Truth be told, I am barely capable of deciding what to have for breakfast—and experience immediate, soul-crushing regret as soon as I’ve chosen the scrambled eggs instead of the avocado toast —so I’m not sure why I’ve been entrusted with the task of deciding what to do with my entire life, especially now that I’m a mom.
Lately I’ve been grappling with the quest of finding “The Perfect Scenario” that seamlessly and beautifully merges my #momlife with my #regularlife, if #regularlife is even a thing at this point. When you have a 20 month old wild animal under your roof and you’re 25 weeks pregnant with a pretty rough pregnancy both mentally and physically (an entirely separate post, coming soon!), #regularlife as you knew it takes a little hiatus (and by hiatus I mean it says “peace the F out, crazy lady! I’m not sticking around for this shit show!”) and you’re left with a surplus of hormones and a lack of wine, trying to fit together the confusing bits and pieces of it all but usually just feeling like you’re failing miserably at every aspect.
So, serious question that’s been plaguing me lately: what is the best scenario for a balanced life as a mom?
When it comes to jobs, I’ve seen all sides. I’ve worked for a high-profile entertainment PR company in the music industry, not leaving my desk until well after the sun had set and spending many a night attempting to schmooze with the intimidatingly cool “it” people at loud bars until way too late (keyword: attempting. I’m horribly inept and frightened at having to do this and got embarrassingly adept at the art of the Irish Exit, which I guess is frowned upon in some social circles? Whatevs, saying “goodbye, everyone” in a chill, non-awkward fashion is just too much for me, guys. Let it be.)
Aside from the rigorous dog-eat-dog PR world, I’ve also worked for an online women’s lifestyle site where I was able to make my own hours and write from a coffee shop or from the comfort of my living room — which, surprisingly, was much tougher to do with a baby than I had previously expected. And now, in what may be my most demanding job yet, I’m working for a 23-pound slave driver with a deceptively innocent high-ponytail and newly-acquired, very strong opinions on things like the importance of sleep (Scout: “Nope, not important- next question?”) and when it’s acceptable to bite other humans (Scout: “Um, when they have a toy you kind of want and/or just always. Any other brain busters you got for me here?”)
Staying at home with a toddler while growing another tiny being inside of me has been one of the most uniquely gratifying, insanely frustrating and thought-provoking experiences all at once. Just when I think I’m cut out for it, I have a day where I find myself rocking back and forth in the fetal position from the safety of my bedroom, periodically emerging to throw my daughter a few Teddy Grahams and make sure she’s actually still in our house before I retreat back to my phone and continue sending my husband texts reading “So, are you on your way home yet?” quickly escalating to, “TIME’S UP, PAL. EXIT YOUR OFFICE IMMEDIATELY AND NO ONE GETS HURT” at 2 pm in the afternoon.
Yes, there are definite perks to my current job. I don’t have to rush out the door in the mornings, Scout and I can go to the pool whenever we want, we can schedule fun playdates with reckless abandon, I have the option to lounge and nap when she naps and, maybe most importantly, I don’t have to let a bra be the boss of me. But there is a laundry list of other grievances I’ve experienced and sacrifices I’ve already made that have me wondering if a cubicle, sack lunch and awkward networking meetings might just be easier and more sanity-salvaging than what I’m currently experiencing.
I have girlfriends who work full time in an office but would give anything to be at home with their kids every day. I also have girlfriends who are stay-at-home moms but are thirsting for more structure or some sort of creative outlet or even just plain and simple adult interaction. Do you see the conundrum here?
Full time jobs, part time jobs, stay at home mom jobs: what is the best scenario for a mom who wants to feel balanced, present, successful and sane all at once?
After much thinking – and by thinking I mean desperately racking my brain to come up with a different life solution as my child is laying face down on the floor in the middle of the Nordstrom check-out line, screaming at maximum capacity with no shoes and no regrets — I have finally figured out the answer. Whew!
My answer is: there is no best scenario. Nada. Zilch. Move it along, people—no best scenario to see here.
From my experience so far, I can confidently attest that mothering littles is one of the hardest jobs in existence– definitely not for the faint of heart, and definitely not for the woman who wishes to have a clean house, isn’t willing to spend a small fortune on industrial-strength dry shampoo or ever wants to be able to wear white again. Motherhood is hard as hell, and that statement remains true no matter how your particular motherhood looks. It doesn’t matter how you spend your days or what time you get home from work or if you take networking trips to New York City or if your biggest activity of the afternoon is a Gymboree Play and Learn class: we are all still mothers and we all still experience the same mom guilt, the same worry, the same frustration, the same tears and the same “how does anyone get out of this alive” thoughts.
If you spend all day in an office, missing playdates with your sweet stay-at-home friends, missing seeing your daughter shake a tambourine for the first time in music class or even just missing spontaneous afternoon ice cream dates with your little man, you might find yourself mechanically staring at a computer screen and shuffling endless piles of papers thinking, “What is my life right now? Is this really all there is?”
If you spend all day chasing a human tornado, experiencing severe anxiety about something as simple as braving the grocery store with kids in tow, meticulously making lunches that get aggressively catapulted onto the floor within five seconds and helplessly watching as your own offspring launches into a public meltdown that has you Googling “is my child a sociopath?” late at night when you can’t sleep, then you might find yourself covered in applesauce, mechanically rolling a toy truck on the floor for upwards of an hour in between saying 47 times a day “We don’t lick the dog!” thinking “What is my life right now? Is this really all there is?”
No matter what your motherhood situation looks like, one thing remains the same across the board: it’s 100% not going to be easy. So it would make sense that as women we should stop putting pressure on ourselves to “figure it all out,” right? Then why do I spend more time than I’m willing to admit brainstorming a “better scenario” to fit my motherhood, when we’re all just doing the best thing– the ONLY thing– we know to do at any given moment?
When I was on the other side of all of this (i.e. going into an office, actually having to wash my hair more than once a week, trying my hand at interacting with adult humans, using my brain, etc) I couldn’t imagine that sort of life being my reality when I had little people at home who were depending on my love, support and mere presence in their daily lives. I wanted to be there in the thick of it with my baby (and future babies), not missing one single laugh, crawl, spit up or step. I despised being chained to a desk, having to answer to someone else when I dreamed of only answering to my kids when they asked giddily, “what fun adventure are we going to go on today, mom?!”
SPOILER ALERT: kids don’t wake up with stars in their eyes and syrupy-sweet grins asking about magical adventures. They wake up screaming for milk, kicking you in the stomach when you’re trying to change their diaper and crying when you try to do something semi-educational with them instead of letting them watch Mickey Mouse Club on their bean bag chair alone with their industrial-sized box of Cheddar Bunnies.
Now that the stay-at-home mom life is my reality, I find myself thinking how glorious it would be to have a totally separate job that doesn’t involve child rearing– how mentally enriching it would be to use my brain for something other than scheming how I’m going to sneak a carrot or two into my kid’s macaroni and cheese that day.
But, here’s the catch: I know if I was dropping her off at daycare everyday and heading to my competitive corporate job, picking her up in the evenings just in time for dinner and bath and a quick bedtime story, I wouldn’t be satisfied either! I’d question my priorities on a daily basis and long for those early mornings spent lazily in PJs with mini pancakes, the mid-day bubble baths when she kills herself laughing every time I splash her, the long afternoon walks to the park to watch her finally be brave enough to take on the big kid slide. Oh, and the public tantrums– I would be NOTHING without my ability to mentally and emotionally transcend the most soul-sucking, screaming fits in the middle of the Whole Foods produce aisle when I won’t let her gnaw on every apple in the apple bin. It’s my badge of honor and I wear it with more pride than I wore my college cheerleading uniform.
So, does this mean I’m a miserable, whiney, unsatisfied soul who is completely incapable of being happy in any situation? Or. OR! Am I simply a mom? Meaning it’s impossible to find that illusory perfect balance of motherhood, where you’re simultaneously giving enough to your littles while giving enough to your own dreams, desires and bank account? (Oh, and also to your husband and your friends and your family and your kids’ school and your book club and your spin instructor and your mom who is permanently pissed at you for not sending approximately 75 grandchild photos per day.)
At the risk of sounding horribly cliché, I think the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, and I’m starting to believe no one lives that truth more so than mothers.