I start my new job on Monday. Tomorrow, October 6th, after 136 days of getting my feet wet as a Mom of two. This heavy, overwhelming feeling is familiar. I’ve been here before, so most would think, (myself included) I’d have a clue as to how to navigate through it. Alas, I don’t. So I’m here again. Staring at the calendar, marveling at how fast the days flew by, wishing I had more time. I can imagine there are many of us out there doing the same thing, some for different reasons, some for the same.
There is an ongoing dialogue, maybe even a debate, between those of us Moms who stay at home, and those of us who return to work. What is better? What is fair? Is there a line? Should there be?
In a perfect world, I would stay at home and raise my girls, never missing a milestone or a moment in their formative years… but I would also go back to work. I’ve spent the last 13 years being a professional since graduating college, and I like where I landed. What to do when you want to be in two places at once?
Is it selfish to have kids only to pass them off for a portion of the time? Do I have a greater responsibility to rise in the professional ranks because I am raising girls, and they need an in-home role model that proves there is no limit to what they can accomplish? How do I convince myself they don’t feel abandoned as I walk out the door? It sounds dramatic, but if I am living in full disclosure-ville, I think about it every time I leave the house without them in tow.
Is it important to back off, give the helicopter a rest, and let them formulate their independence regardless of the likely bruises, mistakes, potential bullies, danger zones et al. that lie ahead? Yes. Probably. Who knows. I think the best approach to this topic is to speak singularly. For me, I want to do both. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, some days I would like to trade the tea in for a double tall vodka, ok a lot of days, but at my core, I am doing what I want to be doing.
Parenting is not for everyone. I am a staunch supporter of that. Being a woman doesn’t mean you NEED to be a mother. It’s ridiculously hard, so you need to be all in. Which leads me back to my original dilemma of how one pulls off being the invested employee whilst being the super mom? I don’t buy into the ‘lean in’ movement. I like this author’s take on why it doesn’t work. Again, for me personally, I don’t live to work. I want to be a Mom more than anything, but I still need to flash my skill set and continue my professional trajectory. I think striking the perfect balance between at home and profession is best.
So what should we call this? Straddling the line? What does this balance look like? For me, its choosing what you want to spend your time doing, and whatever it is, wherever you’re at in that moment, do it to the best of your ability. No excuses. Growth and opportunity spring from being uncomfortable, and as I tell my 2-year-old, never say can’t. It is possible to excel at both. I think I can… I think I can…
If you’re a Mom of two or on the precipice of becoming one, here are a couple of tactics that worked for me.
- Get a routine going for you as soon as possible. Mine consisted of coffee every morning OUT OF THE HOUSE at Java Man. I walked, ran, (almost always with both girls in tow) or drove to get it so I was out of the house and everyone got a little fresh air and sunshine.
- Pay attention to the toddler as much as possible. They will remember, the baby won’t. I included Stella in everything. She didn’t always want to partake, but I at least gave her the option. Change the baby, watch Mama feed the baby, dress the baby, rock the baby etc.
- Make sure one parent, or person is always paying attention to the toddler. (Do you see a theme happening here?) I learned quickly the toddler was the hard part of this equation, not the baby.
- If breastfeeding, do it standing up sometimes. It’s easy and then you can maneuver around and (feign) you’re involved in whatever activity the toddler is doing.
- Play doh. It works, trust me. We tell her what to make us and she goes to town.
- Stella discovered a really cute YOUTUBE channel called Charli’s Crafty Kitchen. I allowed her iPad time every day during lunch and at 5pm. She watched these vignettes, and now has a much more vested interest in food, what we’re eating and how we made it. Check it out parents, super cute!!
- Get the toddler involved in something new. During my maternity leave we had Stella in a private swim class with her friend Olivia once a week for 5 weeks. After that, we took her to ART ZONE to paint, play and get dirty once a week as well. It was a good distraction and (I think) made her feel like we were still concentrating on just her for a bit. (Please note, I brought the baby to both events. Kept her in the stroller and so again it was fresh air and a change of scenery for Wren as well.)
- Dance parties. Yep – we put on our apple tv and went to town dancing around the living room. Wren either slept or I held her and Stella and I got a chance to get exercise and goof around.
- We napped Wren in her Mamaroo upstairs in the middle of the play zone. We did this with Stella too, but I think it’s even more important with the 2nd because they need to get accustomed to chaos. Unlike your first, the second is always going to be in the middle of Toddler-ville. If they need a museum-esque atmosphere to sleep, you might be in trouble down the road.
- Great blogs to know, follow and read – www.mothermag.com, www.clementinedaily.com, www.smallfryblog.com, www.weelicious.com
These 136 days will be missed. Unlike the first time when I was so overwhelmed I barely moved off the couch, I truly enjoyed every waking moment of being able to just be a Mom. I owe a huge nod to my husband who made it possible for me to take this much time.
These 136 days were also hard earned. There were tears, fights, failures, highlights, a heart so full it can’t be described, a deeper appreciation, an awakening, a desire for more (dare I say it) and a lot of help. Help that deserves to be called out by me, to live in perpetuity in the annals of this blog, which may or may not be read, but at least exists for someone to find.
This still exists, stationed in our kitchen. I wrote this to myself at the end of June when Ralph went back to work, and my parents left. It was just me and the girls for the first week of July. Overwhelmed doesn’t cover it.
Luella says… Cue the orchestra, this might take a while. And the awards go to…
Katie – you came because you knew I needed you to. Full stop. You’re amazing. I am so lucky you’re my best friend. I love you. xo
Mollie & Heather – you visited, dropped off food (homemade at that) and affirmed why we’re so lucky to call you great friends who live down the street. I love you both, thank you! xo
Ali – you got me out of the house and a lot of times out of my own way. You’re the go-to when it comes to what the benchmark is. Love you, thank you! xo
Tina & Gene – I am not going to say much because after 30+ years of friendship you already know. We’re sisters. You’re always there when I need you. I can’t believe how lucky we are to go through this together. Cheers to forever, I love you. xo
Leslie – You’re the only other person in the world most like me. I am so glad you got to be a part of this one. You handled Stella and everything as well, if not better, than I would have myself. But then again, of course you did. Thank you for being so amazing. I love you so much and marvel at all you can accomplish. What can’t you do? xo
Mom & Dad – You too came when I needed you to. Mom you also gave me permission to be overwhelmed. I needed that. It helped me set the tone for my own expectations, and gave me the confidence I needed to tackle handling both girls. You shaped me, and I hope to do as good of a job for our girls. I love you both, see you soon. xo
Nana & Nanu – Not much I can put into words here. I couldn’t do it without you. I will never be able to repay your generosity of time, your selfless willingness to help, and the inherent trust I have knowing the girls are in the best hands. I love you both very much. My gratitude is marrow-deep. xo
Ralph – I found you and now we’ve built a family. You’re the best Dad I know. From late night get ups, to launching your own business teaching others how to swaddle ;), to hair bows in your hair – you’re all in, 100% of the time. Thank you for walking this road with me. I love you more than anything. It has and always will begin and end with you. xo
Stella & Wren – You’re both everything I ever wanted. When I was little I didn’t dream about my wedding. Watching you both grow alongside of Daddy and I matches the snapshots I’ve carried in my head, of what I hoped would be my future. You + Daddy are what I dreamed of. I love you forever. xo