Since my daughter, Charlee, will celebrate her first birthday next week, and my son, Joey, just turned four, I started unconsciously taking pause and reflecting. Here’s a list of things I’ve learned, realized and basically come to grips with being a working mom.
1. It’s okay to not want to go to work.
I remember reading Kristi’s post, Some Days, and thinking, you said it Sista. I am fortunate to work in education; my job is rewarding and it affords me time to be with my family. I am also grateful we have the power to work in most fields of our choice. However, there are days when I secretly long to be some kind of real housewife. And I’m not above admitting if I could afford to stay home, Joey would still be in pre-school. (I can almost hear the gasps, but I’m just keeping it more real than the housewives.) Friends have asked me what I would do all day. Without missing a beat, I respond: “Blog. Run. Cook balanced meals. Shop. Tweet. Make cupcakes and decorate my house for each season. Not shove Charlee in a highchair and Joey in front of Nick Jr. while I run around an hour before bath and bedtime. Lead a very fulfilling life.”
2. Women – working and not – need to support one another rather than judge each other.
Notice how I fit this one in after my Housewife confession. But it’s true. Whatever we do with our days, we can all admit being a mom is hard, and every choice we make comes from an endless well of love for our family. Writing for WMAG has reinforced to me how much we need each other for advice and support. When people choose to make blanket statements about who we are and choices we make, I have learned to scoff at their ignorance. So work, don’t work. Breast feed, don’t breast feed. Strain squash every night or pop open a jar of Gerber. We all love and want the best for our kids – let’s do it for each other.
3. There will always be people who don’t follow #2.
When my older sister and I were kids, she told me, “not everyone is going to like you.” The Hubs has said to me, “People are not going to behave as you would like them to.” At 40, I have finally come to terms with this. I’ve learned that it was immature and egotistical of me to assume everyone will treat me the way I want to be treated. Last month, I was supposed to write a post about a friendship I had with a colleague. I never posted it because I didn’t think it was professional, but that friend broke my heart. Mean people really do suck.
4. Clichés can be true.
I just used one above that you can’t deny. You all know when we are pregnant, when we go to back to work, when we give birth, everyone has some pearl of wisdom to bestow. Here’s a sublist of annoying gems that I’ve learned can be true:
1. They do grow up fast.
2. People can sense good intentions.
3. Kids say the darnest things.
4. When you fail, you learn.
5. This too shall pass.
6. The truth will set you free.
7. The grass on the other side may look greener, but it’s still gotta be mowed.
5. It’s okay to be on the fence about having another kid.
I knew I wanted more than one child, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t scared or I didn’t consider not doing it. The money, the time, the energy, the attention – I was worried about every aspect of it. I’ve learned it’s actually smart to contemplate all this. None of it meant I was secretly evil. And of course two kids is harder than one – you are adding another human to your household! That is another person I have to protect, provide for and shelter from all the world’s evils. It’s so overwhelming and it’s so simply awesome.
6. Life is easier with a supportive partner.
I don’t care who it is – your spouse, a friend, the nanny – we need someone who is there to help, share responsibilities and pick up some slack. I thank god every day for The Hubs. He may call me his Lucille Ball. We may fight about living room furniture, and we may nudge one another in our sleep when the baby cries, but he helps me, supports me and he is my biggest fan. We give each other the energy we need to plow through each day. He is putting our son to bed as I type this post, and he will read it before I publish it. We are both lucky people.
7. Even with The Hubs helping, I get friggin tired.
When I started working after college, people loved to say how tired I was going to be. When I turned 30, they told me everything about my body would change. I laughed at their ignorance. When I had Joey, they told me to kiss working out and my body goodbye. Still I scoffed at their pessimism. Well everyone, congratulations – you finally win. I am 40, I have two kids, I work, and there is nothing I would rather do right now than sleep for two days. I have even feigned illness to sneak a snooze. Forget planning when we will be intimate, The Hubs and I actually plan when we will sleep!
8. Acceptance is the key to peace.
Is that a cliché too?? I type this as my big toe grazes a ZBar wrapper Joey left on the floor under my desk. This may have been the hardest lesson for someone like me. I spent a lot of time scoffing at people who have told me no or that I can’t do something. But along with being tired, I have to accept that there are blocks on my living room floor, dishes soaking in the sink, laundry in the dryer, crumbs on the table, and some weird sticky substance on the ottoman in the family room. I also have to accept that I can’t shield Joey and Charlee from mean kids, and that they will at times be the ones who are mean. I have to accept that my parents did the best they could when my sister and I were kids, and their mistakes are not something I should hold against them. The Hubs and I are guaranteed to make mistakes too. Learning and reflecting and evolving is never ending, and I hope that is something I teach my kids and continue myself.