This post is part of a six person blog hop on the topic of work/life balance. A chat on Twitter sparked this discussion. This is a big topic and I think our perspectives will vary in interesting ways. Okay, here we go!
In 2004 I became a mother and left my full-time job. It was harder than I’d expected. I thought it would be an easy transition for me because I’d always wanted to be a mother who stayed at home with my children. But when it actually happened it meant leaving a job I really liked and was good at, and leaving a career I’d been building for 7 years. It was a sudden shift in identity and it took me a long while to recalibrate. All the while, though, I felt relieved that I was able to be up nursing a fussy baby without pressure to leave the house the next morning, and relieved that I didn’t have to hand her off to someone who wasn’t her mommy only to sit in a cubicle worrying, and pumping every two hours. I was home with her and I knew her better than anyone.
When it became clear that our first daughter had some special needs that were tricky to identify, I could describe the way she behaved and what was troubling us very clearly. I was there to take her to physical and occupational therapy. I had quit my job to take care of this child and I took it incredibly seriously, and still do. I was, and still am, so grateful to be able to be at home.
Crafting with Stella, Josephine on my lap, while Roxanne was at school.
At the same time, though, pretty early on I began to admit to myself that being a mother was not all I am and not all I wanted to be. I know there are mothers who feel satisfied and accomplished at the end of a day of taking care of their children. I found myself feeling that I hadn’t done anything at all. Mothering is a beautiful thing, and a hard job, but it’s also repetitive and sometimes boring. Even, or especially, during these years when my kids are very young (my daughters are 2, 7, and 9 right now) I need something more. When Mother’s Day or my birthday comes around and Charlie asks me what I want, my deepest desire is to have time away from my children. For however much I love them, I also love my separate life.
That’s how my blog and business began and that’s why I’ve grown it into what it is today. I think I’m able to do it in part because I spent so many years working in inner city schools. I’m accustomed to getting
real work done amidst chaos. Controlled chaos is often my reality. When you see tweets from me at 5:23 pm on a Thursday, rest assured I’m typing those while watching three pots boiling on the stove, with a baby on my hip while two other kids do homework and quarrel with one another. I’m typing that tweet with one hand, on my phone, and I’m doing it because I want to. I actually really love doing both things at once. And I think it’s okay for kids to see that mommy has other things she does. Growing up, my mom was a freelance reporter for the Washington Post while she was home with us and I was so proud of her job.
There are times when my things run into each other and the road gets bumpy. I remember coming in from the beach on an afternoon in 2009 with three hungry, sandy kids while on the phone with acquisitions editors from two publishing houses at once, negotiating my first book deal. Most days aren’t like that, of course. Most days I work while the kids are at school or asleep, and while they are here at home I am with them fully. Sometimes it does feel too hectic to have both of these roles, but I’m a planner. I work ahead and I work efficiently. Facing the challenge of having a business and running a household at the same time is what makes me whole.
This is where the term “work life balance” feels wrong to me. My work is wrapped into my life. I’m a stay-at-home mom as much as I’m a designer and that’s what makes up my days,
and my nights. That word “balance” makes me feel stifled, and guilty as though I should have two separate parts of myself: “work” and “life.” And there’s a connotation here that “work” is something we have to do, but don’t want to do, whereas “life” is what we crave. We’re supposed to eagerly anticipate the weekend when we are “off work” and can “enjoy life.” This is simply not the case for me. I love creating this business and I love raising my children. These pursuits together give my life meaning.