Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Work/Mommy Divide

I have a confession to make: I suffer from mommy guilt. I googled "mommy guilt" and it came up with 32,400 results. I could have gotten even more if I'd removed the quotation marks, but I think that'd have been slightly dishonest searching, as mommy doesn't always go with guilt (or does it?!). But, I digress...

See, when I first found out I was pregnant, I was completely and utterly unaware of how many decisions, and hours of worrying would come with the tiny bundle of joy we would receive in approximately 9.5 months' time.

Most of the women of my generation want to do things differently than our moms before us. Its an interesting cycle. But I wanted to do something my mom didn’t – which was be a mom and be at home with my daughter. I was fortunate enough to have the kind of job (and a boss) who was flexible enough to let me do that, so my journey as some kind of hybrid mom/worker bee began

As soon as the little one made her appearance, let me tell you, I realized why moms make end up choosing to either work or stay home. If you don't pick one, you end up stuck in grey limbo - always feeling left out of the SAHM (Stay At Home Mom) life of playdates and library readings and park visits and being totally absorbed with your child's daily accomplishments because you have deadlines and projects to finish. But you also miss out on the WOHM (Work Outside the Home Mom) perks of breaks, being able to choose where and when you eat lunch, regular adult interaction and being forced to bathe regularly because you have a child who wants to "help" you do your work.

Annan updates her blog and sends out emails

Of course, each side of the work divide feels deprived of the others' perks - and you are, but let me tell you, attempting to straddle that line has really stretched my sanity. And it’s mostly on the mommy side that I feel inadequate and like a general failure. Work, since it has the most immediate consequences, gets done on time, if not completely to the level that I'd always like it to be - I do enjoy having a roof over my head, after all.

The child, on the other hand, while being incredibly demanding, ends up losing out most of the time. She would rather that Mommy play sleepy time with her, or piggy back ride, or play in the pool, or blow bubbles, or even read a story, rather than be chained to my computer. One of the most heartbreaking things that she says is "You're all done now?" followed by "Now we can do..." whatever it was that she was wanting to do all day. And it really stinks to have to say "No, I'm not done yet, I'm just changing projects" (because the kid can tell when I'm closing down documents and spreadsheets - WOW).

I've been feeling torn between doing a good job at work and doing a good job at being mommy for most of my daughter's life. I started reading books on early childhood development and realized that now is probably some of the most important time in my daughter's intellectual development. And she is really interested in learning - this child already recognizes most of her letters, ALL of the colors, and can count correctly to 10 if she wants to, help me make coffee and roll out pita bread, help make our beds and fold clothes. She is amazing. And she has picked this stuff up from the air.

As I read more books, the responsibility of teaching and training our hope for the future became more and more overwhelming. It is clear that she needs individual, expert attention, but here I am, plugging numbers into spreadsheets and making pretty graphs. Let me also get in here that I love my job. I love what I get to do, who I get to work with, and that I get to do something that makes the world a better place (I hope). Oh yeah, and I get paid to do all that! My Grandpa told me many years ago that I needed to find a job that I loved, because everything else will fall into place if you love your job. And it really makes a HUGE difference in my contentment levels, let me tell you.

So, what's a woman to do? I have a job that I love and a child that I love and who needs me to be more present during the day than I am. What it comes down to is realizing that I am NOT an expert at early child development. And I can't possibly fulfill both roles of mommy and employee, particularly when mommy needs to put on the teacher hat more and more often. And, most importantly, the more pulled between the two I feel, the less happy I am, which affects my quality in both areas.

We've decided that the best solution for our family is to put our little one into a preschool. Can I say that the decision was a difficult one to arrive at? I mean, I made my daughter's baby food from scratch, used cloth diapers, struggled and struggled (and are still struggling most days) to get her to sleep without resorting to letting her cry it out - and here I am, deciding to let someone else teach my child.

But, I feel like a huge weight has lifted off my chest. I know that in just a few days time I'll be able to turn my daughter over to the willing and capable hands of her teachers and she will get to play with other children her age and really get to explore in a way that she can't at home. And I get to be one thing at a time (well, 3 days a week anyway). I feel released to be who I am and to do the best that I can within the circumstances that I find myself.

Which, really, in the end, is what we're supposed to be heading toward, right? It’s all about trying to live as authentically as possible without taking up too much space or resources. Hopefully, I'm one step closer to that than I was last week.

Now I need to go play hide and seek with my daughter...


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