The life I’ve tried to project since having my first child three years ago has been some variation of “I am a working mom…hear me roar!” But you want the truth? I was too tired to roar. Too busy. Stretched in too many directions. For so long, I just Got On With It: I went through the motions, pretended to roar, and kept up an image that it was all do-able. I fancied myself some kind of SuperMom.
“Getting On With It” is an invisible hat that all mothers wear. It starts with pregnancy. First, you surrender to the peppercorn-sized alien in your belly who you love and fret over from the moment you realize she exists. Later, your body stretches, your feet pop out of your shoes like baked eggplants, and your bladder turns into the size of a medicine dropper. Then the baby arrives. You realize motherhood is, at times, a form of torture. Round the clock crying, perpetual diapering and burping, and irrational bouts of “is she still breathing?” when all other tasks have been addressed. For working moms, by the time maternity leave ends - mine was at three and a half months - you’re so tired that going back to work is a reprieve. Staring at a computer and talking with adults about anything other than a baby is a cakewalk. The baby is in good hands with the nanny or at daycare. You have some semblance of your life back. Sleep is inching back to normal. Suddenly Getting On With It isn’t so bad.
And then everything seems like it’s in balance until…until it’s not.
Getting On With It becomes a mantra you live with, and feel you should and can live up to. I had a Pre-Baby Life that I wanted to keep, so my calculus was to just suck it up and make it happen. If I can bounce back from a watermelon sized human in my belly I can certainly bounce back to work, right? But with time, I grew to realize that I was not the same employee I’d been pre-baby. I was not spending extra hours at night solidifying the PowerPoint deck for the client call the next day. I was less proactive in looking for new work, fearful that too much success might bleed into dinner time, daycare pickup, or worst of all, precious quality time on the weekends. I came to resent my colleagues who stretched above and beyond, just as I had done before having kids. My internal compass - the one calibrated to a pre-kids work/life balance - had shifted off-kilter. My own sense of self grew confused and muddied by conflicting priorities and messaging from all sides that “working mom balance” was possible. I found myself sniping at my kids when project deadlines approached. I was angry, irritable, and short-tempered with beautiful children who I had chosen to bring into this world. I would then be racked with guilt for my behavior, and question my own self worth as a mother.
I started to seriously consider my options as the “Client X” project was wrapping up. Surrounded by team members who could work nights and weekends, I found myself struggling in vain to keep up. I was forced to weigh decisions such as taking my son to the pediatrician or finalizing Client X’s year-end reports within a timeline that I had no control over. The choices I was stressing over were absurd and insanity-inducing.
Quitting wasn’t a rash move. My husband and I had to make some serious decisions. We sold our condo and decided to rent, thereby lowering our monthly housing payment by a third. We took our kids out of the expensive daycare they were in, and we decided to live within a budget that was previously unnecessary given two incomes. My husband adjusted to being a sole breadwinner. I adjusted to being dependent - in a completely new way - on my husband. None of these adjustments were quick, easy, or short-term in nature, yet they are working. It feels natural. It feels right. I feel like myself again.
I am a Mom who quit my career to stay at home with my kids. Hear. Me. ROAR!!!!