Given that I’m a newbie at being a mom and a newbie at being a mom who works outside of the home, I get asked how the juggle is going quite often. The question doesn’t bother me, but I always feel like I stumble over my words in response. I don’t want to sound too eager about work, lest you think that I enjoy being away from my child. I don’t want to sound like I’m lamenting being at home, lest you think that I am dissatisfied with work and would prefer to be at home. And to be quite frank, both are true: I want to be at work and I want to be with my son.
This is my daily tension.
I don’t have it figured out. Day by day, Kasey and I are working together to do our best to love Will, give him our full attention, and model what it means to live with passion and purpose.
There’s a part of me that wants people to know all that goes in to preparing to be gone all day every day. I want them to see my labor, my lists, and how none of that matters between the hours of 4 and 7- the time when it’s just us and Will and nothing else. I want them to know about the juggling and multi-tasking at work, about how I’m trying to be present for my students while still taking care of my son.
But as soon as I type those words, I don’t want them to know the details. I don’t like to talk about the details because I don’t want them to think for a second that I’m not The Most Grateful Human Ever. I have work that allows me to be creative, that allows me to connect, that gives me the opportunity to see teenagers grow- do you know how amazing that is? I have front row seats to some of the hardest most developmental moments of a person’s life. I get to see moms’ answered prayers when their child raises their hand to participate in class, despite their fear of talking in front of people. I get to see teenagers ask questions, listen, challenge, and make decisions that will alter their course of life forever. Yes, I get to witness real, true life change five days a week for 180 days a year. The media and politicians and philanthropists and sometimes even parents and administrators have no idea what a privilege it is to see how vulnerable and brave our teenagers are.
Bookended to that day of creativity and connection is a family who I adore. My sweet son likes to get up with his mom at 5 a.m. While I run around getting ready, I get to nurse him, and then pass him off to my husband while he sits and plays with him in the dark morning of our not-so-quiet house. And when I get home I get to sit and play on the floor and do just that one thing. Do you know how much of a treasure it is to just do one thing? One task: play with Will.
It’s the life I’ve dreamed about and prayed for.
But the truth is, sometimes it’s really, really hard. I’ll have moments where I realized I haven’t seen a poopy diaper in days, and I start to cry. It’s not because he’s not pooping, but it’s because another person who isn’t his mom is changing his diaper. And it hurts in a way that I never knew possible: someone else knowing my son’s poop routines. There are moments where I’m on the phone with a parent and I see my classroom clock, indicating to me that I am yet again at work later than I wanted to be. And I’m on the phone with a parent talking about their kid, while my son is with someone else. And as much as I want to help their child, I want to help mine first. And there are moments where I’m just so tired of the daily scramble, the race to get as much done during a nap as humanly possible. In my really dark moments, I’ve wished that I didn’t want to go to work.
But the truth is, I do. I want to be a part of my students lives’. I want to see them grow and hear their stories and their heartbreaks and their dreams. It makes me so hopeful for my son and our future as a country. And Kasey does, too. And more than that, we want to be a family where the parents work really hard to share the load, whether that be feeding or cooking or doing dishes or cleaning the bathroom. That means letting go of our pride and mommy guilt and rec leagues in order to make our life mission happen in the day to day. That means inviting wonderful, selfless people like our care giver and our moms and sisters to help us love him and become the boy and man we want him to be. We are privileged and humbled by the help that has been extended. We are privileged and humbled that our son has so much love in his life.
This is our story. I know that yours looks different and is just as challenging, regardless of whether or not you stay at home with your kids. And I know that our story may change, but this is it for right now.
It’s a story of meaning and connection and purpose. But that story isn’t remiss of conflict or tension. In fact, that’s the hinge point. Our story is one of meaning and connection and purpose because of the conflict and tension.
So if tomorrow you close your eyes, breathe in your son’s smell and kiss him goodbye as you share the load in caring with him, feel it. It’s a tension that is true and palpable: like your heart really may collapse on your lungs as you drive to work.
And then a few months go by and you see your son playing with other kids, getting smothered by the other women who care for him, and you are so grateful for the vast and deep love that envelops your son each day.
And you can breathe a bit deeper, a bit more clearly.
This is the great tension: beauty and challenge and inexplicable, well-overflowing love.