Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Working-girl Moccasins

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.


  1. Thank you for posting this. I have recently gone back to work "out of the home". For the last 5 years I was a Daycare provider for several children. Never more than 3 at a time that were not my own. With my youngest now in Kindergarten, and the last 3 little ones I cared for moving on to preschool or moving out of the country, I was presented with a need to have the income but yet I was tired of staying home to watch other's children. I have been more than blessed with a fantastic job that works with my schedule, allows me to be home when my kids are and work from home the majority of the time. I can't imagine the pains of leaving my babies, but I know for some it is not an option. I have been the one to tell the Mom/Dad that their sweet angel took their first steps or said their first word. I documented as much as I could for them and I could see the pain on their faces from the realization that they missed it. To those that make that choice to leave or just have no choice...make the most of those moments when you are with your child. Wake them up in the night if need be, because they are only little once and it goes so fast.

  2. Thank you for for your bravery in sharing something so raw and authentic. I also struggle with this as a working mom. On my better days, I even try to justify it by saying that my boys have a wonderful opportunity to bond with their work at home dad. But on my worse days, I am filled with jealousy and self pity that it's not me staying home with them. When I hear my stay at home mommy friends complain about their "lack of identity", I wonder if they think that because I work I must have another identity outside the home. I don't. I wake up, spend precious moments trying to serve a home cooked, healthy breakfast before I race out the door to spend more hours at my job than I do with my family, just to come home a few precious hours before we put them to bed. When I'm at work, I want to be home. When I am home, I worry that I didn't do enough at work. It's exhausting! Your fearlessness to share what I live every day gives help me feel that I'm not alone!

  3. I had choices. I was able to stay at home for 12 weeks with my first. My second I stayed home a year because when the pay check would come the goverment made more than me. I was at work when the fire truck was in our backfield putting ou a fire and my son was on the phone terrified...and I couldn't leave. I envied my friends who stayed home..and yet knew my kids wouldn't have what they needed not just wanted if I stayed home. All are hard choices. But my children tell me they love me inspite of going to work. They have grown up to be who God created them to be..It is the love of your heart they know inspite of what the ache inside says.