I love being a mom. I love working. My motherhood defines me. So does my work. For me, it's not an either/or thing. It's an and. Equally important, I am truly empowered by both.
Before I became a mom, my work was my life.
I thought about it all the time. I woke up in the morning and parsed out my day in the shower, then detailed the minutes during my commute and usually enjoyed a well-executed plan throughout the day—without much interference—revisiting the wins and losses on the journey back home in the evening, satisfied that I was one more step further down the path towards my goals. I was happy. I was fulfilled.
Then I became a mom.
And I realized that my fulfillment was only partial. There was a whole half of me I didn't even know existed. No one could have prepared me for the transformation that happened when I became a mom.
Nothing before having children had ever reached that depth in my soul or expanded my heart and notion of everything I believed was possible in life. Suddenly everything took on new meaning and relevance. Suddenly everything I did was seen through the lens of motherhood and how it affects my family.
Motherhood is a full-body sport. and there's a lot of hands-on that comes with wrangling little ones. And though the mental load is comprised mostly of to-do lists dictated by the three-foot-and-under crowd, there is also the mental task of trying to remain one step ahead so as not to be outsmarted by them while they do the important work of challenging boundaries and stretching limits.
On a good day, this can be exhausting, even for the most veteran of us. And on a bad day, well, on those days we have coffee—lots of coffee—and later, wine. It takes a lot to keep up.
Some of us are invigorated by the day-to-day of motherhood. And some of us need something outside of motherhood to keep that cup full enough to be able to pour out all our family needs to thrive.
Before I went back to work, it was far too easy for me to become complacent at home, blaming a long day of duties for the lack of energy and will to give even more. I was watching the clock tick towards bedtime—both their's and mine— resenting myself for how I felt, and them for how much I was needed.
Bottom line, I was not completely happy. And instead of looking to my husband to fulfill every adult need I may have had, draining, perplexing and vexing him in the process, I realized I needed to take care of what it meant to me to be fulfilled.
For me, that's work.
My work validates me, defining me in a way that motherhood cannot, reaffirming that I am an individual independent of my role as wife and mother. My work is rejuvenating, giving me the energy and resources to bring my best self to my family. And if work is what allows me to be that best version of myself, then I need to own it.
There are so many benefits of work to appreciate, but now there is also something else. Now I'm working not just for me, but for my littles at home who see what I do and how it teaches them they can do what they set their mind to, that sometimes it's difficult, but you have to focus, prioritize, sacrifice and work hard for what you want.
My motherhood helps me appreciate my work more… for the opportunities it gives me to model perseverance, strength, commitment, determination.
My motherhood helps me appreciate my work more… for the perspective it provides me on the importance of motherhood and my job of raising these little humans—the important work of providing them with a childhood and all the love and care and support that entails.
My motherhood helps me appreciate my work more… for what it allows me to add to my family—the funds to enrich their lives with experiences and the extras that bring out the talents of each one, but can add up to more than can be siphoned off a single income.
My motherhood helps me appreciate my work more… for the dedicated time I have to use the part of my intellect that cannot be satisfied by the company of these cute little creatures who compel me to abandon all things adult and just immerse myself in their sweet world.
My motherhood helps me appreciate my work more… for the distance it gives me to see more clearly how to make each day count. Both at home and at the office, I can see what is most important, what needs more attention, what needs to be addressed, what needs to be done to keep moving forward.
Each day I go to work and focus attention and intent on keeping my career momentum up to speed, if not sped up, with the clarity that an awareness of a newfound value of time imparts. Then at the end of a full day, I turn my attention towards home, satisfied, making my way, with a full cup, ready to pour, thinking of all that may have happened and what I will do to make the rest of the moments of the day matter and count toward moving everything and everyone in the right direction.
At home, I savor… the moments with my kiddos, marveling at how each has grown that very day, my distance bringing into sharp focus the difference in each from the day before. I can hear a new word learned (and hysterically uttered). I can see a new skill developing, however awkwardly executed.
At home, I savor… watching my child's new ability to think, do, feel, say. Sometimes the difference from the previous day is so stark that I catch my breath—not necessarily in regret, but in awe of the tremendous transformation that can happen in a mere 24 hours. And sometimes the difference is so subtle that it can be sensed only when very, very still, in the quiet of a bedtime tuck-in, or after all is said and done, in the reflection of a full day.
At home, I savor… the moments I connect with my husband, that extra splash of wine after the kids are in bed, extending the conversation that connects us, the amalgam of our days setting the next stone along the path towards our mutual goals.
When I feel complete and whole, I provide a solid foundation upon which I can build the best life for my family. If that foundation is weak because it is lacking fortification or is only partially poured, then everything I build atop it will be compromised, uneven, relying on other elements in ways that distort and weaken the structure, my family.
I love owning what fills my cup, and I love having a family to come home to that fills my soul.
As a mother and a professional, these two halves create a whole that makes me the best person I can be.
And that's good for everyone.