I’m up 11 minutes before my alarm, and 26 minutes before I need to wake Gemma so I can feed her and get to work on-time. I check my phone – group message: the moms are meeting at the beach to take advantage of the sun and 70 degree weather today. Sigh. At least I can wear sandals to the office.
The morning rush, and baby drop-off make it feel odd that my work day is just starting when I get to the office. Stepping inside something feels right to me. I don’t want to feel at ease at work, but I do. The old warehouse space is flooded with light. Green and white flower arrangements soften the cement, and the energy of industry starts to trickle over me.
Picture from Everlane Unedited
Picture from April and May Blog.
On my way home I call an old friend who has successfully gone back to work (her child is 2.5). “The one piece of advice I try to give is just think about whether your situation works for the next 3-6 month.” I think back to my one of my first trips to the office after starting back full time. I drove through Golden Gate Park. It was bright and beautiful outside, runners bounding down the road, retirees practicing tai chi. Inside the car I was all out of sorts. When I looked at the baby mirror on the backseat there was no baby and my stomach dropped. I brushed on mascara at a stop sign. With the intersection clear I shifted into first gear and moved forward. I realized I might have this pit in my stomach every day I drop her off. Every day. EVERY SINGLE DAY. I took a deep breath and repeated over and over, “one day at a time, one day at a time.” The urge to cry subsided.
I started back full time 5 weeks ago. It’s been tough to leave my baby with someone else. Hard stop. But being back at work hasn’t been all bad. When I am deep into a project it feels good to focus and come to solid conclusions. I like thinking about the best way to consolidate shipments out of Hong Kong and Ho Chi Minh. I like doing the math to figure out how many pallets it would take to pack up 30,000 sweatshirts (82 in case you’re wondering). Last week I got to learn how indigo dye works, and how denim is made.
I am in a constant tug-of-war between getting pumped (ha, no pun intended) at work, and wishing I was staying home with Gemma. It’s easy to see the ultimate or long term value of being with my babe. You literally get to nurture the life of another human being. It seems like raising a baby is the real life manifestation of making relationships and family your number 1 priority. Work is a little trickier because I can see the immediate rewards: sense of accomplishment, mental stimulation, a paycheck, but the long term value is harder to figure out. Is the world really a better place because I helped a shipment of loafers arrive on-time? You get where I am going with this.
Every time I talk to a women who is or did work while raising kids, or a friend whose mother worked while they were growing up I am thirsty for details. Who took care of the kids? How did you get out of the house every morning? Did you work full-time? Was it by choice or necessity? Were you happy with your decision? Did the kids turn out OK??? The hardest part of being in a tug-of-war between working and staying home is that I worry it never gets better. I worry that instead of feeling settled in my decision and embracing my set-up, I am going to focus on the trade-offs and become fixated on how I’m missing out as a mother, or missing out professionally.
At the heart of the struggle is: why do it and is it worth it (assuming it’s not a financial necessity)? So far I’ve heard how other women do it and I feel confident that where there is a will there is a way. But what is the motivation? What’s the lasting impact? I want to know the purpose of my work outside the home. If it’s not ultimately meaningful then I know a cute and cuddly alternative that is 🙂 I think the purpose or motivation for working is different for every mom/family and so I have to figure it out for myself. Is it to feel stimulated and fulfilled? Will my daughter need my professional example? Do I actually like work more than I thought? I am asking the questions and looking for answers. So far finding answers feels like trying to catch a shadow, but I think I’m getting closer.
For now, I know I can do this for another 3-6 months. I’ve reasoned through the pros and cons of working versus staying home but at the end of the day I am also praying and listening for answers from heaven. I trust that I have a Heavenly Father who knows what’s best for my life and my family better than I do. I always assumed that staying home would be the best for my family, but right now it feels like God has another plan for my life.