Thursday, January 7, 2016

Working and Mommying

Today marks 365 days since first dropping munchkin off at daycare so I could return to work as a Family Medicine resident. Was it a tough day? Sure. It felt strange to leave him in the arms of someone I didn't know, unsure if he'd eat and sleep, unsure if his little 10 week heart and mind were feeling abandoned, nervous about work emergencies that would make me late for pick-up, and if I'd find time for pumping between seeing patients.
Munchkin's first day of daycare

But, I'll tell you a secret. I was ready to go to work at the clinic/hospital. Like, really ready. The shift from a 60-80 hr work week that was super structured to totally unstructured days at home with a newborn was rough, and, I'll admit it, often boring. I'm sure if there had been other kids running around, or if I had planned to set up my life to be a work at home mom, my attitude and reality would have been different. But, there weren't and I didn't.

Don't get me wrong, I love time with my little munchkin. Maternity leave is important, in most cases should be longer, needs to be protected, and really is a unique season of life. I'd love a more formal way of giving moms who don't work outside the home real maternity leave.

This past year I've had days, sometimes even weeks, when I fantasize about being a work at home mom- watching and helping my kids discover the world during more than just nights and weekends. Then there were days when I wish I didn't feel the pull to go home right after work, because I'd love to stay longer- talking, working, problem solving, learning. I anticipate swinging back and forth on a gradient between those two scenarios for several years yet to come. I anticipate seasons when I will doctor more, and seasons when I will mommy more.

What I (re)learned this year, is that every "yes" is also a "no."

The last few years have been filled with books and trendy articles about how it is a women's time to have it all. How we can be great mothers and great CEOs, great mini-van drivers and sleep over planners, and also great professionals workers. I appreciate parts of this conversation. I appreciate being recognized as more than a uterus and lunchbox packer. I also appreciate recognition that as a professional I do in fact have a uterus that desires to hold a few children, and pack lunches. I appreciate that being a great mom and a great doctor are both valued attributes. It's also worth noting that the "you can have it all" message is one of great priviledge- most don't have such choices, and having it all means keeping your family alive and mostly well. Overall, I think the "you can have it all" mentality preached to mostly middle and upper class women is a dangerous lie, and in the end a disservice to women.

Every "yes" is also a "no." Sometimes several "no's." When I said "yes" to marrying Jonathan, I said "no" to marrying 6+ billion other people. When I said "yes" to being a doctor, I said "no" to several other attractive careers I had been thinking about. When I said "yes" to being a mommy, I said "no" to quiet lazy mornings, clean floors, and 8 hours of sleep at night (at least for a while).

And that's ok. In fact, the "no's" are part of what make those "yes'" so important, so valuable.

When I say "yes" to spending time with my munchkin instead of working, I'm telling him, "right now, you are more important. I am saying "no" to other things and instead am choosing you." On the flip side, when I decide to stay late at work, bring work home, or even work outside the home at all, I'm also saying, "there are other things that are also important, and sometimes I do those things instead of being with you." Being a mom means that I'm not always, or even often, going to stay late at work, take on every extra task, and might try not to put myself in job positions that are going to make mommying impossible. Being a doctor means that I'm not always going to be home to put munchkin to bed, to spend large amounts of day time together, to see each important moment. That's hard to hear, do, feel. Of course I've made sure someone else can pick him up, watch him, nurture him, when I can't (big shout out to J!), which is something I can't do with my doctoring work. I hope munchkin grows up seeing his mom care about hurting people, and also that he grows up with a mom who disciples him to care for hurting people.

I suppose we all have slightly different definitions of what it means to be a great mom and be a great out-of-home worker- different definitions of what it means to "have it all." The way it's talked about in recent media and news leaves me feeling exhausted, with no room for margin, and feeling consistently inadequate in all areas- home and work. I probably could "have it all," working late after kids are in bed, being a super efficient person during each nap time at home and lunch break at work. But, what I'm finding, is that I don't want "it all." Not like that, at least. Time and space are finite for me, and how I choose to spend my time and space is part of how I say to the world- "this is something I value!" Of course I can value more than one thing and place, and going to work doesn't mean I don't value being home, but it does mean I do value being at work. My limitations of body, time, and space aren't meant to be stretched to the max, striving for some time-warped world and teleporting body; they are gifts to live within, and give the grace needed to not have, do, or be "it all."

There is a lot more nuance to this whole topic than simply "yes" and "no," and there is a wide gradient between "having it all" and being restricted and discouraged from work outside the home. Like most things, real life is somewhere in-between, usually.

Instead what I've learned is that working and mommying is like being given two good gifts, each held in one hand. But, sometimes one of them requires two hands, and that means putting the other one down. When I toss munchkin in the air and see his toothy grin, the gift of work has been placed on the floor. When I loose track of time at work or dream about running a health clinic/center in an underserved neighborhood, munchkin is being tossed in the air by someone else during those moments, and I'm holding more fully the gift of doctoring work.

So, every "yes" is also a "no," and I have been given two good gifts (and more). Also, there's a lot of grace to be found in the midst of the yes', no's, and gift juggling.

1 comment:

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