My occasionally snarky thoughts on everything from motherhood, politics, life and current events. Cocktails are sometimes mandatory. Bottoms up!

Saturday, October 29, 2005

On Motherhood and Balance

Oddybobo wrote this week about the difficulty balancing motherhood and career. It seems when you have a family and a career there is a constant worry that you are not doing the right things for either. As she wrote:

Now, though, with the days growing shorter, so too is my time with my family. The hours I work are so incredibly long, I might as well take up residence in another city until the weekend. I see my son off to bed only to hear him sob that he doesn't want me to go to work the next day, and even the bribes with Halloween candy don't get him to calm down.

So, I have found myself at a bit of a crossroads, albeit of brilliant foliaged trees. I have been here before. Do I sell my soul to the $, the one I need desperately to support my family, make the house payment, bills and other sundry needs.

Or do I chuck it all? Sell the house, the cars, the dog, live in a box but have time for my kid? There is no middle ground.

It's a conundrum, at worst it leaves you wracked with a sickening guilt that you might be failing. Failing your family, failing your career, or failing yourself. Eric (at SWG) wrote a post this week about this feeling of "am I doing the right thing here or am I simply doing what is expected" and he had this to say:

... see, we've all come that point she [AWTM] describes... that point where we look at ourselves and the people around us and wonder.. am I doing the right thing?... is this where I am supposed to be?... am I doing what is expected of me?... those moments of weakness that we have in our lives... they define us..

Brilliant, that. There is great strength to be found in walking your own path. When it comes to navigating the guilt strewn road that is motherhood, all I can say is that there are no easy answers. [Ohhh -- now there's a cop-out for ya! --ed.]

What I mean is, every Mother has to come to their own way of finding the balance. Many women have spent a great deal of time, education, money and energy to have a successful career. That's nothing to toss away lightly. Each of us comes to that crossroads where we have to decide -- do I choose $$$ and a more comfortable lifestyle? Or do I choose to be available for my child 24/7? It's trying to balance the two that gets tricky. Especially since (as mothers) most of us have the "guilt button" built right in....

For me the adventure started with the surprise that I was pregnant to begin with. We were not expecting to go down that road. Then finding out that I was pregnant again 7 months after K was born -- well, that was it. I chose to stay home with my girls.

It wasn't out of a lofty aspiration to be some sort of "perfect" mother or anything, (though I really wanted to not screw up too much...) it was just the most logical choice. For one, the loss of income did not seem to be so insurmountable -- Hubby and I were young and just starting out, so in my mind going from basically "zero" (with both of us working) to "zero" (with just one of us working) wasn't such a big jump. (And after looking at the costs for day care -- holy crap!)

We were poor, poor, poor, poor, poor for a very long time. Only buying cars with cash, never going out to eat, no vacations, coupon clipping to the nth degree... things were sometimes so tight we squeaked. But we made it work.

I hadn't finished my degree (hubby had his BS in meteorology) and I had most of my experience working in the food and beverage industry and bartending (though at the time I was selling furniture and doing some interior design). Neither was a passion for me -- it wasn't difficult to decide to give up the crap hours dealing with crap (or drunk) customers or sales. Let's face it, it's not like I was a brilliant brain surgeon or lawyer and my talents were going to go to waste if I decided to stay home with my kids and become a homemaker. Couple that with a very type 'A' personality where I couldn't imagine anyone else taking care of my babies -- the die was cast.

Hubby chose to hang up his dream of being a TV meteorologist and went to work for a corporation -- he felt the time had come to start climbing a ladder and drawing a steady paycheck (one with bennies and job security). And my being "without ties to employment" made it possible for him to advance with his career whenever an opportunity presented itself. (We have lived all over the lower 48 states, as a result.... but I digress.)

I have friends who are better moms because they have careers. And I know stay-at-home moms who suck at it. Full time motherhood isn't for everybody and it isn't easy. Kids will still try to manipulate you and make you feel guilty even when they have you 24/7. That part doesn't change. Deciding to "chuck it all" will not make the guilt trips suddenly vanish. (Kids are programmed to simultaneously make us feel huge amounts of love and guilt -- it's in the handbook.)

I have the utmost admiration for moms with jobs. I think we all work awfully hard. And I think the only thing we may "fail" to do, is recognize the resilience of our children. I have found that as long as they know they are loved, they can grow and achieve (and no serious damage is done--whatever guilty thoughts we have). If we are honest with ourselves, as much as we would like to be there to save them from every bump and hurt and fall in the world, it is impossible to do. They will grow up. And optimist that I am, I think they will be okay.

We Mothers *all* feel pulled in a hundred directions sometimes -- though it can only take two to kick start the guilt. ('Course I might just be looking for a reason behind all of the stretch marks that come with the job..... ) Today, my wish is for all mothers to find their balance -- in whatever form it takes....