What would you do if money didn’t matter and you weren’t concerned with what other people thought of you?
We were discussing this over dinner recently with a few old friends. Our responses were all different, as was our willingness to dialogue about such an unrealistic potential. It took me less than five seconds to answer – I would do exactly what I do now, except with a backyard (and unlimited travel funds).
This question celebrates something wonderful – I am right where I want to be, doing just what I want to be doing. Raise the roof and praise the Lord! I am beyond blessed that my particular role in life, at this given moment, is just what I want it to be. But, I have not always felt this way.
Motherhood was something I always wanted in on. Naively, I assumed that I would get to experience motherhood on my own terms – without constraints or restrictions. So, when Isaac and I decided that to make ends meet, I needed to return to work after both Reece and Vera were born, I felt disillusioned and gypped. But, it was no mystery – without making significant financial adjustments, quitting my job was not an option.
I was sad. It had nothing to do with my consulting career, the company I worked for, or our childcare situation. No, all of those factors exceeded expectations. The problem was, I was outsourcing things that I so badly wanted to do myself. Reality was standing between me and the motherhood experience I wanted.
If I had two lives to live, it would be a no brainer – In one life, I would give it my all, kick ass, take names, etc. We would work hard, employ a full-time sushi chef and travel in our spare time. In another life, I would develop myself into a wonderfully smart, healthy, balanced, patient, talented, piano-playing woman. And upon achieving Super Woman status, I would dive fully into my motherhood dream.
Yet, we have only one life. And in that life, there are real constraints.
I found the balance between pursuing a career and growing/birthing/nursing/nurturing/raising kids to be incongruent. I always had an urge to drive, achieve and succeed in my career, but once I began to identify myself as a mom (during pregnancy) my values shifted. Work became an unwelcome distraction from the time I wanted to spend caring for my baby. With waning excitement, I put my game face on and continued to invest myself in my career and maintained my performance and growth. But, inside I began to lose steam.
I gave it my best shot – I tried working full-time, three quarters time and half time. To reduce childcare costs, I tried working from home during afternoon naps and did my best to synchronize conference calls with infant sleep schedules (#failure). I kept travel to a minimum and did my best to keep my chin up when I had to leave town.
We made it work because it had to work. But, I was physically and emotionally spent most of the time.
Together, Isaac and I wrestled with what it meant to juggle work and parenthood. We came at it with differing perspectives, which made it difficult to hear each other’s concerns and wants. I struggled to understand my own feelings – did I want this just for myself or did I believe it was the best solution for my family?
Because quitting my job meant such a financial sacrifice, the decision had to be bigger than my personal desire. It had to be the best thing for our kids and our family.
Just shy of Vera’s 1 year birthday, my discontentment over the work-life-motherhood situation overwhelmed me. I sensed that I wasn’t meant to man up and get over it, but rather to make a change. So, I asked Isaac to take a risk with me. And he did.
One the one hand, the adjustment has been second nature. To my relief, the day to day is much simpler for all of us. I spend the days with my girls adventuring and helping them discover what life is all about. It is an absolute honor and (most of the time) a sense of privilege is not lost on me.
On the other hand, it’s challenging to live on one income. We’re disciplined with our spending and continue to make dollars stretch further. Although scrimping can get old, we chose this for a great purpose. It’s worth it.
Here we are, one year later, certain that we made the right call. The right call for all four of us.
The options aren’t the same for everyone – nor are the circumstance, interests and desires. Therefore, the choices will be different. (And we must never pretend to know “the right choice” for a fellow mama.) Our distinct circumstances require unique solutions. What works for one season, may not cut it during another. So, we must be willing to flex and solve for the present, without losing sight of our values.
There is no one right way to do motherhood. I applaud all the mamas everywhere – the working mamas, the domestic engineers, the uncertain mama, the struggling mama, the right-where-she-wants-to-be mama and everyone in between. May we feel free to be the unique mom our unique kid(s) need.
To all of those fighting for the best life for their family, I wish love, peace and loads of energy!