Last week, I was invited to a screening of “I Don’t Know How She Does It”. In my head, my blog post was already written. People are always asking me how I do it— hold a job, be a mom, write a blog— so I figured I’d just write a fun breakdown. How I don’t sleep, how my husband hogs the kitchen, how I let Mazzy run naked down the streets of Manhattan unsupervised, etc.
Then I saw the movie.
I expected a fluff piece. And I am sure to many, it will be. But to me, I related to it so immensely that I had a lump in my throat for the entirety of the film and for many hours afterward. When it came time to ask the adorable Sarah Jessica Parker questions at the Q&A (WHAT? SJP IS HERE??? I MUST LEARN TO READ THESE INVITATIONS MORE CAREFULLY!!!), I kept quiet for fear I would burst into tears the second I opened my mouth.
I don’t really talk about my job on Mommy Shorts except if it seems necessary. And I have only mentioned my nanny, a wonderfully involved woman named Ruth, a handful of times. Plus, I talked about my business trip to Argentina a few weeks ago like it was an isolated event when the truth is, if all goes as planned, I will start to travel more often, just like I did prior to having a baby.
Why do I avoid these things?
Because this is a parenting blog and these things make me feel like less of a parent.
Some people seem to think it is very difficult to hold a job and be a mom. I, for one, think staying at home would be much more difficult. I know I am a better, more patient parent when I do not spend every waking hour with my daughter. I believe my husband and I have a more even partnership as a result of us both being working people. Plus, having a career has always been a vital part of my existence.
Regardless, I watched “I Don’t Know How She Does It” with little sympathy for Kate (a mother who leaves her kids repeatedly for work including on Thanksgiving), even though I would make many of the same choices she did. As the movie progressed and the lump in my throat grew, it dawned on me that I must not sympathize with myself.
For starters, no matter how many times I do it, walking out the door in the morning feels incredibly self-indulgent. And leaving my 21 month-old daughter in someone else's competent hands often makes me feel like I am cheating at motherhood and getting away with it. Yes, working is hard and not always enjoyable. And yes, I am earning an income that helps support my family. But if I'm honest, isn't going to work also a form of escape?
In the movie, Kate is good enough at her job that ultimately she can force her boss to let her work at her own schedule. And the message appears to be that successful working mothers have the power to push for family-friendly practices at work. Although I agree with this, my experience is that it does not always work out for the women who are not rising stars at their companies or the employees who just landed the big account. I believe that work balance should be as much a corporate initiative as a personal one. But that's a whole other blog post.
Towards the end of the Q&A, a woman stood up to say that she had just had her 60th birthday party at which her grown children gave a speech. They told her that they knew she carried guilt for being a working mom but they always felt loved and never shortchanged.
Love was a running theme in the Q&A. People said Kate was a good mom because you could see how much she loved her kids.
I wonder if love is enough.
Can you be a good mother if you love your kids but you are not the one taking care of them 100% of the time? Can you be a good mother if you prioritize yourself ahead of them on occasion? Can you be a good mother if you allow yourself to let go of the guilt that comes with persuing your own career?
I don't know if I will ever know the answers to these questions. Or if they will loom larger as the years pass. But I do know two things.
I will not stop working.
And I love my daughter with all my heart.