My friend Amanda sent an article to me earlier today which really hit home. Nearly 14 years ago, I quit work to stay at home and take care of my son. I gave up every hobby, passion, thought, etc., in order to be the world’s most amazing Mom. While I don’t begrudge that for one minute, I’ve often wondered “would I have been a better mother if I had retained some of my hobbies and interests, outside of being the best Mom I could be?”
The answer is yes.
Unlike societies like India where the extended family is deeply integrated into the fabric of society, and where domestic help is affordable and abundant, Western societies tend to consist of more nuclear families. Help is limited. Childcare is expensive.
Faced with a complex juggling challenge, women, often, abandon their professional lives and become full-time mothers. Paying for childcare, feeling guilty about not being there for the children, peer pressure from other women who are full-time moms –all eventually catch up with them. They quit their jobs in search of a less stressful existence.
I’m not sure if my existence was less stressful. In fact, I’m sure it wasn’t. By the time my son hit elementary school, I was the go-to gal for the PTA and a volunteering fool. If they needed me, I was there. Did you want someone to walk back and forth in the classroom for hours while kids took mind-numbing tests the state required to have numbers for a spreadsheet which said the teachers knew how to teach a preformed curriculum which would make sure we were keeping up with other countries? Call me. Carpool? I’m down. Bring carefully quartered oranges and grapes I’ve popped in the freezer the night before so they are the perfect amount of cold for the soccer team? I’m here. Bake five cakes for teachers the next day. Piece of, um, cake.
But along the way, and this is something I’m still having difficulty reconciling with, I forgot me. Sure, the time off led me back to writing and the excitement of putting words on paper, while developing a marketing/communications skill set few can match. But, it doesn’t translate to the job descriptions I see, especially when my skills are mid-level and up. That commiserate experience is not from sitting in a cubicle day in and out for the last 14 years. It’s from getting my hands dirty in the freelance world and learning things the hard way much of the time.
Can we truly have it all? I want to say “yes, we can.” I can be a wife, mother, daughter, have a career, and not be as bonkers as Sarah Jessica Parker in “I Don’t Know How She Does It.” But as someone who’s been out of the workforce since 2000, while quietly consulting on one-off gigs, with some social media agency work thrown in, how is that turned into a fulfilling career?
Maybe I’m thinking more about it because my son starts high school this fall and in four short years he’ll be off to college. Starting his own life and I don’t want to be sitting here, wondering where life left me. Or rather, where I left my life. I’m afraid it will turn me into a bitter shell of a woman and that’s not something I want.