Growing Pains of a Career Woman Turned Mother

Here is one of the ways I’m trying to regain productivity in my life. So far, it’s not working.

I’m writing tonight about something I didn’t want to write about: my trouble adapting to motherhood, or my trouble adapting to a life that is family- rather than career-oriented. I’ve decided to post about it because, let’s face it, I can’t focus on anything else these days. What’s more, I’ve decided to type this post directly in WordPress (not on a word document that I will edit, and edit, and edit) because there is no way it will otherwise get posted.

Maybe I could post more often if I weren’t so worried about producing stellar writing…if I hadn’t been “tainted” by the successes of a career or a master’s degree or published writing. My blogging buddy, Kate, recently posted about how sometimes a bit of “fame,” such as being freshly pressed (which success I’ve also had), can hamper a writer’s voice. I wonder how much this has happened to me.

Ever since I became intent on publishing my memoir (which is maddeningly dormant right now), compounded with a growing blog following (especially after I was freshly pressed), my writing process has slowed down. I want my posts to be witty, clever, well thought out, and worth reading. When I began blogging, I told myself I didn’t just want to move my diary online. I tried not to spill my unfettered guts on the blog without first framing them in some (hopefully) amusing or enlightening way, or at least trying to make a larger application for my readers.

Blogging is tough these days because all I can seem to write about are those very mundane things comprising new motherhood: feeding troubles, sleeping woes, baby blues. And by the time I get a free moment to write, I don’t have energy to be clever about them. Do I feel these topics are too pedestrian to write about? Do I feel they are beneath me? Um, a little. Before this stage of my life, I prided myself on having more to talk about than just my family. Than just kids. I smirked (inwardly) at women who had nothing to boast of but children. Prided myself on my multiple degrees and teaching career.

But you know what? Not having kids, not having those “pedestrian” goings-on in my life, made it hard to talk to people. And graduate school made it even harder to swim in casual conversation with non graduate students. I found myself biting my tongue when I wanted to use big words–I didn’t want to  sound too nerdy. I fear I’ve often failed.

Now, my tendency to over-intellectualize has crossed over into motherhood. Whenever I discuss baby Sam with my sisters-in-law, one of my three mothers, or my girlfriends, I find myself saying things like, “Well, I read that babies should start to smile in the second month,” or, “According to my parenting books…” or “In my reading I discovered that….” When I hear myself saying such things, I am appalled. Motherhood is not an academic subject to be learned through books. And yet, that’s how I’ve approached it.

Yes, I confess: despite successes in a career, in graduate school, in writing, I find myself hopelessly fumbling with motherhood. I wish someone would give me a manual to study with clearcut answers. But there is no such manual to be found. As I’ve been telling everyone who asks how it’s going, “This is the toughest job I’ve ever had.”

To those ladies I judged as simpletons for having nothing to boast of but children, I apologize. I was wrong to judge you. Of course, it’s not the physical “having” of children that makes you awesome; it’s the adept raising of them. So far, I’m not adept. As for my strengths, those seem pretty weak right now, too.

How’s this for unfettered? Me and Sam and no makeup. Yikes! But it’s a common sight at my house lately.

Just now, in fact, I’m fighting the urge to apologize for this incoherent and badly organized post…but it occurs to me: maybe an incoherent and badly organized post is another way, in addition to motherhood, that I can relate to my audience. Everyone goes through periods of uncomfortable growth and change–and this is one of mine.

Maybe I could post more often if I let go of some of my impossible standards.  Maybe I would find that readers even appreciate my unfettered guts, er, I mean, thoughts (how’s that sentence for nerdy?). Maybe I WILL start to make regular posts again (albeit bad and incoherent ones), and let you share this uncomfortable journey with me. Maybe we can all learn something new in the process. At the very least, we can laugh together…once I figure out how not to take myself so seriously.


A Career Is Not Enough



A few months ago I sat on a park bench amidst the buzz of a college campus, realizing for the first time in two years that maybe I was out of place. I was twenty-eight years old. I was about to finish a graduate degree. And I was thinking of starting another.

I had also been married for almost eight years to a husband I rarely saw.

As I watched college freshmen skipping past, carelessly slinging their backpacks as if all burdens were so light, I pulled out a notebook and began to write.

It’s a lonely life right now. I am too old to be running around with a pack of friends like these kids—and yet, I don’t really have a family life. Not one that buzzes like this, creating its own nucleus of self-contained activity, a destination and end in itself.

Both still striving for career goals, my husband and I have talked about how these disparate strands will one day converge—we will have enough money to take jobs side by side at a university, or we will have enough money saved to travel together around the country, or we will one day have so satisfied our roles in society that there’s nothing left to do but sit on a park bench like this. We have talked about this meeting of our lives…but we have not yet arrived.

What is it that gives meaning to our lives as a couple? As individuals, we find meaning in work. I find it in writing. But what is the meaning with another person? There has to be common ground. A place where we reap and sow together. Where we both put in time, and dwell together.

Right now we have a house. And technically we both put in time there. He works on the yard (and usually does our laundry), and I work within the walls, doing dishes, cleaning, painting, arranging. Most of our time together we are asleep.

Our house seems oddly empty.

How do two people, young and building separate careers, find common ground, apart from the passing patches at home? Aside from those moments of rushing out the door in the mornings, or flopping down exhausted in the evenings?

Where is that common ground on which we can meet to slowly, deliberately, live life together? Not merely rushing to the next thing or recovering from the last? Is this an ideal that no longer exists in the twenty-first century?

Or is this where kids come in?