Confession: When people ask what I do, I usually say “Oh I just stay home with the kids.” I make no mention of the fact that I also run a website and shop and take on design clients. Perhaps it’s because none of that work is steady, or maybe it’s because I’m not making enough to live off of.
Maybe it’s because I’m self taught, so I shouldn’t have the audacity to call myself a professional.
Or maybe I don’t share what I do because I don’t want to admit that I really am a career oriented person. That certainly goes against all the narratives I had playing in my head growing up. I distinctly remember an assignment in 3rd grade that asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. I said I wanted to be a mother, and my teacher said that doesn’t count! I suspect the question “What do you want to do to earn money when you grow up?” would’ve yielded a better answer – “Why, a paleontologist of course!” (nerd alert.)
Or maybe it’s because I often feel that even though I’m at home, I’m not truly present with my kids because I steal snippets of time throughout the day to work. If I worked outside the home, maybe I’d more easily leave work at the office and be fully committed to spending quality time with my kids. You’d think that working from home means that you can have your cake and eat it too. The truth about working from home (for me anyway) is that quantity time does not equal quality time, and it’s just as easy for a work at home parent to lose track and become disconnected from their kids.
The point is, I never thought I’d want to be a professional. I never thought about earning money. I graduated from college, but never went in thinking I was going to have a job and be a breadwinner one day. I thought I would get married and stay home with my kids and devote every waking minute to them.
That was before I had kids. Obviously.
So here I am, a mom, and only now really comprehending the opportunities to connect, learn and grow that are possible through a career. I’m SO HUNGRY to learn and improve my skills as a designer (thank you internet for being around in my lifetime so I can actually learn stuff from home), but I will never be able to give the same kind of time and attention to it that I could’ve before kids.
So what’s a mom to do?
Well, the answer’s as complex as the problem and as varied as the women who face this situation. For me personally, I’ve come to know that I just can’t be happy if I don’t have something to work on, something to create, something to learn, something that stretches and challenges me in new and interesting ways that is separate from my role as a mother.
I don’t think it’s wrong to feel this way – to be engaged in things other than our children.
My greatest priority AND my greatest struggle is making sure my children know that they are more important than this website, this computer, my phone, that client, this product. As long as they know that I love them, then I can do this work and be their mom and we can make this lifestyle happen. There’s no point in doing any of this if they ultimately end up resenting me because they felt neglected. All the money and success in the world means nothing if my children don’t know that I love them. So I will continue to write blog posts at 11:40pm, and do my VERY BEST to put my phone down, look into their eyes when I talk to them, and cuddle and kiss them and tell them I love them, and steal snippets of time on the computer when they don’t need me, wake up early to answer emails, sing songs and read books and act out Frozen for the 457th time and build forts, and pray that by all this, they will know.