Yesterday was my first day back to work. After having a baby 16 weeks ago today,I am one of the fortunate ones to just be going back now.
While working, I ran into a young teacher and mother who had recently substituted in my old position for an extended period. In a quick conversation I made the comment,“I don’t know how you did it!”
“I didn’t have a choice.” She replied.
This statement stayed with me all day.
I had originally planned to be home for this 16 week period of time; with saved and generously donated paid time off, I would return to work in February, finish out the school year, and decide from there how to manage career, family, and bills.
As life, Lyme, hyper gravidarum would have it, I couldn’t do that and blew through my sick leave within 5 months of a debilitating pregnancy. I spent months building up strength and finally decided to make a push and try to go back to my classroom that fall. I made it 5 days (2 with 163 students) before collapsing physically and mentally under the load.
I didn’t chose to be sick, get bit by a tick or be unable to get out of bed. I did choose to become pregnant and often times I confused that choice with a misguided responsibility to “fulfill my duties” to my work and students. I continued teaching a course online for 9 weeks after going on full FMLA, even though I could barely function, had to have my husband read me the emails half the time, and was typically vomiting at the time I was supposed to be “with” the class and lecturing.
But I made a choice.
I felt like a failure. After months with out a pay check, we had learned to live on less. Like ALOT less. It felt really good. We had done this before, living in a cabin in the woods on a 1/2 time teachers salary.
After my daughter was born, I realized that I could live with being the most beat up house on our very nice street, for a few more years. I am cool with the rust on my car, as long as it will pass inspection and keep on driving. I am ok with juggling bills, hurting my credit, and relying on the goodness of family occasionally.
We can’t be too prideful. We can’t have the perfect car or image. I have done some major damage to our credit in juggling bills in the last 4 months…
…but that was a choice I made.
I make a choice to swollow my pride. I quit my full time teaching job to work as a substitute.
I choose to be the shittiest house on the street.
I choose as many mornings as I can swing with my little one. Does that mean that the phone rings and people sometimes want money? It does. As it turns out, that job I could have gone back to was cut this week. It is affirming to see that had I chosen to go back, the universe would have simply reversed my course a little less gently.
This is not to dog working mothers.
We are all working mothers.
What I am asking each us to do is to stop belittling each other by making statements like “I wish I could do that.” Or “I just don’t have a choice.”
The only result produced by these types of statements is to further divide us as a group of women who are each fighting the same battle, juggling what we can and cannot live without, and wishing desperately for a maid, nanny and/or fairy god mother.
We each have a choice and those choices will define who we are as women, no doubt. However, Let’s choose to cheer each other on. If you are gonna go be that BAMF exec and show your little girl she can do anything! Do it! Own it! Rock it! I am taking a slightly different path. But I own it. This path is mine. I have been led here by my choices.
There are many things we each wish we could do, but we all have a choice.
Today I applaud your choice!