For the last week or so, I have been waking up at 5 am. The weather in the morning has been quite lovely–so I pour myself a coffee and attempt to cram in at least two hours of work before the house starts to stirs. While I love the time to myself — to wake up early, sip my coffee and prepare for the day — there is an underlying fear that my child has ruined my career.
Sure, I could quit my company and go back to work for an established advertising agency full-time. Though, the reasons I chose to leave my previous employer after the birth of my daughter are the same reasons I have not bothered to update my resume since working for my previous employer.
In every sense, starting my own company was the best decision and the best option for how I wanted to spend my day balancing motherhood, marriage and my career. Commuting to an office and racing to daycare each felt too daunting for how I wanted to spend my days — among a plethora of other reasons.
Of course, working full-time managing client demands, conference calls, professional development, and all while at home with a baby and then toddler running around, created an over-abundance of the stress and chaos I sought to avoid.
I think, why not go back to work for someone else? Almost four years have passed since I created my own design firm. Has too much time passed? Where would I even begin? I’d have to start back at the bottom of the totem pole. I mean, is there a position in agencies with a job description that reads “For former creative directors/stay-at-home-mothers who successfully ran their own firm, but could use some brushing up on skills missed out on while raising a tiny human?” Probably not.
When I look at my five-year goal — even three-year — I can’t help but see all the opportunities available to help me advance both as a creative and independent business owner. But, the opportunities require something I cannot give — time.
When I look at the educational opportunities available to hone in on my design and writing skills and brush up on other areas of my career, I think about whether the class cost should go towards my creative development or the education of my child.
Is it a better investment to bet on myself, or better to invest in my child? After all, I am counting on her to put me into a good retirement home when she strips away all of my decision-making responsibilities. I need her to be financially successful, for my end-of-life care rests in her ability to still love me after years of resentment throughout those teenage years.
If I raise my daughter to be the kindest and most generous person, and professionally does extremely well, can I count on her to buy my dream car or pay for that Mediterranean cruise?
Who is the better investment? Who is more deserving of my time and money? In theory, I am more deserving. But really . . . am I?
For generations, women were brainwashed to believe their self-worth rests in the success of their ability to raise decent, human-beings — to support their husband’s career — to run a beautiful household and manage an organized home. Sure, feminism continues to create opportunities for each generation of women that never existed for the previous, but there is still the underlying idea that family comes first — or at least should.
Family should come first, for there is more to life than working and catching up on email, and fulfilling the hopes and dreams you once created for yourself — hopes and dreams that rest on your financial, material or business acquisitions — the superficial dreams. And that’s not what life is about!
Or is it? If we are the land of freedom and opportunity, doesn’t that mean we are free to seek opportunity — any opportunity that we deem worthy? Or for women, should the opportunity we seek simply be enough to one day earn us that luxury diaper bag or sought-after stroller?
I just dropped my daughter off at school where she will remain until noon. I passed by a mother turning into the library after leaving the school. As I drove past her on my way to our local juicery where I am sitting outside sipping on a delicious Kombucha, writing today’s post, I can’t help but think about that mother. Was she going to the library to work on her laptop? Perhaps she was simply dropping off a stack of library books. In truth, I suspect she was headed to the library for a 10 am reading where she took her youngest child — perhaps a child too young to attend the school we just left. Which means, the break she has earned with her oldest in school is spent taking care of her youngest.
Though I am purely making assumptions, I know if I had a second child right now, I wouldn’t be sitting here writing. I mean perhaps, but probably I’d be busy being a mother to kid #2.
If I were single I’d be out networking, attending industry events, obsessively stalking publishers and potential literary agents. But, I’m not. I’m folding socks, calling my girlfriends to cry when I’m about to lose my patience with my husband or child, and grocery shopping. Though in truth, if I were single, I’d be working at an agency full-time still and probably working 12-hour days. I’d be making a cup of coffee in the break room after fighting traffic during my compute or to ward off a hangover from that networking event the night before.
I love my child and I love my husband, but I also love what my career should have been and could have been. As a child, I wanted to run a company, run for Senator, or run a creative team. Now I simply run to keep the weight off so I can enjoy a glass of wine at the end of the day when I feel a panic attack or motherhood-exhaustion creeping in.
Several years ago I fell in love, got married, bought a home, and now spend weekends pouring over cookbooks and drafting our shopping list for the week.
On one hand, I am never bored and I find pleasure in a well-kept home, a new and delicious recipe to share with my family, and time spent on the porch sitting outside with my husband while we sip on a cocktail and listen to our 3-year old share stories of her day.
Being a mother has created opportunity — an opportunity I might not have created without the pressure of balancing motherhood and marriage with my career aspirations.
On the other hand, what about those missed opportunities? Perhaps it’s neither here nor there — when one door opens another door closes. Is the closed door my career path towards success? Is the only door open to me the one leading to the kitchen to make school lunches?