Some days, I'm good at what I do. At least, each month when I receive another paycheck I allow myself to conclude this. And there is professional respect to be gained by what I do. Things like the director asking me to stand at a large staff meeting and share how I handled a particular customer interaction. A reporter for a national publication coming to one of my events for his article research. A note left on my desk by my immediate manager with words of kindest praise and appreciation. And of course the patrons...who give me thanks, respect and even little notes to say that they were grateful we could work together.
With all this wonderful affirmation, and even confirmation that I AM good at what I do, I still feel a wheel of discontent that turns inside me daily. Sometimes so squeaky and loud, it is quite distracting. Other times, frantic and rapid, and I get anxious and restless. And sometimes with a slow and heavy ache that I cannot shake or rationalize away.
I work at a place that attracts over 100 applications for nearly every position it hires for. My own job had 150 applicants. You would think that by beating out that kind of competition I would be nothing but grateful. Nothing but pleased and delighted to be handed the keys of the kingdom and to have been told, "This is your world. You are in charge." of a children's section much larger than most libraries I have worked at or visited. My library is on the rise, in national papers, winning national awards, and led by a woman who just won a state Librarian of the Year. It is a happening place to be. You would think.
There is another job that no one but me was clamoring for. It didn't come with awards, or recognition, and my constituents certainly aren't in the habit of writing thank you notes or writing about the work in any paper. The title isn't fancy, and I didn't get gorgeous new business cards when I started, but I was proud and thrilled (and nervous and excited) all the same: Landon's mom.
I am Landon's mom. When he was 13 months old, I took on another job. An amazing, not-to-be-missed, shoot-for-the-stars opportunity with tons of responsibility, creative license, and room for professional growth. I went through two interviews totaling three hours and was offered the next step up in my career. I felt like I had been tested and tried and found worthy.
I have watched dear friends shed tears about the question of who are they outside of mother and homemaker. I've read blogs of women who long for something more--more than the full time task of mothering their children. I've watched them struggle with the boredom, monotony and every day tediousness that can come with raising small children. I hear the sound of that same squeaky wheel in them, that I constantly contend with in me.
Most times I can remember that no one can truly know another's path until they've walked a mile in her moccasins. But sometimes I am frustrated and jealous and thinking that for all their angst, these women wouldn't really want to trade places with me if they could.
Let me say a few things about how it feels to wear these working-girl moccasins:
I've painfully wondered if my dearest baby knew who his mommy was. My heart cracked when I heard that my little one cried to leave his childcare provider--bitter, wrenching cries to be apart from HER, not me. Sometimes I feel like a fringe member in my child's life, coming in at inopportune moments of early morning crabbiness, or end of day grouchiness. I juggle the guilt of needing a few minutes to decompress after a long workday, with the knowledge that there is only 60 minutes left before my buggy's bedtime. I have let my growing toddler stay up past his bedtime because I miss him so much and just want to have one more story, one more snuggle. And once, I went into his room on the pretense of "checking" on him, but did it in such a way that he woke up. I missed my baby so much I woke him up in the middle of the night just to be with him. When he cried to be put back in his crib, I felt the pang of being such a selfish mom.
If you are a mom who has figured out how to make staying at home work for your family, here is the note I'd leave on your desk: You have been tested, tried and found worthy. You hold the keys to your children's hearts, you are their world, you are in charge. You have an amazing, not-to-be-missed, shoot-for-the-stars opportunity with tons of responsibility, creative license, and room for personal growth. You ARE more, and you offer so much more than you know. And though I don't know what you may have given up, set aside, put on hold, or said goodbye forever to, I do know that I admire and respect everything you've taken up, put first, not left waiting, and said hello to. While we might look across the fence at each other's greener pastures, I just wanted to let you know that when you look my way, what may look "greener" is probably just astro turf I've laid out for moments of comparison. You, my sweet sister, are making real wishes come true with the dandelion fluff that grows in your grass --grass I hope you see as green, so very green.