First off, if you have fifteen minutes to spare, I highly suggest you watch this TED talk by the COO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg. If you didn’t watch it, it talks about the reasons she believes there aren’t more women in powerful positions in the world. She outlines three reasons:
1. Women need to stand up for themselves, take credit for their accomplishments, and continue to go for what they want. They need to sit at the table at work, not off to the side, and to believe in themselves.
2. They need to make their partners true partners by asking spouses to take on more home/child responsibilities, and
3. They need to not leave until it’s time to leave, by not turning down projects or promotions because of children/pregnancy.
What it boils down to is this: women devalue themselves. Constantly.
I watched it and felt a surge of adrenaline to do something. It all feels so important that we get out there and WORK!
Except, you know, I’m also a mom, and I get that working inside or outside the home is a bit of a challenge. I know that I can’t have it all. Ann Wyse asked me today if I could make the same work choices I’m making right now if my kids were younger? Would I still feel like a good mom?
The answer is yes, and also no.
Yes, if my children were younger, I would make the same essential choices.
No, when my children were younger, I didn’t make these choices. But it didn’t have to do with the age of my children. It had to do with me, with my mentality toward motherhood, myself, and what I could personally do about my situation.
One of my problems with possibly having another kid is this: I want to have a career. I want to have it NOW. I don’t want to put everything I’ve done on pause to have another baby. I don’t want to lose traction because I need to take care of another human being. Do I really want to start over on the career ladder again?
Here is the other problem with this situation: Gregg never once considered how another child would affect his career. NOT. ONCE. Because our children do not negatively affect his career. My children have negatively affected my career growth, but only because I’ve let them.
I’m not saying that staying home was the wrong decision for me, and that I should have worked and pumped my breastmilk and clawed my way to the top of my career. I’m saying that I didn’t believe I could do it, could have what I wanted, and so I did what I thought I could do. I thought, “I can be a good stay at home mother, but not a working mother and a library manager and a good wife and have my sanity.” The other truth is that I did not WANT to do all of those things together. But not because of the juggling act, but because of what Sandberg talked about: I wasn’t challenged.
I got pregnant in graduate school, two months in. From that point on, I started scheming of ways to work part-time, because I wanted to be there for them, and to be the best mom ever. I was not, and have not been, the best mom ever. I was stressed out. I yelled. I was constantly figuring out ways to fill the holes in the day, to meet new mom friends, to get out of the house. Because I was miserable. Because I had settled*.
I worked part-time, and so I didn’t get to make any decisions. I didn’t get to go to meetings. I worked weekends. I barely ever saw any other of my awesome librarian co-workers. I turned down a management position because I knew I couldn’t do it and be a good mom.
It really was the worst of both worlds. I quit when Sachin was two, because I wasn’t happy working weekends. I wasn’t happy being a college librarian. I wasn’t happy missing birthday parties to take my boys to. I was settling for what I thought I could do, and so I decided to just give up.
Here are the things that I have wanted for years, but not let myself admit to having: being a children’s librarian; being a novelist; working from home a large portion of the week so I could juggle career and family stuff. I want all of that. I didn’t think I could be a children’s librarian, because I’ve always worked with college students, and I just don’t have the background. I didn’t think I could be a novelist, because every person wants to be a novelist and the competition is stiff and what’s so special about me? I didn’t think I could work from home because how could I possibly do any of that?
I was removing myself from ANY POSSIBILITY for these things. If I had a great job to go to everyday, that I loved, that brought me joy? It wouldn’t matter so much that I sometimes had to pump. I wouldn’t feel frazzled at home doing yet another thing for a tiny person or my husband. I’d feel like I could give of myself, because my tank was full.
And this is all speculation. The fact is that my kids are five and seven. No one here nurses and they rarely get up multiple times a night. I’m well-rested. My house is not littered with baby things. But the fact also is: I didn’t believe in myself enough to go for exactly what I wanted when they were younger. It wasn’t because of their age, but because of mine. I needed to grow up. I needed to trust in God/The Universe/Whatever, that what I wanted wasn’t outlandish or selfish or unattainable, but exactly what I needed too.
Now, I’m only an amateur novelist. I am still revising my book, so who knows what will happen, but at least I can admit: hey, I want do it. I tried, and I have an amazing agent who is helping me make my book a real book. I am probably going to do this thing. Because, you know, I believe it will happen, and that helps me work for it, and then that gives me the energy to believe that Gregg can do some of the housework, that I can give more of myself when the boys are home, that things can work out for me. At least I’m trying.
It gave me enough bravery to ask about being the school librarian while the current one is gone for a month. It’s not permanent, but it’s a start, more than I could have previously imagined. And you know what? I’m going to do it. Before, I wouldn’t have even asked. I wouldn’t have believed anyone would want me. Now? I believe it, and it makes me want to sit at the table, and never leave.