But my life has changed radically, as it does for many women. I had a baby. He was beautiful and perfect, and he consumed my heart and my mind. Yet my hunger for professional success did not dissipate. Six weeks post-partum, I was ready to get back into the swing of things, ready to tackle the corporate world again.
It wasn’t that I didn’t love being a mom. I did, and I do. But as someone who had a professional career for more than a dozen years before entering this new terrain called parenting, I realized my career wasn’t something I wanted to give up because I was a mom. I wanted to do both.
So I did, and I went back into my marketing profession part-time, and things were great. I achieved the work-life balance we hear so much about. I felt satisfaction that I was accomplishing professional and personal achievements without feeling like one or the other was getting a raw deal. Sure, there were days when I felt like I left my heart at daycare. There were also days where I felt like my reduced hours had taken a toll on productivity. But for the most part, I was happy with finding a middle ground. Life was good.
Then, I got laid off. Suddenly, I was a full-time stay a home mom. No big deal, I thought. Many, many women are stay at home mothers. A lot of women choose this intentionally. I can be one of those people.
But it’s been a struggle for me, and I finally realized why.
In my career, I’m driven by measurements, analysis, and determining value add. My objectives and goals are lined up verbally and in writing. I’m accountable for achieving these goals. And in the end, I’m rewarded or penalized for meeting or failing to meet them. It’s fairly black and white. It’s strict, it’s unemotional, and it’s effective.
And then there’s parenting. There is nothing black and white about parenting. It’s 1,000 shades of grey, with splattered rainbow paint everywhere in between.
My husband came home from work the other day and asked me what I did all day. I hadn’t showered (I’m not sure I even brushed my hair), the house was a mess, and my son was on the floor screaming for his blocks. I told him I kept our son alive today. And it was true. That day I had changed four diapers. I had fed my son and myself three meals. We played some games, had a couple battle of the wills, and spilled everything everywhere. But seriously, what did we DO all day?
The day ended without my accountability tools, my measurements and analytics I had used so long to determine success. No one was tracking my effectiveness or performance. I had nothing to show for my day other than the fact everyone was still alive and healthy.
And this is why I struggle with being a stay at home mom. I’m not saying I need a performance evaluation each quarter, though I’ll admit I’ve considered it. But I find satisfaction in measuring success. I take pride in showing my value. I gain strength from being an indispensable asset to my team.
Right now, I am an indispensable asset to my son. And every day I take care of him and love him unconditionally. But we have good days and bad. Hell, with a toddler it’s more like good minutes and bad. One moment he’s giggling and babbling, the next he’s on the ground screaming bloody murder. During the tantrums and the hysteria, I often wonder about my job performance. Am I failing catastrophically, or am I navigating stormy seas like everyone else? Time will tell.
Because in parenting, our performance reviews won’t be truly evaluated for many years, so I can only hope I’ve set the right goals and I’m performing in the best way possible. Being a stay at home mom means having faith in my parenting skills, and hoping for the best in what the future holds. And while eventually I’ll probably find a new job to fulfill me professionally, this time at home with my son has taught me that parenting is one tough, beautiful, exhausting gig. So for now, my success will oftentimes be measured by just getting through the day, and performance reviews will be rewarded with kisses and cuddles. I can’t think of a better reward than that.