[*Alternate Title: “In Which Melanie’s Feminist Card Is Revoked, Hell Freezes Over, And An Inconvenient Truth Is Recognized”]
I am exhausted. Tomorrow is Saturday, and it’s also the one day a month where we do the billing in my office and I need to come in to help. Normally that’s not an issue at all because DH has the kids, except for that one weekend enough where he goes up to the base for drill weekend. That was two weekends ago, but despite this, we still need child care tomorrow because DH is being called in for a rare (for him) weekend day of work. It’s just one of those weekends.
Our family is growing up and DH and I are experiencing some growing pains in our respective jobs and overall careers. He seems busier, I’m still as busy as ever, and my preschooler is starting to talk about how she misses me and doesn’t want to go to school. On the other hand, my toddler straight up IGNORED ME when I walked into her classroom mid-day to drop off a snack for a party. So there’s that. That’s a good thing, I guess? No, wait. Anyway …
It’s dawned on me lately that maybe this lawyer thing I do most days out of the week (and every week of every year … I don’t take vacations) is actually hurting my family. And this is where the other bloggers and most readers of the blog are about to rush in to pat me on the back and tell me noooooooo you’re doing the right thing/what’s best for your family/what you really want, and don’t let anyone tell you differently! Yeah, I know, but it’s not really about that. This is really about me finally coming to terms with the choices I’m making and the natural consequences of those choices. I talked a little bit about this last week. I know I can do better. The question is how.
Some say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again yet expecting different results each time. Like, for example, how every Friday I put off my blog post until the evening, expecting to get it done in a timely manner under conditions where I’m actually not about to fall over from exhaustion. Or how I tell myself every time I’m running late that 20 minutes is enough time to blowdry my hair, get my stuff together to get out the door, stop for gas, and make it on time to a meeting. So maybe I’m insane, because since DD1 was born three and a half years ago, I have been going to work, doing the child care shuffle, rinse and repeat, yet I wonder why the kitchen is still a mess and the laundry hasn’t folded itself magically.
Let’s not get sidetracked on mundane household chores, however, as important as they may be to a functioning household. They are a symptom of a problem, not the problem itself. So what is the problem? The problem is that with both DH and I busting our asses all day at our jobs, no one is managing the homefront. At first, this was just annoying, and maybe just a little bit funny. Stereotypical, commonplace, and the stuff of terrible sitcoms.
And then the not so hilarious stuff started happening. Bills went unpaid, or worse, overdrew our account. Stuff around the house started breaking down and was left unrepaired. Basic pantry staples were being depleted much, much faster than we could replace them. DD1 lost her hat and one glove (just ONE, how annoying is that?), and I was just sending her to school without them.
Stuff has been happening with me work-wise as well. Due in part to starting a new job, but mostly due to my own feeling of AAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!!! that sometimes factors into my day-to-day life, I had to un-commit myself to some professional pursuits, which feels fucking awful, not gonna lie. That was the subject of my post last week.
And then DH’s job stuff got … more complicated. I noticed he was coming home later and later, something he never used to do. He also revealed to me that he experiences just as much stress as I do in my job—he just always kept it to himself, for fear of upsetting me, especially when I have the need to talk about my own work life so much. Oops. This was hugely eye-opening for me: have I been minimizing my husband’s own professional trials and tribulations at the expense of my own? That was never my intention.
So back to the problem: no one running the household. Look, this is CT WORKING Moms, not CT SAHMs, so you’ll get no grief from me on the issue of dual-career parenting (or SAHD parenting, for that matter). I’m not here to announce that I’m doing a complete 180 in my parenting or work choices, or my attitudes about career and motherhood. And yes, we could go into all the pros and cons about being a WOHM versus a SAHM and do the usual analysis of how both entail certain tradeoffs, and that neither is better than the other, objectively speaking. It’s highly subjective and personal to each family situation, so, like any good lawyer will tell you, it just depends.
And that’s how I feel about my own family situation right now: I can’t speak for every family, nor should I, but for my family, I am wondering if I just need to swallow a difficult truth about the kind of life I am giving my children and, yes, my husband, who once upon a time saw himself married to the kind of woman who would be home with his kids and probably have a job of some kind too, but not a career. That is, not a career that demands you to sacrifice your family at the altar of status and success. While DH is certainly an enlightened modern guy who wouldn’t stomp his feet and demand that I spend all day barefoot in the kitchen (and honestly, I would not have married him if that was his M.O.), I do think, based on some of our earliest conversations, that he truly believed he would someday raise a family with a woman more interested in tending to the home and her children–and perhaps even pampering him a little bit after a long, hard day at work–than with her own professional and personal pursuits. He tells me now that he simply changed his outlook over time, but I wonder now and then if the truth is that he simply ceded that vision of his family to my overriding concern with my own career.
The other day, a client thanked me profusely for the work I do. It was such a touching moment, and I got a huge charge out of it. I was in the zone, and had a flash of insight into why I do what I do: I love helping people. I thought about how DH and my two little girls feel about me, and searched my memory for the last time I got a similar rush from the love I feel for them and the way I am helping them too, hopefully. Basically, that feeling I get when I am reminded why I practice law, even though it can be frustrating, is the way I also want to feel about being a wife and mother. I think I forgot that somehow along the way, probably right around the time I was blogging about how my kids actually hurt my career, instead of the other way around. And if neither my kids nor my husband are not giving me enough of those moments to remind me why I wanted marriage and a family in the first place, then it is totally my fault for not being there to experience those moments.