Good morning, girl. Why do you work? What do you need? What are your trade-offs and is it worth it?
I hope you put together your puzzle pieces to equal some happiness for you.
Sunday I flew out to see a friend of mine. Breast cancer, again. Stage one, stage three, stage four, her doctors aren’t sure and they can’t agree. Her kids are in grade school, her husband is charming and solicitous.
Super-smart cookie, my friend. She made partner (partner!) at one of those fancy California law firms. Brilliant, tough. I sat at her kitchen island and we talked while she cooked. Talked about chemo and wigs and decisions. And talked about parenting.
Six years ago she left her law firm. She had worked on a huge case that kept her from seeing her children awake during the trial for like, three months straight. She would come home at night and look at them in their sleep. Sometimes wake them up for groggy hugs and kisses and hi-mommy.
She asks if I want to know what they were fighting about, that massive trial that kept her away from her children. Women’s fashion. Trademark infringement. She shakes her head.
After that case, she and her husband made a significant lifestyle adjustment for her to stay home with her kids. She had all the things that culture says should make her happy, but she wasn’t. So she changed.
Now, a bare six year later, here she is facing a cancer she thought she beat.
She talks about how she had a chance to home-school her son for a while. She talks about reading and taking karate classes with her kids. She talks about their family vacations in Santa Fe.
“Mommy!” Her daughter pokes her head into the kitchen from the patio door, “Come watch me!” My friend follows her daughter outside and watches her do somersaults in the grass. Pulls out her phone and takes a video. They laugh together. After dinner, she and her daughter snuggle on the sofa to watch the video and laugh together again. Her son shows her Legos and talks about starting on the cross country team.
Look sister, no matter how you live your life, no matter what you do, there will always be someone there to tell you you’re doing it wrong. So forget trying to please anyone else. Construct a life that feels right to you.
Because our time here is limited and our time as parents is so very fleeting. They won’t always want to climb in your lap, they won’t always cling to your legs. Enjoy it while you have the chance.
If you need to work to stay sane, work, and no apologies. If you want to skip the happy hour to go home and snuggle your little bunnies, skip it! If you are in pain every day, find a way to change something. And I know it’s not an easy or simple thing to do, it might not even feel possible. But the price of not changing is too high.
Can you take Fridays off? Can you re-direct some of your family dollars to a cleaning lady to save you those hours? Can you get your groceries delivered to save that ninety minutes? Can you find a job closer to home to reduce your commute? Can you give up sugar or alcohol to have a steadier temper when you are home? Carve out your joy, cultivate it and protect it.
I know, who am I to ask these things of you?
Forgive me. I’ve done this working mommy thing now for more than twenty years. I’ve seen a lot of pain, sister. I don’t want you to feel like you are stuck with a raw deal. I want you to have as much happiness as you can.
Build your joy. Today. Because tomorrow is not guaranteed.