I’ve always wanted to do it all. I wanted to be and do everything possible and honestly, I truly believed I could. Until I became a mom.I grew up in a divorced family. Raised by a single, working mom. I’ve always had that strong independent woman role model. Maybe that is where my success drive came from. Maybe I just assumed that is what women do, they work hard dusk till dawn, and they do it all. After all, who run the world Beyoncé? That’s right, girls.CJ and I were destined to be parents from the start. Before we got married were the proudest puppy parents you could imagine. Rescuing puppies, doggie birthday parties, framed photographs on the wall, fur baby birth announcements, the whole 9-yards, so to speak. Our dogs were the center of our lives. Bucky and Miley Jarvis, our fur babies. And we can’t forget about Oscar, their Wisconsin cousin! It was clear that we both agreed on at least one thing, we wanted a family.
I don’t know where my nurturing gene came from, but I have definitely always had it. I remember when CJ and I really decided that we really wanted to have a baby. It was while we were engaged, not long before our wedding. You discuss these sorts of things before you get married and we both knew that we didn’t want to wait long to start a family. At the time, the idea of working full-time, being in graduate school, being a wife and mother, all while also helping him complete his degree didn’t even phase me. I was a “doer”, and I honestly believed that I could do anything. So with this decision like every other decision in the past, I didn’t think I just did. We were married in January and found out we were going to be parents on March 8th, 2013. I will remember the day for the rest of my life. My life began to change on that day, in ways I couldn’t even imagine at the time.
Throughout my pregnancy I continued to work, enroll in classes, and help with school, business as usual. In fact, we were house hunting up until the day I went into labor. We made an offer on the house we now live in a day after I was due and while Jackson was making his way into the world, our new house was passing a home inspection. When I was pregnant I knew that I loved my growing baby with everything I had. My heart ached to meet him and to take on the world with him in it. I didn’t see the world stopping when he was born, I saw it simply getting bigger and busier. I knew things would change, I didn’t know how much he would change my heart.
The moment he was born everything changed. Nothing, and I mean nothing else in the world mattered anymore. I no longer had that overwhelming drive for career success, or for a master’s degree. I didn’t care what kind of house we lived in or if it passed the inspection. I didn’t care how we paid all of the bills weeks before they were actually due or how soon we paid off our student loans. My debt snowball payment plan was the furthest thing from my mind. All I cared about was our beautiful baby boy. All I wanted was to make sure he was happy, loved, and healthy. My life had new meaning and I never felt more passionate about my purpose in life than I did the moment I first locked eyes with Baby J.
I spend the majority of my maternity leave enjoying my time one-on-one with Baby J. I didn’t care to leave the house, and I didn’t care for visitors. I wanted to simply be. I didn’t think about anything but him for almost three full months. Before going on leave I had big plans to crochet baby hats, read novels and Netflix binge. As it turned out, I was lucky if I got in a weekly shower, but I didn’t care. Looking back, it was an amazing time and I wouldn’t change a second of it.
Going back to work was dreadful. I began searching for daycares a few months before I knew I would need to go back. I couldn’t stand a single one. I referred to daycare as “baby prison”. I hated the idea of Baby J spending even one second there. I didn’t know how I was going to leave him. How could I possibly just drop him off in the hands of someone else and go to work? I cried at the thought of it, I cried the night before, I cried as I left him in the arms of a woman responsible for 3 other infants and I cried in my car my whole way back to work. I was miserable. I wanted to be with my baby. I wanted to experience life with him. I wanted to be with him when he first discovered his toes. I wanted to be with him when he learned to use his voice. I wanted to experience all of life’s first experiences with him.
Everyone encouraged me to give it time. “It will get easier” they said or “you will learn to appreciate time with adults”. I told myself I was being hormonal. That I simply needed time to adjust to this new routine, just as with any other change. I wanted so badly to get used to it. I wanted to be “super mom”. I was surrounded by so many people encouraging me to keep going. To keep working, to finish my degree, to set a good example of what “hard work” is. I was embarrassed to admit that deep down, I didn’t care. I cared about my responsibilities. I cared about bringing home a paycheck and paying our bills but my “passion” for working was long gone. The only thing I wanted to work hard at was being a mom. I didn’t want to feel guilty for leaving my baby at daycare. I didn’t want to feel guilty for not wanting to work outside the home, for fear of feeling like a quitter, because being a mom IS hard work. Being a mom and going to work doesn’t make you a better mom. It doesn’t make you a worse mom either, it just makes you a mom. A mom being the best mom you can possibly be. Women are encouraged to do everything and be everything. To “lean in” and live every day like you’ve got something to prove. Just over 6 months ago I was on board.
I’m not taking a side here. I’m not standing up with clenched fist in solidarity with all of the working moms of the world. I’m not saying that stay at home moms are more dedicated to their children. I’m simply asking myself the question, is it all worth it? Am I being the mom that I want to be? Not the woman society makes me feel I should be. Would I ultimately regret giving up the career I’ve worked so hard for? Would I regret NOT giving it up more? For the first time in my life I am asking myself the question, do I really need to be “super mom”? We are only given one chance to use our gifts to the best of our ability. I’m I using mine?