Week 11: The working parent club
One of the biggest challenges in the news business is breaking down complicated mumbo jumbo into as few words as possible. I try to take stories about nuclear plants or the tax code and break them down to a 5th grade reading level. Why? So everyone can comprehend what I'm saying while they're cooking Hamburger Helper in the kitchen on a Tuesday. But, trying to sum up the first 11 weeks of a newborn's life---trying to break down that transition from 'just Laura' into 'John Michael's mom' is nearly impossible to put into words. It changes everything.
If you have kids, you're probably nodding. I nod so much now. Every time I read something about parenthood on Facebook. Or see a Pampers commercial. Or give a knowing glance to a mom with a screaming baby in Costco. It's like the world's biggest club I didn't even know existed until I became a member. Our secret handshake is 'the nod.'
But, I'll be honest, I'm nervous about the club I'm joining tomorrow. I know every working parent goes through this transition, but I'm just surprised how worried I am about going back to a job I love.
(I'm also nervous that my job requires washing my hair....which means I need to carve out time to shower.)
First of all, maternity leave. What a roller coaster. It reads like the opening of a Charles Dickens novel. "It was the best of times...it was the worst of times." I mean, the highest of highs with that wiggly newborn. Watching him figure out how to use his gummy smile to completely disarm me.
Figuring out how to stick his bottom lip out to completely disarm me...
Watching his world expand and come into view.
Couch snuggles. OH, the couch snuggles.
There are a lot of highs. But, when people refer to maternity leave as 'vacation,' they've clearly never been on maternity leave. It's quite the opposite. "What can I do right this moment to make you stop crying?" Sometimes, the answer is, well, nothing. Blowouts no longer mean anything to do with tires. And, I now sleep with my hair in a ponytail. Why? Because I'm so tired every night, in the event that I do get a solid chunk of REM sleep, I crash so hard that I drool enough to soak my hair. Mom life is a lot of things, but 'glam' is not one of them.
I've always wanted kids, but I've always wanted a career I love, too. But, how do you have it all without drowning in Mommy guilt or losing your identity? How do you keep both sides of the scales balanced? How do you keep mascara off your face?
Sorry, but those are (mostly) rhetorical questions. If I had the magic answer, I would be wealthy off my book deal and inspirational seminars.
I think the thing I failed to calculate into my life plan when I was playing with career Barbie is exactly how much I would love this face.
I mean, theoretically, I knew I would love my kids. Duh. But, I just didn't get what it would feel like trusting someone else to take care of them a few hours a day. I didn't fully 'get' that I would love him so much, even when he figures out how to simultaneously poo, pee, and spit-up at the same time. And, once again, my parent club is nodding.
It's like a huge part of my heart is outside of my body now, living in another little person.
My working mommy friends did give me some good advice I thought I'd share:
-When at work, be at work. When at home, be at home.
-In no time, it will be 'old hat' and your new normal.
-The busier you are at work, the quicker the time flies until you're back home. So just turn that worry and longing into more productivity. Everybody wins.
-Quality of time over quantity. Working and parenting is hard, but it makes the moments you're together that much sweeter.
I really do love my job. And, I know one day, John Michael will love having a mom who loves her job.
So, like a lot of you, I'm just going to try to do the best I can. I'm going to try to give myself grace. I'm going to try to make choices about balance by asking myself, "How will you feel about this decision when you're 60?" (Of course, I'm answering from the deck of my yacht, surrounded by my well adjusted, adult children, who have no signs of abandonment issues. We're reminiscing about their perfect childhood over a glass of Cabernet. From my vineyard....)
Tomorrow, I'm going to shower, find something that fits, dodge spit-up until I can get out of the house, put on waterproof mascara, try to remember how to talk to adults, give myself a healthy dose of grace, listen to my husband when he tells me I'm a good mom, and get back behind my favorite news desk.