Thursday, March 26, 2015
Pigeonholed: The Motherhood Dilemma
I've become a lackluster blogger at best. And when I do put fingers to keyboard, it's often in an attempt to sort out life's more difficult moments. Putting words on paper, even the virtual kind, have a way of making things seem more plain. Chosen paths appear less rugged and convictions more steadfast. This blog never had a clear direction, and so it ebbs and flows based on the seasons of my life. This season is one of contemplation and a focus on the future. And so.
I will start by saying what I've said many times: being Kiddo's mom is and will always be my greatest accomplishment. Raising a compassionate human being with a strong moral compass in the world in which we live is nothing short of miraculous. Jared is my version of a miracle. And it hasn't been easy. Not for one single second. Even when he's tucked into bed looking all angelic as he tends to look in slumber, I still ruminate on what it is to raise this difficult yet remarkable creature.
Motherhood is not without sacrifice. But you know that all too well, don't you? Whether you're in the messy midst of it, or they've left the nest (but are never far from your mind), or you're trying with all your might to bring a little piece of yourself into this world. It's hard work. It's an emotional minefield.
I'm sure my story is tucked away somewhere in the archives of this blog, but it bears retelling: Kiddo came into my life when I least expected him. (I will make one important distinction: he was unexpected, yes, but not an accident. Never.) I was 20-years old, wholly unprepared for motherhood, and therefore being very careful. As in two prophylactics careful. But if you know Jared, or any child like him, you know he is much too strong-willed to be told I wasn't ready. So I came to be a mom before I'd really even become an adult and the rest is history.
Whoa Nelly do I love that magnificent boy. He is everything good in this world wrapped up into one being. Motherhood, for me, has been a love story. A story of finding one's soul mate. The Notebook of parenting.
I will never regret the past decade spent raising him. Putting aside my deepest desires, at times, so he may one day realize his own. But now that he's older and on the road to self-sufficiency, it's my time. Time to explore and come to understand different facets of my marriage, my personality, and my purpose. To find that dream career and brazenly chase after it.
The time has come to work; to finish school; to establish my career. It's what I have always wanted. These dreams predate motherhood, but found a place on the back burner while I tended to other needs. And to be honest, while I worked on finding myself. Many obstacles, mostly self-imposed, stood between me and what I wanted for the future, but I have come to understand and acknowledge that I wouldn't have been so successful (or focused) in my endeavors had I not taken the time to sort myself out first.
Along the way, however, I fell into a societal pigeonhole. Two weeks ago I applied for a job at a local hospital. Their application process is clunky at best: an online job history with pre-filled categories and zero opportunity to elaborate on your qualifications and abilities. (I had to choose "other" more often than I was comfortable with.) There was no way to attach a resume or cover letter or in any way explain a decade-long absence from the workforce. A couple days ago I received an email saying I was not going to be considered for the position. Excuse me while I tend to my damaged ego and crestfallen spirit. You see, I can't attend grad school without 2000 hours of hands-on patient care under my belt. Never mind my bachelors degree or additional training...I have no recent work history. I don't even qualify for the most entry-level job in patient care because their initial employment filter didn't have "mom" in the job history drop-down menu.
Further complicating things is the fact that we are new to the Pacific Northwest, having moved from one side of the continent to the other less than a year ago. Starting over comes at a cost: it means saying goodbye to friends, yes, but also connections. These days it's about who you know, or so they say, and I don't know anyone (in healthcare, anyway).
Hindsight is always 20/20, of course, and I now realize I should have done more to nurture my future as well as my offspring over these last few years. A very part time job to keep my skills sharp and my foot in the door. To establish and maintain professional relationships. More time should have been spent considering what the in-between would look like. After all, I was aware of the 2000 hour requirement even before I signed up for that initial college class 6 years ago. I was under the misguided impression that I could merely step back into the workforce when the time was right. But this isn't The Good Wife and I don't have a Will Gardner in my life. Woulda-Coulda-Shoulda.
I talk a lot about finding that line that separates Mom + Wife Sarah from Sarah Sarah. About practicing independence. About remembering that I have wants and needs outside the home. Set aside the roles I play and I'm a living, breathing human being with interests of my own.
Along the way I've learned an important lesson, and my current situation is driving it home: Sacrificing my personal needs for the sake of motherhood hasn't made me a better mother.
Martyrdom doesn't equate to a better marriage or superior parental experience. In fact, the opposite is true. Having outside interests probably would have brought more balance into my life, resulting in less hand-wringing over missed homework assignments and the 20 minutes he spends putting on underwear in the morning. My existence became all about the two men in my life, and I'm not sure that was good for anyone.
Yes, my kiddo needed me. But I needed me, too.
And so. Here I am. We are our choices. And while I don't think I made the wrong choice by any stretch, I wish I had chosen differently. (Tweaked, maybe?) That I had instilled a better sense of balance. If I can pass along even one word of advice to new moms, it would be this: don't forget about future you. Your whole life, not just the motherhood part, deserves to be nurtured and attended to.
And for those of you in my position, don't despair: when one door closes another opens. Sometimes you just have to look for it. If there is one thing motherhood teaches you, it's to pick yourself up and dust yourself off.
And that cold mac 'n cheese eaten off a high chair tray totally counts as a meal.