Posted by LaurenKelly | Posted in Working Mommy | Posted on 22-07-2012
Hi. I know it’s been a while. But I’ve been having trouble finding balance in mi vida loca (my crazy life). I’ve written a few blog posts in my head over the last few months, and am eager to get at least one of them on paper.
Last month, I was standing in line at Whole Foods waiting to pay for boxed lunches for my colleagues to eat after our team building nature walk in the Baylands Nature Preserve in Palo Alto, California. I had organized this activity as part of my role as Interim Director of Operations for the nonprofit organization being incubated by my fulltime employer. As I was pulling out my credit card to hand to the cashier I looked over at the magazine stand and a headline caught my eye. It was the July/August cover of The Atlantic magazine and in bold black letters it said: “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All”. The headline was further illustrated by a baby girl poking her head out of a briefcase being carried by a professionally dressed woman.
The first thought that came to my mind was, “But I don’t want to have it all!” My thought process was as such that I know where my priorities lie, and that is with my family. But my reality is that I have a lot of priorities (maybe too many), and there are times when the priority of my family conflicts with the myriad of other responsibilities I have outside of the home.
When I was a teenager, I remember boldly stating to my friends and family that I would not have children until I was in my 30’s, if at all. At the time, 30 seemed really old, and a long way off. When I was in my 20’s, I had embraced many of the philosophies identified with feminism. As part of this, I asserted to my then boyfriend, now husband, that if we were to get married I would not take his last name unless he was just as willing to take mine in a coin toss. I didn’t lose, but I did compromise after our marriage by legally changing my last name to be my middle name because hyphenating my long and difficult-to-pronounce Italian name seemed cumbersome in the end. In our wedding vows, we promised one another that if we were not blessed with children that we would be content with each other so long as we both shall live.
After being married for a few years, I began to think that having children was the next natural step in our lives together. And I also began to espouse that if we were to have children that I would like the option of being able to stay at home. Six years into our marriage, the reality of being able to pay our mortgage coupled with our desire to have a family began to wear on me. So, I made yet another compromise and we decided to forge ahead, knowing that I would become a “working mom”. Our son Gooby was born in 2008 and our daughter Cakes joined us (ahem, surprised us!) in 2011, when I was 31 and 33 years old respectively. At least I had not broken the promise I made to myself and others as a teenager.
After having twice enjoyed maternity leave (e.g. being a fulltime mom) and followed by enduring the inevitable return-to-work experience (e.g. being a working mom), I have come to realize a few things. First, I don’t know that I would want to be a fulltime mom. It’s really frickin hard. In fact at times, it seems a lot harder (or maybe different hard) than going to work. The 24 hour days, the isolation, the testing of my patience, the lack of cerebral stimulation, the lack of appreciation.
Second, I don’t know that I really want to be a working mom. The 5:00am rush to be awake, dressed, and ready to go before my kids start their day. The struggle to get out the door before 8:00am and the hour and a half childcare/pre-school drop off journey before reaching my final destination at work. The daily mind shift from the personal urgent/important priorities, to the professional urgent/important priorities. The excitement of seeing my kids for one hour each night when I arrive home, and the being anxious for them to go to bed because I am so very tired from my work day and I need a break. The looking forward to vegetating on the couch after bedtime, and the need to make one final push until 10:00pm because my husband and I also run a construction business and there are things that cannot wait until the morning, because I will not have time before 5:00am, when my day starts all over again.
So, I guess what I’m saying is, I reluctantly agree with The Atlantic headline. Women can’t have it all – because (for me at least) there is always compromise and internal conflict. We want our kids and family to be a priority, but we also want to make ourselves a priority (which happens less than I’d like it to). We want to stay home with our children, but we want to go to work. We want to go to work, but we want to be home. I definitely don’t have all of the answer to this eternal dichotomy. And I, like all moms (working or stay-at-home), am most certainly exhausted. So, let me ask you: How do you find balance, peace, harmony, and acceptance in the life that you have chosen (or been blessed with)?