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At the office, I forget yet another small detail. Later, I am asked a simple question, something I should know the answer to, and I respond with “I don’t know” because it didn’t even occur to me to have that information on hand. I feel incapable of planning much ahead and insecure about my ability to read through the fine print.

Another day of work is missed to be home with a sick baby, it’s been a difficult winter with illness striking our home, including a round of influenza for me. Meetings I was supposed to lead are covered by a colleague, for which I am deeply grateful and equally insecure. I can’t help but wonder, is motherhood having a negative impact on my career?

The truth is, I don’t feel like I have a lot of space in my brain these days. It takes so much work to run a house even with a sublime partner. There are people and animals to feed, the girls need supplies for daycare, the house needs cleaned, birthday parties need attended with gifts, grandparents want visits to cities a couple of hours away, oh, and don’t forget your marriage and self-care!

I love my job. I enjoy having something for myself that challenges me, introduces me to new ideas and people, and puts me on a path for opportunities down the road. My supervisor and colleagues are incredibly supportive of me and my motherhood. I couldn’t ask for a better situation in terms of their support.

And yet, there is a constant nagging at the back of my mind, do they notice all my slip-ups? Does it secretly frustrate them? Does my lack of ability to remember some of the tiniest details make me look incompetent? Will they chalk it up to a performance issue without seeing the bigger picture? Do they assume I don’t care much, because of the generalization that moms are too preoccupied with their children to accomplish anything else? If so, where does that leave me?

I recognize that a lot of this is my own insecurity, that the reality is that I will be fine. People enjoy my work and give positive feedback, but I find myself wanting to explain, to shout, “If you only knew how much was going on in here you wouldn’t remember anything either!” But I don’t.

It’s just that some days I am so tired, so overloaded, and feel so deeply unconfident that I spiral into the what-ifs of getting stuck in the same place in my career because I have too much to manage as a whole, and my brain is screaming at me for a break. I picture myself at 50, still sitting in the same office doing the same tasks (which is perfectly fine, but not what I want for myself), and I am filled with a sense of dread that leads me to try to “hack” my way to more mental clarity.

My mentor, a woman with two grown children who now have their own children, tells me that grace is the key. She holds a high position at the university at which I work, and I have admired her from afar for a long time. After several sessions together, I find the courage to bring all these fears to the table. She laughs, not in a dismissive way, but in a way that tells me she knows exactly what my worries feel like. She soothes, as a mother knows best how to do, and reminds me to be kind to myself and understand that people who don’t give me grace in this challenging time of my life truly aren’t my people.

I have yet to figure out a solution aside from the passage of time and weathering the seasons as they come, recognizing that as the girls get older, I will have more brain space for myself and my work, and I will likely miss the days when I was covered in snot and tears (my own and theirs) while hurriedly trying to get us all out the door in time for my 8:30 a.m. meeting.

Originally published on the author’s blog

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Mara Cheney

Mara Cheney is a mother of three and longtime resident of Iowa City, Iowa. She works in strategic planning at the University of Iowa and teaches prenatal yoga at a beloved local studio. For years, she has been creatively expressing her way through grief and motherhood after the loss of her infant son. Motherhood is the foundation of her meaning making process. Her Instagram handle is @lionheart_yogi

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