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I'd just dropped off my first baby at kindergarten (well, technically transitional kindergarten since we're here in California and her 5th birthday falls after September 1). I found myself checking out the first meeting of the year. Why not? I thought. My freelance work responsibilities could thankfully be put on hold so I could relish in a total stay-at-home mom day. It was my girl's first day of "real" school and I was on a high—I laughed, I cried a little, I questioned my mom skills and I smiled a lot.
Sitting in the school cafeteria, listening to the principal's welcome and drinking iced orange juice out of a plastic cup with a pile of back-to-school papers on my lap, I was smacked by a most unexpected realization.
If having a kick ass career and being a powerhouse working mom means missing out on stuff like this, then I don't think I'm that interested in the super fast track anymore. I want the freedom to be involved in my kids' lives without too much stress attached to it.
If I give too much away, I will have nothing left for my kids, my marriage or myself.
Say WHAT?! Trust me, I came this close to dropping my orange juice when it came to me.
I love to work. (Always have.) I still love to work. (Why do you think you're reading my posts here every week?) Work makes me tick. Work makes me happy. Work makes me feel like I'm making a mark in this world. Work pays for things we all need and allows me to tuck extra money away for the kids' college.
Since my babies were born, I've had frequent nostalgic fantasies about my pre-kids 60+ workweek in a most exciting and fast-paced universe of entertainment news and how one day—one day!—I'd return to that universe in some capacity. I didn't know when, I didn't know how and I didn't know who would even hire me back in the kind of on camera jobs I used to have (thanks, fine lines) ... but I'd pick up where I left off and reclaim that label of "hustling powerhouse career woman" I once worked so hard for.
I've since changed. That take-over-the-world attitude is starting to relax.
Setting goals, aiming high and doing all you can to be as successful as you can be are life skills I want my daughters to learn and implement. But I've found that certain aspirations must be taken down a notch for the sake of raising my girls. I'm now accepting that I will most likely not reach all of my career aspirations that seemed exhilarating and attainable before I became a mom. Aha! So this is how motherhood is changing me. Acceptance is a powerful thing, ladies.
I was finally honest with myself. It felt liberating. The intensity to hustle on the job is just not a priority anymore. It takes time that I don't have anymore. It takes a mutant energy that I don't have anymore. It just takes too much. And if I give too much away, I will have nothing left for my kids, my marriage or myself. Something always must give, and at this stage in my life, I know how far I can push things until something implodes. (I thank my daughters for that one.) As a mother, it's my responsibility to not implode.
I know a ton of working moms who do it all, and working moms can do it all these days through hired help and lots of coordinating, but I'm opting out of doing it all. Instead, I'm opting into the "prioritize a few things you really want, what really makes you happy, and then set moderate goals accordingly" lifestyle.
Don't get me wrong, if somebody called me with the kind of end-all-be-all dream job that I chased through my 20s (hello, Entertainment Tonight) I'd damn well say yes, hire full-time help and figure things out later. But I know me: I'd probably also panic. And panic is not good for any family.
Why has it been so hard to admit that I'm OK with only reaching a fraction of my career potential while also being a mother? As women, we're conditioned to keep pushing, keep leaning in and keep taking over the world—babies or not—because "we can."
I appreciate this reality more than anyone—women have come so far and there's still a way to go. I'm absolutely fascinated by and admire the small miracles that powerhouse working moms pull off on a day-to-day basis. But finally accepting that having time to set my kids up to be motivated, happy, confident and content so they can reach their full potential through school and young adulthood also makes me feel like a real powerhouse. And I'm satisfied with that ... for the moment anyways. (Slap.)
Did you take your career down to first gear to raise young kids?