December 19th, 2013

When my daughter was born, I declined any help. My job as editor of DietsInReview.com allowed me to work exclusively at home. How hard could it be? I’d work between feedings and naps, often with her strapped in to the Bjorn while typing away with my laptop perched on the bar in the kitchen. I’d delicately navigate conference calls, sometimes bailing in the first three minutes saying “Well, I think you’ve got this, just send me the notes,” not wanting to admit to the screaming baby I was rushing to tend to. After three months, I decided Super Woman wasn’t a job title I qualified for; no one – myself, my job, my daughter – was getting what they wanted.

After almost four years, I’ve decided Super Woman is not only a title I qualify for, but one I’ve earned. Between my full-time job, contract projects, chairing two charity events, making a homemade meal most nights of the week, playing and reading every night, ensuring my house isn’t a total disaster all the time, and squeaking in a moment for myself, my husband, and our friends, I’ve got very little falling through the cracks. And very little sleep.

In those early days of being a working mom, I, like a lot of my colleagues in motherhood, felt like a total failure. What good was I to anyone if I couldn’t do all the work, take care of the house, and be the primary caregiver to my baby? And the truth was, I wasn’t any good to anyone. In accepting that, I’m better to and for everyone involved.

“You’ll never know how I agonize over being a working mom. You go to bed at 8, so you don’t see the many nights I work until nearly midnight only to rise and shine with you at 6. You’ll never know how every time I write a check to the nanny that my heart aches. It is impossible to reconcile paying someone your hard-earned money to hang out with the person you love the most. How could work be more important than you? And yet, it will be a good many years from now before you understand that it’s not more important, just necessary. Plus, I love it and you and I can’t give up either.”

I wrote that in an open letter of sorts to Paisley earlier this year here on The Conversation. The sentiment hasn’t changed. I don’t know where the balance is, so I make the most of the time I do have. We sleep in and snuggle in bed in the morning longer than most families do because I have the luxury of a flexible start time at work. Uninterrupted dinners at the table with “best part of your day” are a nightly standard. We run, play games, craft, go to the Y, and cook together like any other mom and child, and if I get distracted, she’s all too quick to remind that “it isn’t phone time, mama.”

Right now I’m sitting on an airplane five hours from Portland and five days away from seeing my daughter. It’s not a pleasure trip. Who leaves their family for the five days leading up to Christmas? Me, I do. I’m a working mom. An unexpected meeting came up, duty called, and off I flew. So last night I rushed through final shopping, wrapping, making a set of my now-tradition Good Morning Cards, laundry, and dishes (so Daddy wasn’t stuck with all the work) and the guilt is only moderately subsided.

Whether I’m flying 500 miles away or just driving my five minute commute, I’m constantly second guessing myself. Is this right for her? Is this right for me? For now, this moment in our lives, the answer is yes. I love my work and the life it allows me to provide for her. And I hope her take away some day is that she had a mom who prioritized all the things she loved most and gave a little bit of herself to each of them.

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