I was up from 4-5:30am last night.  Not because the baby was up.  Not because there was a party next door.  Not because I was sick.  But because I woke up in a panic about what I am doing with my life.  

I am so tired of this anxiety.  I feel like it is time to get over it, move on, and focus on the present.  But I can’t seem to do that.  I keep thinking about this list that someone showed me of all of the great things that were accomplished by people at different ages.  Mozart composing at age 6,  So-and-so completing some crazy athletic feat at age 15, etc., etc.  The one decade on the list that was missing: the 30s.  Apparently, no one accomplishes anything great in this decade (I know, I know having children is a great act, but I’m talking professionally here).  How depressing is that?!

The part of it that is really bugging me these days is that I feel like I can’t ever get to the real professional development because I am always playing catch up on other stuff- emails, phone calls, blogging, emptying the dishwasher, taking a shower, etc.  Am I just really pathetic at multi-tasking?  Do I sleep too much?  How do people do it?

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A friend pushed me a bit on some of what I said in More Pot Roast, Honey? and it led to my admitting that one of my greatest struggles/failings(?) is accepting things as they are.  I am constantly on the look out for something better.  A lot of this is based on a fear that I made the wrong choice.  

A prime example, I spent my entire four years of undergrad wondering if I should have gone Brown instead of Haverford.  Now, at Haverford, I had great friends, I was getting a fantastic education, and I was able to take a leadership role in a lot of different activities.  But I always wondered about what I was missing in my alternate-universe life.  And, truth be told, I still wonder how my decision affected where I am today (to be clear, and to avoid any possible uncomfortable conversations with my husband, not in terms of my family- I love you guys- but in terms of career).

These days, I often wonder what my life would look like if I had chosen to work full-time, pushing forward with my career.  And the truth is, when I really think about it, I would miss my child terribly, I would feel guilty about leaving him in day care, I might be worrying about job security in this economy, and I would be wondering what my life would be like if I had chosen to work part-time from home. 

And therein lies the rub-- There is no ideal.  There is no perfect option.  But there is what the reality is and accepting it.  And there is the ability to be grateful for the fact that I am able to choose- that I have that luxury.  A choice that many women don't have.

Passion or Cash?

February 20, 2009

While on my vacation I kept checking my work email to see if a project I have been waiting for had come through.  It hadn’t.  As we got closer to the return home I started to draft an email to follow up on said project.  As I typed I found that I didn’t really have much to say because I was, afterall, on vacation. So I decided to hold off until I got home.

Later that night I was talking with my brother about the project, work overall, and how it is influencing my outlook on life.  And the truth became glaringly apparent: I don’t care about the project just as I don’t really care about the work I have been doing recently.  It is not particularly interesting to me nor is it what I want to be doing professionally.  Basically it is work for money.

Now I know that is what work is supposed to be.  But professionally I have always worked on issues that I was passionate about- even if it meant making less money (an issue for another post)- and that meant a lot to me.  So now that I am doing work that I am not passionate basically just so we can bring in some extra cash I am finding that it is no longer fulfilling me.

I know that I am doing this work so that it is possible for me to be home with the baby and I am incredibly lucky to be able to do that.  But somehow that just isn’t enough these days.  I want work that makes me feel like I am contributing to the world, like I am making some sort of impact.  

So yet again I am back at the balancing act question.  How do I manage to balance all of the things that I would like to do with reality?  Is it possible or just a pipe dream? If I continue to do the kind of work I am doing will I be able to get back into my real life later? And when will this boring-ass set of questions be answered?

The Tyranny of Choice

February 2, 2009

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I don’t do very well with choice.  I freeze when I need to decide what kind of candy to get in the candy aisle (am I in a chocolate mood? a gummy candy mood? and, if a gummy candy mood, do I want twizzlers or gummy bears?  and if I want gummy bears do I want the cheap-o generic ones or the Haribo?), choosing a prom dress was a drama-filled torturous experience (even by teenage girl standards), and deciding which movie I move up on the net flix queue can have me paralyzed for half-an-hour. I am always worried about what I will miss once I make my choice.

So when I heard this great piece on Radio Lab about choice I felt like maybe I wasn’t such an indecisive freak after all.  According to the show, one often ends up regretting decisions that are made when there are many choices in the table.  Apparently this is because you are often left knowing what you didn’t take and missing that option.  So, really, I am just being very, very careful in my deliberations.

So then, of course, I started to think about how this relates to the decisions we make as parents/mothers and professionals.

For those of us who are fortunate enough to have a choice of whether or not to stay home with our kids in some capacity- whether it is to be a stay-at-home parent, or to work from home, or to work part-time- these choices are often a double-edged sword.  We are often left wondering what our other life would be like, had we stayed working full-time.  We wonder if we have screwed ourselves over professionally.  We sometimes feel like our brains have turned into complete mush given that the vast majority of our conversations (if they can be called that) during the day revolve around which is the best technique for knocking over block towers.

And I was thinking- it is kind of like being in the candy aisle at the grocery store.  You are overwhelmed by the choices you have in front of you because many of them look really good.  And whether you choose the Sour Patch Kids or the king-size Twix- in the end, you are going to end up with a stomachache from eating the whole thing and yet still a pang of regret for the one you left on the shelf.

Am I becoming one of them?

January 26, 2009

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We had a dinner party last Thursday night.  It was a really nice time.  An amazingly successful meal and very nice company.  The guests were my brother, visiting from LA, and two friends of his who are in Type-A city for the Spring semester.  

As we were making the last minute preparations I found that I was very nervous.  Not about the food, or about the house being clean enough, or about people I’d never met coming to my house.  I was worried about my ability to entertain guests.

Now that my consulting business is really off the ground and bringing in work I feel like I should be pleased- and believe me the money is welcome and I am incredibly grateful that I have work in this economic downturn- but since the work I am doing is not terribly interesting to me and is not exactly contributing to my professional development as I envisioned it might, it has left me feeling a bit dull.

As we were sitting in the living room chatting over olives and cheese I felt as if I didn’t have much to contribute to the conversation- I had this overwhelming fear that all I could talk about was the bowel movements of my child and sleep training.

As the conversation got going I found that I didn’t have to talk about crawling versus cruising or what kind of solid food diet the baby is now eating, I could talk about the Obama administration, different bars and restaurants in the area, etc.  It was a relief.

And yet the feeling still lingers.  Am I destined to become a comfy-clothes wearing, ponytailed, work-from-home mom who likes to talk about yogurt flavors?  I better catch up on my New Yorker and Bitch magazine reading…

Sugar Daddies

January 12, 2009

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There was a recent discussion on the XX factor about sugar daddies and work/family balance.  The two sort of bled together- i.e., wouldn’t it be easier to make decisions about work/family balance if we had a sugar daddy?  There were a lot of mixed responses in the conversation but it got me thinking.

A number of my friends have talked to me about how they always imagined that they would marry a guy who made the majority of the income so that they (the women) would be able to choose whether or not to work while their kids still had access to camps, special activities, etc.  I think a lot of us have this fantasy.

But what I have been realizing recently is that even if the fantasy was a reality- it wouldn’t change a lot of the really difficult part of the decision-making.  The struggles over how to build your own career when you are taking time off, over what that means in terms of your independence, and what it does to your earning power, all would still be issues to face.  Not to mention the feminist struggles that go along with it all.

So in the end it would be like the candy- sweet and tasty but in the end probably not worth it cause you are always fishing the remainders out of your teeth.

In my other life…

December 11, 2008

This is a dead time of year for me in my work life.  I am basically resigned to the fact that there won’t be any new jobs before January.  This down time has been great because I have been able to focus on parenting and preparing for the holidays- I’m a regular Donna Reed, minus the poofy skirts and plates of home-baked cookies.  But it has also given me a lot of time to fantasize about my other life.

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Depending on the day, in my other life I am either well on my way to becoming the next Dean of Students at a small liberal arts college or I am the head of a department at a national nonprofit that focuses on women’s issues.

Recently, more often I have been the head of a department at a nonprofit.  In that life I am working 40-50 hour weeks, running trainings, presenting at conferences, and building my reputation as an expert on issues related to violence against women.  In that life I have a small staff working under me and am strengthening my managerial skills.  I have even been invited to speak on television and radio programs.

I’ve got to be honest, sometimes I really miss the  life that was getting me closer to that point of professional success.  I miss being looked to for knowledge and expertise.  I miss that type of responsibility and also the freedom that comes with it.  Someday I’ll get back to some of that professional activity and success.  Until then I’ll settle for sitting down at the end of the evening to eat preservative-free oreo cookies and live vicariously through re-runs of Sex and the City while thanking my lucky stars that my life isn’t John & Kate plus 8.