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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

on babies and careers

When I was a little girl I, along with everyone else I knew, came up with elaborate career plans. I would be a painter. An anthropologist. And, later, an astronaut (and would live on a space station eating freeze dried ice cream and etc). Of course.

this picture has nothing to do with this post really.
its just cute.
so i thought i would share.
And then I would also have babies. Five of them. And a perfect home. With a garden, a horse, and lots of wallpaper borders, which for some reason were the height of sophistication to me.

I had no idea that these things were at all incompatible. Like these two of me could co-exist, eating freeze dried ice cream in space and braiding my little girls hair, dressing her in bows and smocked dresses, and then baking home made bread. Every day.

And then. Huh. What happened? I got married. Watched a few people around me have babies. And realized, dang. That is a lot of work. That whole baby thing. (my husband, during this time of life, would chastise me cooing over babies telling me they are just little angry people who want to steal your wallet. Run away! Run away!)

One would think that having been the second oldest of nine children I would know this. But, one doesn’t really know this sort of thing until one experiences it for oneself. Right? (My old editor is very right. If one starts writing in this way one must continue to use “one, oneself” etc. ad nauseum. Will try and refrain. But it is hard to control.)

And then I rethought my career plans. From astronaut to international do-gooder/adventurer girl. A little trickier maybe but, hey, I could do that with babies strapped to my back. Right? RIGHT??

And then along came babycakes. Oh, high maintenance child who sapped the life out of us (and gave us a new one, at the same time. Out of ashes rises a phoenix, stronger than before, and all of that good stuff. HA.)

Which made me rethink the whole adventuring with baby strapped on one’s back bit (did it again. Shoot.)

I love a good adventure. I can take it. Doing that with a spitty baby who refuses to sleep unless it is dead quiet?? Hmm. Not so much.

So baby boy gets bigger. And along comes baby girl. (Who could happily adventure around the world strapped to my back.)

And mama takes on clients here and there to make an extra buck.

And now. Consulting work dries up. (dang economy) And…I am now…hmmm. Where am I again?

This age old question which really stinks. Babies or career?

(Ok, I must interrupt myself here to make a statement. There are many many mothers, more often than not really, who do both and beautifully, better than I could hope to. I know its not an either/or question. It really isn’t, its more what do I focus on now? Where am I now? Just keep reading and I will get to my point. I hope. I do tend to ramble. Sorry.)

Right now. I want both. Maybe baby 3 would be the one (still a hypothetical baby, mind you) who would be able to sleep strapped on my back as the adventuring commences. But then still. Lugging toys and baby things around the world (which, people do do) uprooting children away from playmates (sure they will find new ones) and grandparents (sure they will visit) and then juggling the whole work/nanny/home thing? That last one is the one that gets me. I can multitask. Every mother can. It’s the juggling of emotions that catches me off guard in this question. (Also, as you well know, I am lazy. And the lifestyle of impassioned career and mommying to two little ones sounds VERY tiring. Plus my hoped for career could send me to crazy places for weeks on end. Rough places that one can’t take a baby strapped on one’s back. How does one do this? – AHHH. Doing it again! SHOOT.)

And yet, I do. Want both that is.

I want: Heels. A suit. A briefcase. Oh, maybe lipstick! Stimulating dialogue with other adults. On a daily basis. Work that utilizes degrees. That makes a difference. Life in another culture. Bringing along my two beautiful children (and dada!) who grow up speaking three languages and living all over the place. Adventuring and living in another world than this. Where less is more and relationship is supreme.

I also want: Mornings in the Midwestern sunshine with coffee in hand. Walks to the park. Sticky hugs. Playdates. Crafts and mid-day chocolate chip cookie baking – just because. A million more babies. Funny little stubborn babies. With big round cheeks and smiling lips. Maybe hanging out in the country. And homeschooling. With dairy goats as a 4-H project. And crafty things to sell at some little store. Homemade goat cheese on fresh baked bread. Iced tea. Cousins coming to play. Writing a book. Writing a blog.

Good lord. The back and forth of it kills me some days.

Right now of course, when all is said and done, I am where I am. Just as you are where you are, dear reader. We all are in these respective places for a reason, I think. Bloom where you are planted. To everything, there is a season, and all that.

Because, as always happened, just when you have it figured out life throws you that clich├ęd curveball. So what is the point of trying to figure it out, as it were? Maybe it will be another baby (as little man has taken to praying for lately. “God. Please God. I want a brother.”). Or a plum job offer. (Or both? What does one do then? Ah, too much.)

So for now, should I just float in between these worlds? Wait and see? Pursue one or the other, just to find out how receptive the universe is toward me pursuing this or that path?

So, when the dust settles from this internal debate what do I do?

Hmm. Well, I write about it.

And then I go make dinner. Dada will be home soon.


  1. One who has no children, yet, and values one's career but knows the clock is ticking, reads this and thinks, "Good to know that at least one can still find time to write well with little ones taking up so much of one's life."
    One feels grateful that Other Ones are so honest about it all.
    --Amanda :)

  2. ha. amanda. i knew someone out there would get the One thing and find it funny. (good old salem evening news editors!)
    you would be fab at this gig...and writing through it all...
    write a book! the great american novel! - i plan on doing that at some point yet ;)

  3. first off...
    i totally remember steve saying that babies were really just little people trying to steal your wallet. remember laughing so hard when he acted out how he would teach them that "hello teacher you are fat." was polite!?! haha. i think i was all of twelve.
    your statement "bloom where you are" literally made me stop reading and think. that is very good advice. i think i will take it.

  4. That is my life lesson this fall and most likely will be my lesson for the rest of my life. Be where you are. And not just be, but really stop and BE Where You Are.

  5. This one hits home, in so many ways, because, for me, this is the absolute hardest thing as a Mom. My work is fulfilling, and I love it. But my kids are a primal pull that cannot be ignored or placed second to much of anything. When things are balanced, it's unbelievably rewarding--part time work and rest of the time Mommy and all is right with the world. And then there are days when work life and home life collide, cataclysmically, and the guilt that I'm letting someone down who's counting on me--the boss, the hubby, the kids--is overwhelming. (Luckily those days don't happen too often.) And then, just when I have the hang of things and I have the resources to balance and have back up plans, we move and the whole process starts over.

    But I think you're right--I think there are lessons to be learned from this, a path that will open up that we're supposed to take, somewhere we're supposed to go, work that we're supposed to be doing. Because we are all of those wonderful things--adventurer, businesswoman, knitter-of-woolies, kisser-of-boo-boos--and there are things to be learned from each role. (Wow, just got a Breakfast Club flashback) So maybe you take turns living each role for a while, you learn the lessons, and in another 30 years or so you're a whole new Sara, still with all those wonderful parts and all that amazing life experience, saying "Gosh, that was hard, but I was good at it, and all that worrying was for naught."

  6. bek - glad you can use some of my ramblings :)
    cari - certainly one of those all time life lessons...
    tracy - ha to the breakfast club reference. perfect. oh it is so hard, isnt it? my thought reading your comment was, work or no work i also have days that are epic "fails" as the kids say ;) and that is the perspective i take out of this rambling. there is a season for dear husband always says, madeline A. didnt start her career until her 40s. i got time. :)and in the meanwhile. i am gonna live it up at this mommy thing. i am also going to buy mocassins. (apparently they are "in" this season, yay me!)

  7. Well said :-). Emotional multi-tasking...that is the drama behind it all. To give to one always means taking from the other, and then I find myself feeling like Rex on "Toy Story": "Now I have guilt!" The thing I've discovered though? That little "guilt" mechanism is what keeps me in balance. It's the weight that keeps this multi-tasking pendulum swinging. And my career going. And my children loved. And my emotional tank fulfilled.

  8. ok, confession. jham, this seriously stresses me out! i can barely keep my shit together as is (must work out this week, must drink less, must cook dinner at home for husband, must leave work by 7pm, must smoke fewer cigarettes). work life balance is already an issue, how does one (:)) add babies in the mix? ugh, oh well... stress for another day, back to memo writing, so i can leave by 7:30 to go drink and smoke. :)

  9. anne - there are two reasons (currently) that make the above inner turmoil worth it:
    1) jack
    2) ayla
    .....a million trillion times over.
    you manage. some days you dont keep your shit together. but pretty soon you look around and think damn - i can do this!
    as far as work life balance. here is what i envision for you...
    you take 6 months off after the little guy arrives, because you have AMAZING leave policy. you spend this time going on walks and visiting your SISTER IN MINNESOTA and somewhere along the way you realize its much more entertaining to watch your baby try and eat his fist than it is to watch your friends eat out. eventually you think, eh, i want to go back to work. so you do. your day is something like this - pack up little guy in bugaboo stroller. walk to work, after buying starbucks on the way. leave babykins in the five star care facility undoubtedly located in your building. find yourself staring at your computer screen through the day wondering if your little guy ate his organic pureed pears you prepared last night. during lunch you sneak down to find out and undoubtedly find daddy who is also there to gaze at the little fat cheeks and inquire about the said consumption of pureed pears. after work you all walk home. you order up thai food (this is the time of life for ordering in!!) and sit and watch dvr'd mad men while babykins chases after the cat (who will undoubtedly love the kid) then the little guy cozies up to you and falls asleep. you pop open a little wine or maybe go get in five miles on the treadmill while daddy watches cnn with little guy asleep on his chest. you then all go to sleep. on weekends maybe you head out to ikea or to visit auntie (you know she will be chomping at the bit!) and then while she watches babykins you get a couple hours to catch a movie or go out to dinner with friends but somehow you find yourself wondering about the consumption of pureed organic bananas and how bathtime went so you text many times (mentally apologizing to your sister for thinking her crazy to do this) (HA!) and you take a taxi to auntie, gather up sleepy little lamb, and head home.
    this i can see.
    and you, you will be fabulous at it... should it occur...
    this is the great think about what mommyhood looks like.
    you are the mommy.
    so it looks like you.

  10. mary - oooh. good one on guilt as a pendulum. very good. will keep in mind. you are a wise one.


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