Column: A working mother

I never intended to be a working mother—at least not one who had to change out of my pajamas every day. That wasn’t the goal. Instead, with a bent toward writing and a love of stories, I planned to be a mother who freelanced occasionally from home. I pictured myself typing away at my computer while my precious children slept or played quietly. Clean house, folded laundry, to-do list done. Just me and my creative outlet. Just me and my stories. Just me and my interviews. But it wasn’t just me.

My children woke up and needed me. My editors called and needed me. The dirty clothes escaped the laundry room and needed me. And my husband needed dinner.

So when the position for editor became available for this publication, I stepped through the open door with faith. But I was scared to death. I didn’t know what my return to the workforce would look like at home. Or at work. I didn’t know if I could make dinner and plan future publications. I didn’t know if my children would fail out of school, or if the stories I planned would flop. I was not sure how to measure my success, and I did not know how to judge if I was a failure. I wanted to be great at something. Really, I wanted to be great at everything.

Along this three-year journey, I’ve learned to cut myself some slack. And I’ve learned to show mercy to others. I remember the chaos of being a working-from-home mom. “Never glorify these days,” I told myself before accepting my current position. “Staying at home with young children is hard. You’ve worked hard all these years. Do not pine for your former days of rest—there weren’t many.”

I also had to dismiss the lies that working women tell themselves. That life would be glorious, perfect, if they were just at home. Sure, those closets might get cleaned out sooner. Maybe. But maybe not. A stay-at-home mom’s life is chaotic as well. Here are a few personal truths that get me through the day:

1) I will never be a room mother. Even if I stayed at home, this would not be my path. It’s not my gift, so forget about making treat bags.

2) I may not find the missing sock. Even if I were home all day, those darn socks would get lost somewhere between the dirty clothes pile and the folded clothes basket.

3) My children are resilient. I thought they would crumble when I went back to work, and yet they have soared. They have learned personal responsibility.

4) I must depend on others for help. I can’t do it all, at work or at home. There are people in both places who help me tremendously.

5) I have to be deliberate. I am in charge of my time and my life. If I want to work out, I have to make time for it. If I want to eat lunch with the children at school, I have to make time for it. Ditto for meetings and future planning. I keep a schedule.

I will not be great at everything. But I can be good at some things. I just make sure I’m putting my effort into things that matter. There is no simple solution for every family. My life is a juggling act for sure, but it is gratifying. And it is fun. At the end of this journey, I will look back and be amazed at the things I have learned, the people I have met and the memories I have made. And my children still write me love notes.