I admit. In the last year, there were many exhausting nights when I just felt really damn sorry for myself and my stalled career. Motherhood, while being joyous and beautiful, honestly felt like The End of my potential in academia and The End of a decade of hard work. The boat full of viciously ambitious, childless, newly minted PhDs had left 3 years ago (when I should have defended) and left me with the stigma of being one of those hanger-on ABDs that never graduate. And in my new capacity as a mother, I felt like I couldn’t even attempt to follow. I love my child so much but blamed blamed blamed everything about my new responsibilities for my inability to write.
The most important realization of 2014 was that I’m always making choices. Two examples: I had the (ugly but still possible) option of putting my child in full time childcare at any point in the last year. It would have been emotionally devastatingly and prohibitively expensive but the point is, I COULD have chosen that. I didn’t. I had the choice of bottle feeding my child formula from Day 1. It would have been a little more costly and less beneficial for the baby but it would have opened up longer spans for me to be away working, opened up the chance for dad to tend to the baby at night so I could sleep for more than 3 hours at a time. I didn’t choose that either.
Neither of these examples is to brag or say that I’m better/more sacrificing than others. Nor am I pointing them out to say I regret them as POOR choices or mistakes. I’m writing about these because I didn’t actually recognize either of these as choices for a long time. It was just something I was doing, that felt “right” even though it was hard on myself.
Taking responsibility for the choices that led to my current state, here this moment on Dec 7 2014, is both sobering and liberating. As all working parents can commiserate, you have the choice of finishing that thing for work tonight…or bonding with your kid. You can spend all Saturday writing that grant proposal alone…or going to get a Christmas tree with your family and taking baby’s first picture with Santa. The sentimental world of parenthood suggests that anything other than the latter marks you as a cruel, absent parent and a terrible spouse. The cold world of business/academia dismisses you as a “Mommy” idiot if you don’t do anything but the former. It isn’t fair, but you have to make your choices and deal with the ramifications of those decisions.
But it is liberating in a way too. Once I realized that I was making choices on how to live my life, at each moment of the day, the anxiety dissipated. There was no “I have to” or “I can’t” but, “what are my options and what is the best choice for me now?” It made me realize that I chose not to put my newborn in daycare but I could choose to hire a babysitter at 9 months to free up an hour or so a day. It made me realize that I could choose to buy jarred baby food instead of laboriously making babyfood by hand 3x a day as the Mommy websites suggested.
I feel confident that I can develop a working balance in 2015. More on that later.
And while I have not been blogging regularly, I have been pretty good at keeping up with those 2014 New Years Resolutions. What a shock! I have to thank the masterminds behind FutureMe for letting me forward 11
guilt inducing inspirational emails from the current me to the future me, to be read by the current me from the past me (did you get all that?). 2014 turned out to be a pretty educational year of massive change.
Going to use these last few weeks to the best of my ability.