Just over a week ago, I wrote a post about the work-life balance conundrum. I wrote about how my life used to look like a see-saw in the up-down position, and how today it looks like a see-saw ridden by twins of nearly equal weight with their tippy-toes on the ground. So a reader could have gotten the impression that I've gotten closer to figuring things out.
I guess I have. Gotten closer. Sort of. My life isn't so out of whack. But I still struggle with the fundamental question of whether I should be a mom who works outside the home, or if I should "just" be a mom who works in the home. Should I be winning the bread and making some bacon in the proverbial sense, or just the literal?
It's a question that is always lurking in dark places and waiting to jump out from behind a corner to scare the bejeezus out of me. I usually do a pretty good job of avoiding the sketchy alleys and bad neighborhoods where I run a greater risk of confronting the issue. But this past week, I've been getting brutally assaulted, even in perfect daylight. Because life can sometimes be kind of a catty brat. And a felon.
Last night, I had to have some one-on-one time. As in time with just one person. Unfortunately, that person was Me. Here's what Me and I discussed.
Me: You've had quite a week. Come-uppances from both of your children and attitude from your friends of the forest. Are you sure you're ready to talk to the likes of Me?
I: Not if you're going to refer to yourself in the third person. Also, did you hear that I saw TWO baby woodchucks on the lawn this afternoon, and watched them flip me the bird before they scampered to their Den of Iniquity under the shed?
Me: I know about the woodchucks. I was there, too. Remember? Are the woodchucks what have you all in a twist?
I: Well, they are exasperating. But no, it's more than that.
Me: You might as well tell me now. Otherwise, I'll just give you a headache. And convince you to drink pineapple-flavored coconut water.
I: You know I don't like that! Okay, okay. I'm just, like, con--con--con--sumed with guilt about having The Son in daycare.
Me: I don't know why you're trying to hold back the tears. I like a good cry just as much as you do. Go ahead.
I: (deep breath, quivering lips, unattractive whining) It's just that he's not napping well there anymore and he seems fussier and I think it's just because he's teething but I feel like I should be taking care of him and I should be there to put him down in his own crib and keeping him on his schedule.
Me: This might not be the right time, but I'd like to point out that was a terribly punctuated sentence.
I: And I feel like he's taking a knock on account of my job which isn't really all that important of a job and I don't know if I'm being selfish by doing that kind of irrelevant job at the expense of his being in institutionalized care.
Me: This might not be the right time, but have you ever considered institutionalized care for yourself?
I: And then to top it all off, today when I went to get him there was a big sign posted on the door to his room that there was a CONFIRMED CASE OF CHICKEN POX and I got handed this brochure on how contagious chicken pox is and what the warning signs are and how long it lasts and how he has to be basically quarantined if he gets it and oh my God.
Me: Oh, my God.
I: I know! Oh, my God!
Me: I don't think we're "oh my God'ing" the same things.
I: So now I'm just an idiot with a stupid job who's neglecting her baby and submitting him to a life of irregular and non-restorative naps as well as highly-communicable diseases.
Me: You should probably stop writing on topics that make you appear to have your shit together. Because you don't. You don't have your shit together.
I: Hey! We're working on not swearing! I just don't know what to do about all this. I'm wracked with guilt and I feel completely lost. I mean, am I just over reacting...
Me: This might not be the right time, but probably you absolutely are definitely over-reacting.
I: ....or is this I sign that I'm just making a big mistake and I should be at home, on call for nap-monitoring and virus prevention.
Me: You are considering giving up a job you have previously described as "the best possible scenario as far as going back to work" so that The Son can nap for predictable intervals?
I: Well, I mean, yeah. Kind of. I mean, naps are a big deal at his age. Soon it will become something else that I'm screwing up for him. I mean, shouldn't I be at home to keep his life -- not to mention The Daughter's life -- as even-keeled as possible? Instead of bouncing them from one caregiver to the next? All so that I can add indemnification clauses to contracts?
Me: If you say "I mean" one more time, I'm going to make you try a push-up again. Now, I mean this in the nicest way possible, but do you really think having you at home would make your children's lives more "even-keeled"?
I: Why does something underhandedly unkind always follow "I mean this in the nicest way possible"? I mean...oh, sorry. I know that I am not necessarily even-keeled, but having me as the primary and constant caregiver would at least provide more consistency. And they could be in their own home more. The Son could nap in his crib. I'd know the details of their every day. I'd be more of a mother. Right?
Me: Well, so, what's stopping you?
I: I'm scared to walk away from what I do recognize is a pretty healthy set-up. If I give up on this job, will I ever get a job like this again? Am I saying good-bye to my life as a lawyer? Can I really DO the stay-at-home mom thing indefinitely? And how much would we miss the paycheck? Would I feel like other working moms are passing me by? Would I start to resent the fact that I gave up another part of my life to devote myself almost completely to my role as The Mother?
Me: The questions you're asking on both sides of this issue are unanswerable. You should consider contacting the Pentagon. This is all shaping up as a pretty reliable form of torture.
I: Well, I don't want to be overly dramatic, but it sure feels like water-boarding to me! I know that I can't answer these questions. Again, I think I've identified that as a significant part of the problem. Now you're telling me you can't answer them either. Which calls into question the point of this entire conversation. But I have to believe, if the American public can be hoodwinked into so many versions of the same Spiderman movie, that there has got to be SOMEONE who can give me, if not an answer, then at least some insight. There must be.
Me: Okay. Let's think about it. I don't think Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield are trustworthy resources on this particular issue. But maybe other mothers? Even other fathers. Actually, any human who has been conflicted about their job could probably give you some pretty good feedback.
I: Both good points. Emma and Andrew are too attractive for problem-solving in the real world. But those other categories of merer mortals could probably chime in. If only I had a forum for reaching out to other mothers and fathers and humans.....