up to in those few hours. To see his craft projects, talk to his friends and get his kisses.
I don’t think as parents we can ever have it all. I think the nuances that make our individual families who they are create unique circumstances where truly we are the only ones who can decide what’s best and what will work.
I want to be honest in person and in my writing about the ups and downs of parenting and of the life we’re living. I hope that I remember, in the future, whether talking to new moms, veteran moms and moms-to-be, to be candid that no path is easy but every path is amazing in its own right. And I hope that societally we can find a better way to respect our moms and the pivotal work we all do.