By Lauren Gonzalez/for MISSOULA CURRENT
You know that movie, Freaky Friday? The one where the mother and daughter magically switch bodies and get to live each other’s lives for a time? Well, my husband and I had the same experience. Okay, okay, so maybe we didn’t exactly switch bodies (although I’d give pretty much anything to be able to pee anywhere I wanted for a day), but, in a way, we lived each other’s perspectives.
During Joey’s first year, I stayed home to care for him, while Nick lived the classic nine-to-five office life. It made sense. While I enjoyed my pre-Joey job, it wasn’t leading toward a promising career, and there would be little left of my paycheck after forking over millions for full-time daycare. I’d always wanted to try the stay-home mom life, and this was my chance. Nick was supportive of my decision – he enjoyed working outside the home, and he liked the idea that one of us could serve as caretaker. I enjoyed much of the little routine I built that first year with my son, and I’m thankful for our sweet time together, particularly because he wants nothing to do with me these days. Apparently “teen angst” begins at age two.
In a lot of ways, however, it is hard to be the one home with the baby. My days were all the same, molded around Joey’s feedings, naps, and diaper changes. I felt lonely, extremely isolated, and I resented that Nick’s mind seemed to always be at the office. When he came home, all I wanted was a break from caretaking, and some friendly human interaction; all he wanted was some quiet, and time to decompress. We understood very little of each other’s daytime routines, and while we tried to share our worlds with one another, they were so vastly different.
One short year later, around Joey’s first birthday, the tables turned drastically. For various reasons, including many milestones missed in Joey’s life, Nick decided to try out the role of stay-home dad. Suddenly, it was my turn to re-enter the workforce, so I took a handful of paid positions as I quietly built my consulting business after-hours. By this time, we had a second child – my daughter, June, who was only three months old – and it was my turn to feel the deep belly ache every morning as I left the house. It was my turn to experience both the elation of building relationships at the office, and the guilt of missing out at home, and of interacting with real humans while my husband toiled away alone. Finally, I understood the struggle to power down my “work brain” so that I could be truly present with my family, and the frustration of having little energy left to do so.
Today, my husband and I share the caretaking role equally. We both care for the kids part-time, and use our “off” hours to pursue other ambitions. We created a lifestyle that works for us. We also understand the sacrifices that accompany the roles of caretaker and breadwinner, and it affords us unique insight into the challenges of both. It isn’t often that you get the chance to experience your partner’s life and perspective, and it enables us to work together in creative ways to pursue our individual dreams while staying connected (and somewhat sane).
Still, my experience as a working mom is quite different from Nick’s, as a working dad. I want to highly achieve and impress in my business, but I also long to remain strongly connected to my family at home. I want to make sure everyone is cared for, that all needs are met, both at home, and at work. I want to prove that I can do it all, be it all, and have it all, but mostly I end up feeling run down and disconnected from the things and people that matter most. When I feel successful at work, I feel like a sh*t mom. When I feel like the World’s Best Mom, it’s because I neglected work, and let other important things slip through the cracks. It is madness. And it does not have to be this way.
I want to invite you to a special (free!) online workshop for moms who struggle with the same pressure and strain that I do. I invite you to join me and superstar Portland-based Work-Life Integration Consultant, Megan Leatherman, MS, as we dig deep into creating a balanced working mom life. You CAN work hard to achieve your career goals and stay connected to the things that matter. Join us on Wednesday, June 8th and find out how.
Visit LaurenCRS.com for details, and register today!
Lauren Elizabeth Gonzalez is a Missoula-based writer/ blogger, whose kids (both under the age of 3) provide ample inspiration for her short stories, social media posts and articles that highlight the challenges, joys and bare realities of motherhood. Drawing on her master’s degree and background in conflict and dispute resolution, Lauren is also working on a series of how-to guides that will enable parenting partners to build a stronger, more connected team dynamic. Find out more at www.LaurenTheFreeMom.com, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter for a daily peek inside the head of a nutty gal just free mommin’ it.