Now, I have had days at work where I felt like I made a difference. But what rings truest for me here is the notion that simply placing work and home in front of women as the two factors to be balanced is really a narrow view.The focus shifts from whether I will work again (or whether someone out there thinks I'm worth hiring), to how I want to work, why I want to work, and what I want to do. Maybe I want to invent something, write a children's book, open a restaurant, design an educational toy, work with parents and children. This isn't about "having it all." It's about making a life, not a living, as my old friend Robert used to say.
Now, therein lies an identity. Not in the task, the title, or the assignment, but in the full investigation of our mixed emotions at every crossroads until, detour by detour, we discover the path to our true self.
My ambivalence has nothing to do with how much I love my child. It's not that I wish for another life or even regret the road taken, but rather that I am coming to understand the staggering complexity of our needs. This is much deeper than a mere choice between home or the workplace.
Before motherhood, I measured my growth by my earnings, my outcome by my income. But on the most successful day in my career, I still never felt like I had truly made a difference. The most prestigious position I have held never once made me feel as though I was part of a larger whole. I never felt eternity as a professional. I never suffered the shameful despair of wanting to quit and the itchy panic of knowing I could not take a tidy little leave of absence or change jobs altogether. I never felt the permanence of being loved. I never cared so much how somebody else was feeling. I never prayed for someone else first.
Sometimes, though, I am wistful, yearning for a time when I felt important in the eyes of others. Then I remind myself that I have never been more important than in the eyes of this small boy. And I was never as important at the office as I might have liked to believe.
Looking at my life before and after baby-at labor before and after delivery - I realize now that being a mother has given me an opportunity that I never had in the sixteen years I worked before I had a baby: a chance to connect. To commit. To confront myself. To learn how to give without regret and receive without apology. To separate identity from image, and be accountable for whom I am, not just what I do.
Monday, September 6, 2010
After I mused about work/life balance to my virtual mom's group (without whom I would not be able to function), my daughter's godmother and mother of my godson sent along this fantastic passage from "Let The Baby Drive" by Lou Hanessian. It's pretty amazing: