When you become a mom, you have to somehow make sense of alllll the visions of motherhood you've stored up over the years. When I was younger, I think I always envisioned being a stay-at-home mom: going on class field trips, cooking family meals, creating extravagant craft projects with construction paper and glitter and glue and pipe cleaners sprawled across the dining room table. As I got older and began realizing my potential as a businesswoman and change-maker in our society, I came to understand and appreciate working towards a mission, managing employees and advancing my career. I wondered how this would balance out as I dreamed of starting a family.
It's 5:15am and my eyes pop open to delighted squeals coming from the dark room across the hall, but only a mere 10 steps away. It was nice to have our rooms so close together when he was an infant and I could hear his quiet cry without the monitor. Now, at a year old, this kid has lungs like Pavarotti and my alarm hasn't even gone off for work yet and I shut my eyes hard and quickly, hoping they will act as a switch and he will fall back asleep.
He doesn't. I reach over, turn off my alarm, and roll out of bed. Careful not to step where I know the old floors will creak, I tiptoe to the bathroom hoping he won't sense that I'm awake and turn that squeal into a scream. I run my straightener through my matted hair that dried smushed into my pillow after my 11pm shower. After a little concealer and mascara, I brush my teeth with only a trickle of water....I still need 5 more minutes to get dressed before I can let him detect that I'm awake. I hear more high pitched giggles as he plays with the pacifier and hand-me-down-receiving-blanket-turned-lovey, awaiting mommy's entrance. I throw on some 6 year old work pants that sag in some areas and pull in others, and a baggy sweater over a nursing bra and cami even though I stopped nursing a few months ago. I don't own a real bra that fits.
I then have approximately enough time to change a diaper, gaze lovingly into my baby’s eyes while he gulps down his bottle, grab some semblance of a lunch from the fridge (if I remember) and pass the ball of chub off to the sitter before running out the door to catch the train for my hour + commute into downtown.
The morning grind as a working mom. Did I mention there is also a toddler thrown into this story – but I don’t get to see his little face at all before I leave for work everyday. Guilt.
For four short months this year, May 1 until September 1, I have been afforded the opportunity to work part time at my job as a manager at a nonprofit organization. During these four months I felt closer to my kids and to my husband than I have ever felt. I was a part of Eddie and Rocco’s week. I knew their routines and challenges and witnessed firsthand their milestones. I watched Rocco go from army crawling to crawling on all fours to standing up and cruising along the furniture. I got to take Eddie on his first train ride and take walks to the park in the middle of the day.
Balance. This was it! I was refreshed at work, refreshed at home, and naively thought I had it all figured out.
Last week senior management told me that starting September 1, I will need to resume my full time schedule and in a completely different role within the agency, to boot. They are restructuring and I will take on a brand new position that was just created.
I’m sad. And scared. And in true-Lisa-melodramatic-form, I feel like our lives have been turned upside down as we scramble to find new childcare arrangements and I adjust to the idea of seeing the boys for only an hour or two each day. What will happen to my balance?
As moms, we are continually faced with curve balls like these. Just as we think we’ve got the hang of things, unexpectedly the ball curves towards the outside of the plate and we are forced to s t r e t c h our arms uncomfortably to make the bat meet the ball. We have visions of ourselves as mothers and what that is supposed to look like. But maybe, just maybe, motherhood is way too dynamic to fit into a vision. We don’t have to be full time working moms or stay at home moms or moms whose kids go to daycare or moms who have a nanny. We get to embrace the curve balls and embrace the IMBALANCE a little bit and appreciate the fact that we are going to be a little bit of every kind of mom that we envisioned growing up.
Starting September 1, I’m going to do my very best to embrace the imbalance. Somedays my work will get more attention, and somedays my family will, and that’s okay. Because if I know ANYTHING at all…it’s that another curve ball will be right around the corner, ready to stretch me and my vision of motherhood in another direction. Throwing off my balance yet again, and forcing me to learn and grow along the way.