Almost 6 weeks ago I put on some real pants (you know, the kind not of the yoga variety), packed up my breast pump and all of the confidence I could muster, and walked out the door. I drove to a job where I wear the title "Therapist" for 36+ kids, ages 5 to 18, who rely on me to ease the stress of their varying emotional disorders and trauma histories. I spend my days in therapy sessions, visiting schools, writing treatment plans, and talking frazzled parents off of the ceiling. And then I come home. I come home to an equally exhausted husband and two beautiful small children who need me to be ON.
Now that this whole working thing feels less "new" and more routine, I am able to step back and see the ways that this GIGANTIC life change has trickled down and impacted the various facets of my personal life. It hasn't been easy, big change never is. It has been scary and jarring, I continue to feel challenged and pushed and constantly wonder how I am going to make it all work. But I'm trying to go easy on myself - it feels unnatural as a woman to do just that, but I am trying. And in that process of trying I have decided to make a few promises to myself and to my family.
1. I will not worry about my "supply".
Norah has been exclusively breastfed her entire life. I am extremely proud of our nursing journey and would not take back any of the hard moments. With Jack, I supplemented with formula from 6 weeks on, but with NB? That emergency stockpile of formula has gone untouched. I was worried that working was going to screw everything up. Would I have time to pump? Could I pump enough? I am happy to report that so far, so good! But there are days when I will look down at the end of a pumping session and feel panic because I only got 2 ounces out of my left boob. There are days when I look at the clock and realize I FORGOT TO PUMP. But guess what? If I dry up, if I cannot supply enough, everyone is still going to be okay! I can overdose on fenugreek and squeeze in a midnight pumping session, but it won't make anything LESS stressful. Instead, I can roll with it. If there isn't enough milk for the next day, the nanny can thaw from the frozen stockpile. If the frozen stockpile runs out we can go from there... I will take deep breaths and remember that we are all going to be okay!
2. I will not get defensive.
I have found myself giving this big long explanation for why I am working. People find out that I have a baby and gasp with sadness that I have to be at work instead of home with my sweet precious little ones. But I am CHOOSING to work. And that is okay! I promise to own it. I am working because I LIKE to work. I am working because I feel passionate about what I do and it fulfills me in a way that being a mom does not. There is no need to make excuses and I don't owe anyone an explanation. As long as my family is good, I am good!
3. I will not try to do it all.
Jack was the "Superstar of the Day" at preschool this week. It was exciting for him but it meant that I had to come home, come up with a "nutritious" snack for twenty 3-year-olds, think of clues for his "mystery bag" show-and-tell item, and write down his prayer request. I felt like I needed to go above and beyond! Jack had to have the best homemade snack and the cutest print out of clues! I spent all evening making everything perfect and when I finished both kids were asleep and I had spent maybe 5 minutes with them. Jack would have been fine and just as excited with a pre packaged snack and some handwritten clues. We all would have been better off if I had spent my time snuggling with him while watching a movie. I will not kill myself trying to be the do-it-all mom. Ain't nobody got time for that!
4. I will make time for myself.
Because working is not an excuse to neglect my health (mental and physical). The 30 minutes I spend exercising will benefit everyone.
5. I will make time for my marriage.
When the clock hits 8:00 pm and both kids are asleep both John and I are ready to just check out. We are guilty of mindlessly watching things on TV and then before I know it, it feels like days have gone by where we haven't had a real conversation. I struggle with wanting to leave the house after being gone 40 hours a week but I refuse to not go on dates or make time for the number one most important job that I have. Being wife comes first, before mom and before professional. Time for date nights, baby!
6. I will not feel sorry for myself.
I am choosing to work. No one is holding a gun to my head. I don't get to feel sorry for myself when I miss milestones or don't make it to that class party. This is my choice and I need to own it.
7. I will let myself cry.
That being said... if I miss Norah's first steps or Jack's first choir concert, I am going to be sad, and that is okay too! Shedding a tear for the missed moments is going to be unavoidable, I will allow myself the time to grieve it out and let it go.
8. I will turn off my phone.
I made the mistake of leaving my work phone on over the weekend. Most days it doesn't ring past 5:00, but Sunday night it did. I didn't answer it, but I listened to the voicemail. It was a client, she was sobbing and begging me to call her back. I hurredly powered it down and threw it in my purse... Out of sight, out of mind? While I stood firm on my "no work on the weekends" boundary, I was thinking about that client for the rest of the night. I wasn't soaking in the last bits of an amazing weekend at home with my family, instead I was wondering if I could squeeze in one more quick morning appointment and if I could get a hold of my client's dad before he left for work. From now on, my phone is turned off.
9. I will say no.
I'm tired at the end of a work day. I come home and the last thing I want to do is deal with a naughty 3-year-old who is bound and determined to get his own way. Some nights it would just be easier to give him what he wants and survive the evening. But I refuse to let my exhaustion and my work come at the expense of the best interest of my children. Jack (and eventually Norah too) needs to know that the standards are still high. Just because I am not home all day does not mean that manners or good behavior are optional. I need to come home every day ready to parent. I will say no, I will deal with tantrums, I will be patient, I will listen.
10. I will celebrate the little moments.
Yesterday I came home from work to find John and Jack playing Memory on the living room floor while Norah happily played in her activity saucer. I dropped my bags to the kitchen floor and sat down next to them. Norah's face lit up and Jack excitedly told me about his day. I buried my face in fat baby rolls and spent the evening rolling around the floor playing peek-a-boo. We ate dinner in shifts, the house looked like a laundry bomb had gone off, and I sure as hell needed to be cleaning the bathrooms. But, I felt like my kids went to bed knowing that they were loved and that their little moments mattered. And to me, that was better than a family dinner and a clean house.
I'm not even close to having it all figured out and I keep waiting for the day I will magically feel organized. But as every work day comes to a close, I feel this growing sense of normal. I know that I am in the right place and doing the right things for myself and for my family. I know that I am growing a professional life that will make me proud, and I hope one day it makes my kids proud too. I am a strong, capable, and loving wife and mother. I will be kind to myself. Every day is a chance to grow, and I know we are all going to be okay!