As a child I used to whine about wanting a cat or a dog, to which my mother would say "Its unfair for us to have a pet because it would be home alone all day while Dad and I work and you go to school." I learned years later that she was severely allergic to furry animals and decided to squash my hopes of having one by using guilt instead of a scienfitic explanation.
Fast forward to my late twenties when my mother's words blinked like a warning sign in my head at the thought of having a child. How can I bring a baby into this world if I'm going to have to work all the time and never see him or her? How is he or she going to feel special and loved if Mommy is running out the door five days a week? How can I be so selfish to want a family? I already had guilt and I wasn't even pregnant. Thanks to some passive family advice such as "get over it" and "you're being crazy", I was able to push aside my guilt and fears for the future me to worry about and temporarily move forward.
A crappy short term disability policy had me back to work only nine weeks after delivering my daughter. I knew the first year would be hard for both my husband and I, but we plowed through. And here we are, 13 months later and I feel like saying "Okay, enough, that was fun but now I'd like to spend more time with my daughter thank you."
Who am I talking to? The financial security gods perhaps, because like many parents I have to work to stay afloat. Problem is, the water keeps rising as I'm strapped to the buouy, constantly searching but finding no land in sight. And so the next job, the real "career change" I was ready for of being a mother, came with a hefty price. Like so many others, I've had to stay a full-time professional and become a part-time parent.
Thinking about my current family and adding another little person, my heart swells with delight. Daydreams of family trips, slumber parties in the backyard, arts and crafts, and eating pancakes on Saturday mornings, take up my daily commute. Then I think about my professional life, my senior level position, and all the responsibilities of adulthood and am quickly deflated.
I'm not one of those people who still yearn for career growth and are trying to figure out how to balance both. I just want to continue what I'm doing professionally because I am good at what I do and would like to spend the time away from my daughter doing something productive with my awesome skill set. Yet that's because I have to. If money was no object, I'd quit today and go join the board of whatever philanthropy deals with parenting issues and fight to make things easier for all of us while getting to spend more time with my kid.
I'm under the impression, like most parents and our parents before us, I will tell my daughter one day that she can be whatever she wants and to go where her dreams take her. But what do I do if she says "One day I want to be a mommy just like you." ?
I suppose I can say, "Well yes dear, you can do anything you want 100% except of course what you were put on this Earth to do, which is procreate. I know its evolution and all but unfortunately its the one role you can't have without juggling another if you want to feed, shelter, provide medical aide and create recreational opportunities for that little cherub. Watching them grow? Oh certainly! You can enjoy those everyday new developments, but only between the hours of 7am and 8am, 6:30pm and 9pm, and hmmmm.... about twenty four hours conclusively on weekends. Oh wait, minus whatever time you have to devote to doing chores like laundry, cooking and cleaning and having quality time with your significant other. But don't worry dear, Mommy is doing it and its working out just great!"
I know my daughter will understand what I do for her when she is older, but now, love means face time. I know this because that's how I felt growing up and no matter how much I understand now the love my mother had for me, it didn't matter then. She still left and I still missed her.
So what do we, as parents do about this? How to we not feel selfish and guilty and everything else that makes Mondays so hard? I suppose we keep paying down our bills and debt, keep skypeing and texting our caretakers while at work, and keep on hoping the country and the economic status changes. Then maybe one day we may actually be able to tell our kids they can be anything they want and truly believe it.