"I think they could offer me a promotion to lead a small team. I'd have direct reports, so more stress, but more pay to go along with it. What do you think about that?" I stood at the kitchen counter and brought up the topic almost hesitantly to my husband. He paused, toy in hand, as he picked up the living room floor.
"Why don't you tell me what you think about it first?" he said.
His response was surprising. I hadn't been sure if he'd like the idea of more money or wouldn't like the idea of more stress. But I was certain he'd have an opinion to share that I'd have to react to.
It was our policy between us to lay things on the line and 17 years together had solidified our ability to just say what needed to be said.
"I think we're only just now getting to a good place, and over the entirety of our relationship we've never been good at both being highly stressed. With your workload and headspace lately, I just think it would be a poor choice to add this into the mix right now. In a year or two, sure. But right now, I think we would all suffer," I said.
He slowly nodded, looking as surprised by my response as I was by his. "I think you're right. Now isn't a good time."
And we both went back to what we'd been previously doing. As I wiped the counter and went through the routine of post-put down clean up, I surveyed my mind and soul. I wanted to be upset by our conversation. But I wasn't.
Our identical twin sons were 16 months old. They came at just 33 weeks. They spent a month in the NICU. They spent the better part of their first year of life with continuous ear infections and just as they turned one, they developed breathing issues that eventually landed us in three back-to-back hospital stays.
I was forever taking them to the doctor or working late at night to make up for days I was out of the office. We didn't have a full night of uninterrupted sleep for so long I stopped keeping track. But they were healthy. And happy.
In an on-paper kind of way, there was no reason for me to not strongly consider this hypothetical promotion. We were through the worst of it. And I deserved it. I'd been with my company for four years. I'd built solid relationships. I had shown them what I was made of. I advanced my skills and proved my worth. I put in a lot of work amidst the hardest year of my life.
This was an amazing possibility and I should have wanted it.
But I didn't.
And the achiever in me—the doer of all things, the ladder-climber—didn't know what to think about that fact.
Today began with my husband's iPhone alarm at 5:15 am. Then, heavy steps and heavier eyelids as I stumbled into the shower, reminding myself to have water before coffee. And to take my allergy medicine before I forget. And to eat while I can. Because by 6 am (and generally before) Eli will start chattering from his crib. He will coo and hoot and call out, making it quite clear that he's awake and hungry.
Sometimes Sam will join him, but today, he just rolls around his crib waiting for me to turn on the light and sing, "Baby, baby…my little baby boys." I don't even know where that came from, but it is how we begin every day together. They clamor around, trying to stand, then start jumping in unison. I give them each a kiss and try to remember who I changed and dressed first yesterday so I can alternate today.
Daddy joins us after he pours sippies of milk, just in time to help finish clothing the half-naked child I haven't gotten to. Breakfast comes with music. Alexa plays Justin Timberlake or some pop medley and the boys dance in their highchairs—giggling at our antics while we barter for just one more bite, hurriedly drink our coffee, pack lunches, swap clean dishes for dirty and throw in the laundry.
Forty-five minutes after I've turned on the nursery light, we're in the car and on the way to daycare. Sometimes with a kitchen utensil or hair brush in hand. Sometimes in tears because Mommy wouldn't allow a full-sized skillet to come with us.
It's only once I've pulled into the parking ramp at work and put my car in park that I stop and take a breath. I've been up for two and a half hours and the work day hasn't even begun yet. On the walk across our corporate campus, my mind is back on the idea of the promotion and my willingness to let it go so easily. Everything about this is contrary to everything I know about myself. I keep asking the question silently… But don't you want it? Are you sure?
The resounding response from my heart is, "No. No, I don't."
And for the first time I realize that motherhood has truly changed me.
I told myself for most of the first year that I was still the same person. That once we passed through the hardest season of our lives, that I would resume being who I'd always been, just a modified version of myself. That there would be time for writing and reading and the self-care rituals that had always been mine.
But as we reach this place where things are chaotically calm, I realize that while I could make space for those things (and I do in some respects), that I choose my children. With no self-judgment and no second guesses and no comparing myself to other women.
In this season of their growth and development, of laying the foundation for the rest of their lives, I will choose to put my mind space and energy into enjoying these moments and not rushing them to bed so I can get to my laptop.
I will teach them, learn from them and laugh with them. And I will fall exhausted into my bed at the end of the night knowing I gave them my best and knowing what my personal limits are in this season.
For this brief time when I am their everything, I will let that other version of myself go. Because I'm sure we'll meet again down the road.