I’m sitting here in the quiet of our basement, watching old episodes of Law and Order SVU while Eric is working. In general, this is what I do when Sam is napping on Saturdays and Sundays. It gives me a bit of quiet space. Later, we will probably all go to lunch. When Sam is taking his second nap, I will attempt to fold laundry and write a to-do list for my job for this week. After that, we’ll make dinner together and begin the process of putting Sam to bed. Somewhere in there, we’ll go for a walk, or to the park, or just run around in the backyard.
Our weekends are mundane, but they are the best weekends of my life. The weekends are also easy on Sam. He sleeps well, gets to come and sit in a lap whenever he needs to, and has the attention of both of his parents.
Tomorrow morning, we will start his week again. He will wake up, hopefully, after 5AM. It’s Eric’s day tomorrow, so he will get up with Sam right away, feed him a bottle and change his diaper. I will sleep in until 6AM, and then get myself ready while watching Sam go in and out of my closet and open and close the door, over and over, while trying to get me to look at him. I will not have time to fix my hair, put on make-up or eat breakfast. I have a timeline of getting Sam to day care right at 7:30AM, and he needs my attention for that hour and a half. I will hurriedly put on clothes, put in contacts, wash my face and brush my teeth. For a few minutes tomorrow morning, I will get to read a book with Sam, or watch an episode of Yo Gabba Gabba, or just watch him get in and out of his wagon. I will feel rushed and anxious, but will try to enjoy my little daily time with my son. He will not get his morning nap, and may not nap at day care. I’ll come home to a very cranky little man instead of the burbling cuddle bug I get on weekends.
I often feel like I am not doing a good job as a mom, even though intellectually, I know I am. On the other end of that, I often don’t feel like I am doing a good job at work either. I get into work at 8:30, usually tired, and I eat breakfast. I leave by 4:30, often with work still left to do at home, so that I can see my child before he goes to bed between 6 and 7PM.
While I’m at work though, I might find out that one of the program’s graduates has gotten a scholarship to college, or a job that pays well and has room for growth. I might get assigned to an incredible project or have the opportunity to have a meaningful conversation with one of my advisees. In bits and pieces, I see that I work at a place that makes a difference in the lives of many young men and women who pass through our doors. I often leave work with a sense of accomplishment and come in the morning with a strong sense of purpose. When I was away on maternity leave, I missed my job, and I missed that part of who I am.
I cannot imagine being a working mom at a job I don’t love, or with coworkers I dislike. To do that would be agonizing — and I feel lucky that I am not one of many, many women who have to go in day after day, missing their little one and not being rewarded by the work that they do. I am also a woman who needs meaningful work — if I were at home, I would be writing, sewing, or cooking in the pockets of time that Sam would allow. My job fills that part of me, keeps my brain working at a different level, and allows me space to collaborate with other adults on work that I enjoy.
To be a mother and work at a wonderful job — it sounds like I am quite lucky in both ways. I remain thankful for these things. Everyday I say thanks for a healthy, thriving child and a good job. However, I feel pulled in both directions, a constant tug. On days I stay home with a sick baby, I know I’m doing the right thing as a mother, but know that I will be scrambling at work the next day. When I return to work, I usually keep thinking to myself that I should be home. That Sam will not be sleeping like he should at day care, and that he’ll be missing me, and he won’t feel well when he gets home. I know I shouldn’t be thinking this last one, but I do — that someone else is raising him for me. (Eric points out that this is partially true, and okay, since we have the very best day care provider in the area. Very few kids these days — or kids in any lifetime — have been raised solely by their parents.)
I am able to talk myself down from a lot of these thoughts. It takes practice to refocus, but I can nowadays, and it is necessary for my well-being at home and at work. It’s still a daily occurrence — that draw towards home and child — and it’s something I know I am not alone in experiencing. I think some of this feeling will always weigh on me, particularly when my child, or children, are young. I have to recognize that there is always a pull in life, and the best I can do is respond rationally, mete out my time and give myself credit for doing the things that I feel are right for my family and for my work.
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I’m a liberal feminist that believes that liberal, feminist ideals should gel with embracing your gender and motherhood (if that’s what you feel like doing). I support all kinds of moms and dads and parents. Oh and, although I totally love that natural vibe and not harming the environment, I supplement my organic milk and fresh fruits and veggies with the occasional Twix, the frequent Oreo, and the daily Coke Zero. I’m opinionated, not easily offended, and a loudmouth in person and on the internet. I am what I am. Welcome.