Look, I know I am not unique because I work a full time job and am a mom. I know that mom’s struggle with the guilt of trying to balance everything they feel they have to accomplish and the, frankly, shitty concept that they have to “have it all”. But this is my guilt that I am currently wallowing in and I would like to sit in it for a while thankyouverymuch.
Normally, for work I travel. A decent amount. Enough to achieve a status on an airline that allows me to try and upgrade to a better seat, check bags for free and board early. I stopped traveling in March when I was pregnant with Ben and hadn’t left the state until this past weekend.
My company has been very kind, understanding that my normal November schedule is chaos and I am normally gone for basically three of the four weeks. This was not the case this year and I had only one trip to make. It was for a client I have worked with since day one at my job, which helped in case I cried the entire time. It also allowed me to bore the entire group with endless photos of Ben and feel zero remorse (see below, who doesn’t love this kind of stuff??).
But more importantly it let me step back into this water very slowly. Travel is part of my job, and I love my job. My job is actually my career and part of how I identify. I have worked hard to get where I am at and really enjoy what I do, who I work with every day, the challenges I face and the times I succeed. My work was a bit of a saving grace when I was heavy into the PPD. It made me feel, for a moment each day, like perhaps I wasn’t a total failure at everything. Work was something I knew and could count on.
But with that, of course, comes the ensuing guilt. And it is heavy. Going back to work was hard, but leaving my boys was the hardest. I was ok the day I left, cried a little bit on the plane, but once I got to the meeting it was all work, work, work and catching up. There is little downtime, which is fine by me. What really undid me was when I actually got home, well after Ben was already asleep (thanks time change) and saw him on the monitor, his arms flung across his face asleep and oblivious that his mama was home. My heart finally opened up again as though it had been on lockdown all weekend and I broke into a full on sob.
You see, women are asked all the time, how we balance it all? The fact is we don’t. We compartmentalize. At least I do. I get up in the morning and leave for work, knowing that I am going to work to provide healthcare for my son, a 401k for his father and I so he doesn’t have to care for us when we are old and doddy, a paycheck and frankly an identity that I can answer to beyond being a mother. When I get to work I spend 10 minutes or so waxing poetically, to whomever will listen, about my sons latest adventures, as they are ALL fascinating to me and then I put my head down and work. Often at lunch, I find my search engine full of fun searches such as, how to cook baby food, the latest in baby jumpers and why my baby won’t nap (seriously, what the hell?) and then I put my head back down and I do it again until the end of the day.
Now looking at my office you see the dozens of photos of Ben and Mike and the dogs, because that is my motivation anytime things get hard or I get frustrated. But the simple fact is, if I didn’t compartmentalize like I do I would do nothing but think of him.
But I am grateful. Grateful that I get to be this woman, who is his mother, but also a director at a company that I admire at a job I love. I am Mike’s wife, a sister, an aunt, a cousin, a friend. He will grow up knowing that his mom is all of these things and that all women can be all of these things without hesitation. But most importantly he will grow up knowing that his mom embraced all of it in hopes that he would learn how to be a man that respected every bit of it, and for that, I will never feel guilty.