On the same day, three of the most important people in my life got big career-related news. My sister and my best friend were each promoted at work, and a good friend learned the play for which she was the musical director was nominated for a number of awards.
The news kept coming in the form of text messages while I chased the kids around the house.
Buzzzz “I got the job!”
(Holding down a screaming toddler so I can change her diaper)
Buzzzz “I’ll be in charge of so many people.”
(Closing the back door for the hundredth time BECAUSE YOU ARE LETTING FLIES IN THE HOUSE)
Buzzzz “This is such a big step in my career!”
(Trying to keep the kids from jumping on my back while I stretch my arm under the couch to fetch a toy that they just HAVE to have now)
Buzzz “My manager said they just had to find a way to keep me.”
(Feeling defeated as a child goes to the bathroom on the floor because “the potty was too far away”)
Buzzzz “This is huge. Just HUGE!”
I calmly cleaned up the mess on the bathroom floor, walked downstairs and shut myself in our darkened pantry.
I couldn’t understand what I was feeling, but I knew I felt like crying. Why? Without a doubt, I was elated for each of these people – all of whom are parents. I know all the hard work they put into their jobs. I believe each of them deserves any promotion, award or accolade they want.
I have watched them successfully balance their work with parenting – two of them single parents. I am incredibly proud to know these people and was excited to brag about them.
I reached my hands to my face to wipe away a tear, and I realized that despite all the scrubbing, my hands still smelled foul.
There. That’s why I feel this way. Right there. The loves of my life are leading important, impressive careers, and I literally smell like shit.
It was a harsh spoonful of life that stuck in my throat no matter how hard I tried to swallow it.
At one point, I had big plans for my career, too. I thought that by my age, I would be writing for a magazine in a vibrant city. I thought I would be publishing a book. I thought maybe I would even score a role as a writer on a hit TV show. (Psst, Saturday Night Live, I’m still available).
And while many of those things are still possible, it doesn’t feel that way when I am caught up in the day-to-day madness of mothering. Sometimes, it’s just hard to see beyond the piles of laundry and through the handprint-covered windows.
I guess you could say that I was jealous. Their successes at work are measurable: They get a promotion, a raise, an award.
How do I measure my success at being “Mommy”? I hope it’s not based on how often the children cry. Or how often I cry. And taking 20 to 30 years to see if the kids turned out OK seems like an awfully long waiting period.
My successes include watching my son use the potty correctly, getting my daughter to eat vegetables and cleaning the house before a play date. Each of those is an achievement, undoubtedly, but they aren’t something I can take to a hiring manager and say, “Lookee what I did! Four years and both my kids are still alive!”
In the end, I don’t do this job for what I might get in return; I do it because I am over-the-moon in love with my little monsters. I don’t regret putting my career on hold to raise them. I know what I’m doing is important.
And I still have plenty of time ahead of me for successes outside the home, so focusing on the job of raising my kids just makes sense right now. …
… But sometimes, JUST sometimes, I’d like an award for it.
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