Her Bad Mother

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Torn

Edited. Yes, already.


It's been a challenging few days. The Husband has been working non-stop, which leaves WonderBaby and I in a sort of single-parent family condition, wherein I get very, very tired and sometimes cranky. (How real single-parent families do it, I do not know, I really, really don't. I would be dead from exhaustion by now were it not for the presence, however erratic, of my husband as a parenting partner.) Also, we couldn't celebrate our anniversary, because he was working, which was sad. And, I got sick this weekend and had to spend much of Sunday afternoon laying on the floor on a sniffly haze while a hyper-mobile WonderBaby stomped on my head (which, because numb, did not suffer much damage.)

These things, however, are all manageable. What I'm really struggling with is a sort of identity crisis.

I am no longer a full-time stay-at-home-mom. Nor, however, am I full-time working mom. I am something in between. I have gone back to teaching at the university part-time, because they made me a nice offer and because they said please. And because I like teaching, and because I want to keep my foot in that particular academic door.

So, on Mondays and Wednesdays I leave the house and leave WonderBaby and head out to one of the suburban campuses of the University of Toronto and I teach political philosophy.

I like doing this. I've long been ambivalent about seriously pursuing a career in the academy, but not for lack of love for teaching. I love teaching. I love turning students on to these dusty old books, these fusty old ideas, bringing these to life in the same way that my teachers brought them to life for me. I love seeing students get excited about the puzzles of philosophy. I love it when Plato and Machiavelli and Rousseau and Nietzsche seduce them and transport them and inspire them to talk, to argue, about philosophy and politics and life.

I love this. But it's not motherhood. At the university, I am 'professor,' or even, sometimes, 'Ms.' (and, once, Mrs... which completely blew my mind.) But I am never recognized as a mother, as somebody's mom. Never.

Which, although understandable, feels strange, because I have come to so fully identify with my identity as mother that to be anywhere and to not be wearing my 'mother' hat feels awkward. Awkward, in part, because I had never, ever thought of this identity as a 'hat,' as an identity that could be removed and set aside. Nearly every breath that I have taken, nearly every word spoken, since November 14, 2005, has been as a mother. Even when I went back to teaching, briefly, one evening each week for 6 weeks in the spring, I still felt every inch a mother. I walked and talked as mother; I wore my motherhood as a badge. I announced to my class at the very first lecture, I just had a baby. I had spit-up stains on my clothes. I wore LilyPadz inside my nursing bra. My body felt WonderBaby's absence, every minute of that absence.

Once, during the break in the lecture, while standing at the lectern, fussing with my notes, I burst into song:

I love you
A bushel and a peck
You bet your pretty neck
I doooooo!!!

My head was full of motherhood. I did not, could not, leave my motherhood behind.

Now, I can, and I do. I can and do leave it behind.

And it feels strange, so strange. It feels strange because I both love it, and hate it. I love the feeling of freedom, of being unencumbered by stroller and diaper bag and the random paraphernalia that attends babycare. I love the silence of my office. I love that my head is filled with the words and ideas of dead poets and philosophers, that I can concentrate, think, that the flow of ideas between head and page or head and mouth is not interrupted by Raffi or the Johnny Cash Children's Album. It is freedom from motherhood. It is exhilarating.

But it hurts my heart. In the moments that I pause, and think of WonderBaby - and there are many such moments - my heart contracts and I very nearly gasp for my next breath. I miss her, I am missing her, I am missing seconds, minutes, hours with her. It takes all of my power to keep from running for the bus and heading for home, in those moments.

How can I choose to be apart from her, I ask myself. How can I choose this? But I do choose it. I must choose it.

I must choose to be both mother and myself, these other selves. But it feels, sometimes, like my identity has become fragmented, torn. Will it always feel this way? Or will I, gradually, knit these selves together? Come to terms with all of those missed moments of motherhood?

Or will I, one day, just run for the bus?



If you're going to make a break for it, Mommy, take a cab.


**********


Call to Action posts are still being added to the Changing the World, One Blog at a Time list. I've gotten a bit slow on adding the links, but they are still coming, so keep checking back and keep sending them in.

**********

Because you all keep asking: yes, the Johnny Cash Children's Album is real. How have you been living without it?



70 Comments:

Anonymous mothergoosemouse said...

Having gone back to work when Tacy was nine weeks old, I never thought of it - that idea of a separate identity. It's always been blended, and even though I'm no longer working full-time outside the home, I still feel blended.

It does sting a bit though, even when a friend like you says it, to hear others wonder how they can possibly choose to be away from their child. It's good for you; it's good for WonderBaby. It doesn't mean that you love her any less, nor that she will love you any less. A mother does not have to spend all day every day with her children to still be a mother - and a good one. Let yourself be you too.

5:01 PM  
Blogger DD said...

Even after 4 years and going back to work full-time after 12 weeks maternity leave, I still miss my son while I'm at work.

But I tell you there is nothing, NOTHING! sweeter than going to pick up your child and they see you and run to you screaming "Mommmmyyyyyyy!" It eases the pain from the day.

5:02 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Julie, gah - I hate to think that my words stung. It probably would have been easier, less of an issue, had I just stayed back at work when I first went back, it would have simply become part of my experience of motherhood. But I left work again, and made a decision to stay at home, and then changed my mind (circumstances also changed, but this was still very much a choice.) It's the fact that it feels as though I've made a break from motherhood, in a way that I didn't the first time 'round. I haven't, of course - I'm still every inch the mother that I am - but it still feels, I don't know, naughty? to so relish being not-mother at school.

I have issues, clearly.

5:28 PM  
Blogger toyfoto said...

I went back to work full-time when mine was three months old, and it didn't really change my identity, but then I knew my co-workers more personally than one probably knows a student. I suppose that has to be something of a shock.

Eventually, though, our lives will return to ourselves. Our children will need us in different ways and "mother" will take on new meanings for each of us. I think going places that our minds lead us is as important as going where our heart is, too.

5:29 PM  
Blogger nonlineargirl said...

I really like working part time (2 days). Just when I am going to scream if I have to read that same book one more time (you know, the one with the kittens on EVERY PAGE, bo-ring), then I head either upstairs or to the office to think about big projects and politics and financing and and and. And then I'm back with the girl, enjoying the pointing and talking and attempts at stick-eating.

I feel those moments of "wait, don't you know I'm a mom?" but those are more common when I go to the grocery store by myself or go out with friends. I enjoy having more parts of my brain active. I'd like to think it improves my time with Ada to be away (I know it does so for me, hopefully for her too).

5:42 PM  
Blogger Blog Antagonist said...

You are doing a good thing for yourself and for Wonderbaby. Because she will be so proud that her Mom is such a wonderfully intelligent and successful woman. She will have a strong female role model to emulate.

And you won't find yourself close to 40 with no flocking idea who you are or what you want to be outside of Mom, Chauffer, Laundress and Chambermaid.

It's a GOOD thing.

6:03 PM  
Blogger jen said...

oh, bad. that is bad. gives the props to the single moms every time, doesn't it...

i've often found myself in the same predicament...loving the feeling of freedom, yet missing what I now have. We can never go back, and that ultimate knowing is worth grieving, and celebrating.

6:05 PM  
Blogger Fidget said...

awhile ago I was taking an accounting class at the local community college- it felt VERY weird. No one knew I had two children at home and if i mentioned it off hand their jaws hit the floor.

I can imagine it's even stranger as the professor. I think I still have the "My teacher sleeps at school" mentality as do many others.

6:10 PM  
Anonymous Kristen said...

Call me crazy (or maybe I didn't read the post well) but it just sounds more like the struggle to meld the two identities, as opposed to not liking one or the other.

For me, when I went back to work for the full year after having Quinlan (yeah, no one really knows about that), all I thought about was her - and while I loved teaching, my heart wasn't totally in it.

With her older, I think it would b easier now... however, it was still hard.

To each her own - some folks have no problems with it - and for others it's heartbreaking.

I'm somewhere in the middle.

6:28 PM  
Blogger metro mama said...

I relish my time away from Jane. When I come home to her, I appreciate the time I have with her so much more. I have several selves: mother, wife, friend, student. I don't think they really have to be knit together.

AND! There's a Johnny Cash children's CD?!!

6:32 PM  
Blogger Amber said...

I can sooo relate to this post and have been feeling tied down lately with two little ones and a husband who's pulling 11-hour days.

Sometimes, I crave to go back to work but when I think of leaving my little ones in someone else's care? No way. It makes me envy my husband. There's no question of his role in everything and he is content with his station in life while we are torn between two worlds.

6:39 PM  
Blogger bubandpie said...

When I went back to work after my maternity leave with Bub, it was wonderful. Full stop. That extra-light feeling on the right shoulder, where the diaper bag isn't? Heaven. For the first time, I really looked forward to seeing my baby, really felt how much I loved him. Occasionally I would feel a twinge of guilt about that, and then I would decide I just don't have the time to waste on beating myself up. I was a better mom working than I was at home those first few months after Bub was born. Hands down.

Now that I'm not really at work anymore, it's a different kind of transition, and a more difficult one for me. I haven't really gotten used to what it feels like, this being at home thing.

And Metro Mama stole my comment about the Johnny Cash Children's CD. Are you for real?

7:08 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Re: Johnny Cash Children's Album. Yes, totally for real. I couldn't live without it. Nasty Dan is the best song in the world.

And Kristen is right - It's not that I dislike either of these identities, it's that I love them both. What Bub said above about that feeling of freedom - soooo true. But those twinges of guilt about feeling exhilarated by that freedom? Sometimes difficult to deal with. Because that freedom sometimes feels like a rejection of my motherhood. It's not that, I know, but sometimes, in my guiltier moments, I get confused...

7:14 PM  
Anonymous CrankMama said...

So touchingly written. I identify with your words ..... Since I have 3 kids and the time away from them is SO different than my time with them, I wonder if that makes it easier? Do I need more of a break because I'm so outnumbered? Who knows? I admire you courage to be yourself *and* a mother. Wonderbaby will most certainly benefit.

7:20 PM  
Anonymous krista said...

Knitting is a V E R Y slow process. I'm 6 years into this motherhood thing, and still work at knitting a few rows of all my selves together... but much like the intricate lace project I am knitting right now, it gets put on the backburner a lot.

Maybe those pieces of self don't ever really get put together into a coheisive whole. And maybe that's ok.

7:24 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

Sadly, despite the existence of a Johnny Cash Children's Album, my daughter prefers Christina Aguillera's "Genie in a Bottle". (Thankfully, she also loves The Beatles.)

Focus... focus... not about music!

In spite of not being a mother, I too understand the conflict you are experiencing. My girl is about six months older than yours, and I've been at work since three weeks after her birth, and I still feel fragmented. I'm Jeff the Engineer at work, Daddy the playmate and family man at home.

Since I have never been a teacher, I cannot compare directly, but I can tell you that the engineer person is very, very different from the one I am at home.

And I feel guilty that I work. I feel like I miss out on everything and that she knows that I am missing out. She's taken to telling Mommy when they get something new that she has to "Show... Daddy... Home..." (And, oh how that breaks my heart.)

I don't know the answers to your questions, whether this is temporary or it will end soon. I can only empathize and tell you that you're not the only one, and that this isn't restricted to mothers.

And if the fragmentation isn't challenging enough, recently she has been able to vocalize when she wants to talk to me, and she gets Mommy to dial my office so she can talk... and then the two Jeffs collide!

7:54 PM  
Blogger chichimama said...

I used to feel so free and alive and me when I was doing something not with the kids. Then over the summer I was with them 24/7, and now that they are back in school part-time I just feel off when I am working on my own stuff again. But I am ure in a few weeks I'll get used to it and be productive again.

I think motherhood and working is a delicate blend, and you get used to whatever particular blend you make work for your family. But everytime you switch it up it is going to be different and not quite right for a while.

Enjoy your teaching time. Enjoy your time with Wonderbaby. You'll find your way to making both work for you.

8:24 PM  
Blogger T. said...

Not only is what you are feeling perfectly healthy and normal, but it is probably much saner than identifying yourself as only a mother.

This way, there are so many facets of you to help keep you sane. And, sadly, I speak from my experience. I was so key on wearing only my mother hat, that when I was forced to take it off last year it sent me into a tailspin.

I only identified myself as being the parent to a special needs kid. What happens when you no longer have that kid? Who am I? It forced me to reevaluate and expand.

I now know not to place my self-worth on any one label.

I am a mom, first and foremost, and I am a dedicated advocate for special needs. But now I am also a woman, a gardener, a blogger and a really bad photographer. As well as so many other things. And they are all slowly knitting together to become one fierce mommy.

Just like you.

I'm mesmerized by Wonderbaby's eyes. Do you think I could get her to hypnotize Nixon, World's Greatest Dog. Ever. into peeing outside. And not decapitating any more toys??

8:36 PM  
Blogger Oh, The Joys said...

I went to the grocery store today while my kids were at daycare and there were loads of (I assume) SAHMs in there. I was astonished to find myself a bit miffed that I had no visible evidence that I was a fellow mom. So odd.

8:42 PM  
Blogger jennster said...

you are awesome! and i think that's what being a mom is... you're never NOT a mom. even when you're working, driving, eating- you're still a mom and there will bet he most random, stupid, insignificant times that that baby will come into your head and you'll find it so hard to breath because all you want to do is hug them.

i think that once we birth, we are mom's always, 24/7- and everything else after.

8:58 PM  
Blogger Stefanie said...

I'm struggling with the same thing. But it must be tough in your case because your daughter is INSANELY CUTE. jesus.

9:11 PM  
Blogger Mamalooper said...

I am soooo wrestling with this. Have been since Monkeygirl was born. To be the best mother that I can be to her, I need time away to recharge and create. And when I do get a little time to do that, I miss her horribly and feel soooo guilty. Guilty because I "should" be there 24/7. Guilty because I enjoy having some time to breathe and regroup. Hey, we're talking a few hours a week here for me.

When I say, as I sometimes do, how do those women who work fulltime do it, it isn't a judgement or a criticism. I just don't know how to fully look after myself in this way. I am much, much better than I was a few months ago. I get out to yoga, I work out, I am taking a class at night. And I feel parts of me that have been dormant for months now waking up again.

I have needed and wanted to be at home much, much more than I ever thought before Monkeygirl arrived early last December. Never would have guessed in a million years that I would put off a return to paid work. Yet I still need to exercise those other parts that make me "me".

Okay, enough rambling. Suffice it to say that sorting out my own way of mothering is a trip and a half. And I ain't done yet.

9:18 PM  
Blogger crazymumma said...

Aw, I feel for you. For some, it is a relief to get away from the Mummy thing, and for others like you, it forces an introspection. Thinking back over all of what I have read from you, I could not see your response to part time work, wearing different hats, any differently. You are introspective in your writing, therefor probably fairly complex in life as well.

Oh, Johny Cash Childrens album? wow, gotta find me a copy of that. Try Leah Saloma as well for childrens music...

Oh, and I can trump Mrs.
I was called Ma'am the other day.

9:43 PM  
Blogger tania (urban_mommy) said...

Great post. I also feel guilty when I catch myself totally enjoying time away from my son. But it is so much faster, easier and lighter to do some things solo. Not to mention that you can give your full attention to somthing other than baby, which is impossible when baby is around.
However tough it is in the beginning, I think its healthy and smart to continue on with your interests. It is my hope to add motherhood to my identiy, not replace any part of it.

9:45 PM  
Anonymous Binkytown said...

I went back to work full time after 12 weeks and what surprised me the most was that the first few weeks were so difficult, I was so sad to be apart from my boy, but sooner rather than later it felt more normal to have that time at work and apart. Mostly I think, because I worked for so long before I had him.

All things in time. One day you will realize you aren't even thinking about it, you just are.

10:11 PM  
Blogger Julie Pippert said...

Because you both need to know the unconditional love apron strings stretch long enough for you each to develop individually and independently...and as I always say, love grows richer when you get the opportunity to miss one another. ;)

Solo parenting can be tough.

Although boy that baby is cute.

Enjoy your job! I can't seem to stay away from some sort of work, project or volunteer gig.

10:35 PM  
Blogger urban-urchin said...

I can easily relate to your post. I am struggling with this right now. I am really enjoying my son right now- he's 17 months and is the perfect mix of baby and toddler which I love. But I am also feeling a bit lost- I like working. I like contributing. I also would like to go in a couple of days a work to a job away from my house. I'd like a chance to miss my kids. I am torn.

10:36 PM  
Anonymous Izzy said...

I feel ya {{hugs}}

When I started working again earlier this year, the only thing I had to do away from home was go to a meeting every Friday. This meant I had to let my then 5 yr old daughter stay at school for an extra hour and a half an though she loved every second of it, it felt very odd to me, like I had forgotten something and thus, I felt very torn, too.

10:49 PM  
Blogger Angel Baby said...

You teach political philosophy?

Holy shit that's amazing.

I took a Feminist Epistemology class and my head nearly exploded.

11:46 PM  
Anonymous sweatpantsmom said...

I moved my business into my home when my oldest was born, so the line between work and parenting has always been a fuzzy one. But even going to meetings, photo shoots, etc, when I'm in 'work' mode, it still feels kind of odd.

Unfortunately, I still always look like I'm in 'mommy' mode - the disheveled look that makes it appear as if I just crawled out from underneath a pile of seven-year olds, so apparantly none of my clients are fooled even for a minute.

11:47 PM  
Blogger GIRL'S GONE CHILD said...

That was a beautiful post and I can so relate, even though I work from home, when he's sleeping. Go figure.

12:07 AM  
Blogger Mommy off the Record said...

I work part-time too and I really do like the balance of having both. For me, it has been a blessing to get to stay at home with the baby for part of the week while also continuing with my career outside of the home 3 days a week. I feel lucky to have both.

2:05 AM  
Blogger mo-wo said...

Struggling with my latest work deadline and the two kids today I thought the following.

Forget about that word 'priority' -- forget about stratifying and certainly stop quanitifying these occupations of mothering and teachering as important.

It does not work. Chuck it. That's all I got.

2:14 AM  
Anonymous Elizabeth said...

Since all the other comments have been so darn thoughtful and intelligent, I just want to add that what helped me go to a part-time job when the boys were babies was knowing that my husband was 100 percent capable of parenting them by himself. I (unfortunately) know that there are some Dads who have NEVER given their baby a bath, or done a load of baby laundry or clipped baby fingernails.

While it pained me to be away from them, I knew it was good for them to experience their Dad as a solo parent instead of just me all the time. It was important to him, too, to get that one-on-one time with the kids, without me hovering nearby criticizing, er, commenting on his techniques.

8:12 AM  
Blogger kittenpie said...

I felt the same exhilaration when I went back to work - it was like I was getting away with doing something for ME! having found care for Pumpkinpie that we were both really happy with made it way easier, too. I still enjoy work, though some days when I work late, like today, I take Pumpkinpie to the park in the morning before we go our separate ways, and even if I want to get stuff done, we take our opportunities to linger when we can. It's a nice balance for the most part, though I'm hoping to get away with only working one evening in the new year... *fingers crossed*

8:15 AM  
Anonymous Michele said...

I feel guilty leaving my kids at daycare every day. Not because they are sad, because frankly they run into the place giggling every day and eager to play. I feel guilty because I like that quiet time alone I get once I leave them off and go to work. I stop for coffee. I complete my thoughts. I am uninterrupted. And then as the day progresses, and I get to pee alone, and finish my sentences without being interrurpted,and have adulkt conversations, they are always at the back of my mind, and often the front of my mind. I miss them. I run from the office to pick them up with the smae glee they feel when Idrop them off each day. I live for the reunion kisses and hugs. I adore the way they other children yell to my boys "Your mommy is here!"and they run to me and throw their laughing bodies against my legs.
I love our evenings together and btahtime and bedtime and then by the time I drop them off the next morning I am ready for a break again.
Ah, the sweet irony of the working mother. And I agree, I have no idea how single parents do it. None.

9:01 AM  
Blogger penelopeto said...

I'll never figure out how to resolve my feelings about being away from my daughter for most of the day - the happy ones and the sad ones. That's ok. This way, I get to be a mother, a writer, an employee, an employer, a friend, a wife, and an all-around satisfied woman with an amazing daughter who is doing just fine. I don't think that working makes me any less of a full-time mother - aren't I always her mother?

9:02 AM  
Blogger radioactive girl said...

I'm pretty young to have four kids, and I also look sort of young for my age. When I go anywhere without them, I always feel like a great big liar if I don't immediately announce that I have four kids. It's sort of funny, but strange to think that when I'm not with my kids, no one can tell I have them.

You are doing the best thing for you and your baby. A happy fulfilled mom makes a happy fulfilled baby, no matter what the working/staying home situation is.

9:18 AM  
Anonymous mothergoosemouse said...

Catherine - I'm sorry that I'm just getting back to you now. I think it's just one of the many manifestations of mommy guilt, and another way in which those stupid so-called wars cannot be won. I do know what you mean about that "naughty" feeling, and I still get it. And then I feel pangs of sadness because I miss them.

It's truly a no-win situation, isn't it?

9:33 AM  
Blogger mad_hatter said...

For 8 months my daughter screamed blue murder every time I left the house to go to work--and I was leaving her with her beloved "Daddy." Her attachment was so great I seldom ever dared going away for other purposes. Each day my heart was wrenched in two.

This past week and a half, she has walked me to the door, given me a hug and said "bye, bye Mommy" with no tears whatsoever. This morning she didn't even look up from her toys when she said it.

I have never wanted to quit work more.

9:36 AM  
Blogger Mrs. Chicky said...

I hear you on this one. I used to check the backseat of the car obsessively when I left the house without my daughter, thinking I left something behind. But now I have this feeling of freedom when I leave her with my husband or in-laws when I go to work. Truthfully, I think it's making me a better mother, being able to let go of her and find myself again.

9:40 AM  
Anonymous Jenny said...

I can totally relate. It's like I have a split personality. Working girl (not prostitute) and mommy.

And never the twain shall meet.

10:10 AM  
Anonymous wordgirl said...

I know how you feel. Just the six weeks it took to finish my teaching contract required me to leave my oldest as a baby. I cried every day on the way to work.

10:11 AM  
Blogger Mayberry said...

I'm another in-betweener (4 days a week all from home, while kids are at "school") and I love it. It's still hard to balance. I'm often tempted to grab that 5th day as household-catch-up day, but I've resisted -- next year Jo will be in kindergarten 5 days a week anyway. So I'll just leave the house dirty until then.

I hope you find that comfort zone soon.

10:41 AM  
Blogger Laural Dawn said...

What you said here makes so much sense. I've been back at work for more than a year. At first it was not by choice, but then realized that it is a choice I would make because it lets me be myself.
I think that you have a good balance - working part time - being home with your child a lot. I don't know if there's a good or a bad or a right or a wrong. But, I think if it works it works.
Yes, you will miss stuff, but from my experience when you get back from work you appreciate your child and want to see them.
And, the thing is, your job makes a difference. I often feel like I don't exactly affect lives in my job. But, you, as a professor...
So many of my university profs changed my life, molded me, and pointed me in the direction I should go. Considering that you are an academic, I'm sure you've had that experience too. And, I think that your daughter will see you making change in the lives of others and be proud of her mom.
I can only hope my son will see that in me.

11:11 AM  
Blogger sweetney said...

its so weird to walk that line -- the part-time working line. i'm doing that too, and right now its working, but there are times when i definitely feel sort of on the outs of both the working world and the full-time SAH world. i'm lonely little in-between!

seriously though, at least for me, if i wasn't working i'd lose my shit. its nice to have something beyond being mom, something additional that is separate and for yourself.

i think. but i might change my mind if she keeps growing up at this rate -- its all going way too fast, and i'd hate to miss anything.

11:56 AM  
Blogger Rock the Cradle said...

You're giving Wonderbaby the best of you, which can't be done if you are unhappy and unfulfilled. From what I've seen of working mothers in my years on the job, they have integrated their professional and Mommy selves. So eventually, with practice and time, it must become easier.

Kudos to you for going back to work...and in such a great field, too.

Dusty books, a quiet office, time to think and process and produce...sounds like bliss to me!

12:57 PM  
Blogger themikestand said...

Revel in your multiple identities. Never underappreciate any of them.

I went from "Mike", to somebody's fiancé, to somebody's husband, to somebody's dad, and now dad to two. Never has an ordinary life seemed to avant-garde as to have multiple personalities.

And that's such a fun song. I hate to link my blog in comments, but I did a little singin' of that song there, not too long ago:http://themikestand.blogspot.com/2006/02/to-my-valentines.html

1:16 PM  
Blogger Lisa b said...

I know what you mean about work. I feel so torn about the opportunity to stay home and my need to be with adults.
Mostly though I would really love to have seen you break into song in front of a class of undergrads!

3:36 PM  
Blogger nomotherearth said...

You have described so accurately what I am going through! It's tough to be 2 (or 3, or 4) different versions of myself all at once. Sometimes I just don't know who I am, and sometimes I don't even know who I want to be. I hate myself for going to work and missing out on The Boy's daily life, but I don't like the person I am when I'm at home full time either. I can, and I must, be two people at once in order to maintain my sanity. Does that sound strange? On top of that, I'm thinking of going back to school to become a teacher. I am just taking it one day at a time, and hope I don't let go of all the strings.
Thanks for the post! I don't feel so alone.

3:45 PM  
Blogger creative-Type Dad (Tony) said...

Wow! You and my wife must share the same brain.
I solved it by cloning her. So now she can bo both and the same time.

4:03 PM  
Blogger sunshine scribe said...

Wow can I relate to your every word. When my guy was 15 months old I went back to work part time and had such a difficult period trying to sort out "who I was". I wasn't out of the mommy-groove long enough to be fully non-mommy yet I was somehow.

Must you choose? You can be both of your selves at the same time or separately. There are so many dimensions to you and at different times of your life (and even different times of your day) you will lean more one way or another. Is my identity fragmented? I think in a way but I have picked up those fragments and found a new way to arrange my puzzle or patchwork. You will to. You will to.

Hugs.

Must have a subway date for my guy and his cute younger girlfriend. He'd LOVE that :)

7:49 PM  
Blogger MrsFortune said...

Wow, you captured these sentiments so perfectly. Even though I can only imagine what "the silence of my office" must be like, i.e. a silence unencumbered by a buzzing baby monitor, I can also imagine what it would be like to be away from my baby love. But be thankful you have the opportunity, the options, the choice. I lost my job and haven't found another one so I'm wearing the mommy-hat because I have to. Not that I don't like it, I do, it'd just be nice to have that choice.

9:07 PM  
Blogger tallgirl said...

I've been back to work part time since peanut was 3 months old. I recently increased my hours to barely part time.

I am an engineer and find if funny sometimes to tell a contractor about the quality of his work or instructing someone on how to build a series of buildings or whatever, when I want to do is play peek a boo.

I care a lot less about work and take it a lot less seriously then I did before. But sometimes, when I am really on, and I am doing what I need to do to get something done, it feels so good.

9:25 PM  
Anonymous Dana said...

When I read your post, I started to remember when I had to go back to work after maternity leave. I only got six weeks. I cried all day at work and my boss wasn't very sympathetic. That made it all that more difficult. I remember how angry I was at her -- she had a seven month old at the time and I thought she would have been more understanding.

It's so hard to be so many different versions of our self. I agree with you.

10:40 PM  
Blogger Queso said...

Oh dear. I'm so right there with you. In fact, I think there's a lot of us out there. We should start a support group for this. We'll call it "Moms" and we'll meet at the bar.

10:56 PM  
Blogger Lady M said...

Like Julie and many others, I went back to work full-time when Q was 10 weeks old. Because I had kept the different areas of my life fairly separate prior to becoming a mom (high-tech career, dancer/choreographer), I thought that I'd be keeping my family life separate too. I didn't think that I'd swap parenting stories with other colleagues as much as I do, or actually tell someone when I need to change my schedule to accommodate a pediatrician's appointment. I'm still working on blending the "parts" of me, but it feels healthy - I like it, although I'm still worried sometimes that people knowing that I'm a mom may threaten career opportunities. I guess that's just part of the game.

WonderBaby will continue to thrive because of the loving and thinking environment you provide for her. And your students are so lucky too! There are so many people in real life and in the blogosphere that you influence with your good thinking. :)

12:03 AM  
Blogger Ruth Dynamite said...

Oh the guilt! The agony! Feeling torn! It's all very real and I think we all experience it to varying degrees. It can drive you to drink (gulp).

The scary revelation for me was something my neighbor said, five years ago, when my kids were very little: "They need you more as they get older."

Yes they do - in different ways.

This is one of those discussions that never ends...

5:57 AM  
Anonymous Kvetch said...

Embrace it, cradle it, nurture it. Use all your mothering instincts and skills to baby your own "other" self. You are fortunate, as you know, to have the opportunity and ability to have a joyful career and a happy home life. It's hard, but it's worth it. I long for the days when I was able to take off my SuperMom cape and put on a pair of heels. Strutting my stuff felt just as good as pushing a carriage. It's a dicotomy you share with millions - and so eloquently described - makes me wish even more that I had more of an opportunity to do it myself.

7:38 AM  
Blogger Kate said...

Wow, I could write a novel on this subject, being torn between my career and motherhood. I've decided that neither is the ideal situation, and that if you can find the balancing act between the 2 you've scored. Good luck in dealing with it. It's tough. You've written a great post about it.

9:31 AM  
Anonymous TB said...

This is something I've already been contemplating, and my baby isn't even in the world yet.
I think it is so very important to maintain a sense of self and not get completely lost in motherhood, even though I am positive it would be so very easy to do so.
We owe it to ourselves and our husbands and children to remember and celebrate all the parts of ourselves as women.
Thanks for writing about this subject so beautifully.

12:05 PM  
Blogger ninepounddictator said...

I so know what you mean. That whole "finding a balance" thing is bullshit.

It's impossible too. You must accept that. Accept that no matter what decision you make once you become a mother, you will always feel that it's not exactly the right one.

If I knew the secret to balance, trust me, I'd share it! I think the easiest thing to do is take one day at a time.

I'm a working mother, and every time I don't pick up The Dictator from school, I feel bad.

But also, I like working too. So I guess there is no answer. And that, mommy, is the answer.

2:05 PM  
Blogger Desitin's Child said...

My sweetie worked 95 hours last week. I'm not kidding. So I know about the feel-like-a-single-parent-even-though-you're-married thing. It Sucks.

My problem with work is I want to have my cake and eat it too. I want to be "engaged" at work but I also want to hold it at arm's length and work part-time so I can be connected enough to my kid.

2:37 PM  
Anonymous Cynthia Samuels said...

My dear friend we never run for the bus. No. We never stop being mom, either. What we do is allow other things in our lives to exist. As children grow, they need to learn autonomy and so do we. The screenwriter for Running on Empty told me "Parenthood is the only relationship where you measure success by how well you say goodbye."
It does not negate your love or commitment if you walk out of the door without your daughter to go to work - nor does it make you less a loving, committed mother.
There's a season for everything - cherish the spectrum of experience -- it's a blessing.

5:12 PM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

64 Comments?!?! Holy Crap! You are such a blog super star these days. ;-)
Sorry, anyway… I loved this post because it really illustrates how tough the mom/woman/working girl identity is for all of us to sort out. Even super cool political philosophy professors. (I have a political science degree, and that was my FAVORITE class!) Again ANY WAY, I am going through something sorta’ opposite from you. I am longing for a PASSION outside the home front. I would love to be able to carve out an identity outside of my domestic life, without sacrificing time with my son. You know, have my cake and eat it too. Here’s to hopping we can all find the middle way or whatever we are searching for.

11:29 PM  
Blogger Phoebe said...

On my first day back at work, I stood in the centre of the store and started blowing rasberries. Suddenly I realised I wasn't at home and was mortified. I'm not sure if anyone saw me, but it was a little weird.

4:07 AM  
Anonymous Dawn said...

You know, C,as I sat crying in my ne therapists office this week, this very thought came to me. When did I integrate being a Mother into my identity...Did I ever fully? Was that one of the reasons I held so fiercely to my work, my external self? My worry of disappearing into Mother and no longer knowing Dawn?

Dammit, you have set the wheels to turning.

7:00 PM  
Blogger Damselfly said...

Hee hee, don't you just know some diligent student was taking notes on your "bushel and a peck" song?

12:09 PM  
Blogger Mary Tsao said...

I'm coming late to this conversation, but I definitely know what you're talking about. I keep contemplating different part-time jobs and I'm just not sure... I want to "keep my foot in the door" and I also want to be with my kids as much as possible. I also want to do other things, too. I'm worried that I will fill up all of my leisure or free time with work because that's what I've been conditioned to do for decades. How could that ever benefit my kids? Or me?

Tough questions. Good luck to you this semester (quarter?) -- hope you come to feel comfortable with the balance you're attempting.

11:43 PM  
Blogger scarbie doll said...

I gotta tell ya, it's these types of posts that I appreciate the most. I went through the same thing 6 months ago. It gets easier.

What you haven't talked about, interestingly enough, is what you do for childcare. I'm curious because The Moms and I have been having this debate over beers for the past few and we've come to the agreement that there is no perfect solution. Wondering what your take on this is.

1:53 PM  

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