The other day I was having a conversation with a coworker and it was suggested that I prioritize my family over work. I immediately burst into tears.
You see, this comment was meant to be hurtful.
As working Mom’s, we constantly struggle with trying to find a balance. We are always worried that we aren’t pulling our weight at work, while grappling with the undeniable fact that our hearts reside at home.
This comment, being told I prioritize my family over work, struck a nerve and I immediately burst into tears.
But not for the reason you might think. In that moment, for the first time in a long time, I had absolutely no feelings of guilt. No feelings of being not good enough or not working hard enough. At that moment, for the first time in a long time, I felt at peace.
You see, this comment that was meant to be hurtful actually felt like the single, biggest compliment that I had ever received.
I’ve spent a lot of time since that moment reflecting on why and it only feels right to try to put into words what I’ve come up with. Here are my thoughts.
I know that I’m good at my job.
In fact, I have spent the last 15 years working my ass off to be the best provider that I can be. I have devoured continuing education, I have asked for help when I’ve needed it and I have taken every opportunity and environment that I’ve been in to grow as a person and as a professional. I have built rapport and demonstrated positive outcomes with patients across settings and across the country.
Before my daughter was born, I was that person. The one who picked up extra shifts, who did late afternoon Friday evaluations and who worked holidays and weekends because “I didn’t have a family”. For years, I “took one for the team” and I did it with a smile on my face. Work was my priority. Some would even say I was a workaholic, being fulfilled by that need to feel needed.
I know in my heart and in my soul that I am a skilled and capable provider.
But here’s the thing…
I have always questioned my worth as a parent.
Truth is, my daughter was a surprise. I was never that girl who felt that she was born to be a Mom. I had my work and my husband and my love of travel and adventure. That was enough.
Or so I thought.
When I found out that I was pregnant I was terrified. How was I ever going to do it? Balance my career and being a parent. I couldn’t imagine that anything would ever be able to pull me away from the lifestyle that I was accustomed to.
The first few years were hard. REALLY HARD. I cried every single time I had to call out sick because she had a fever, pink eye, hand foot and mouth, daycare was closed, etc. You get the point. It was constant. I constantly felt like I was letting my team and my patients down. I was exhausted all of the time and felt like I was failing on all fronts.
I had become that person at work that I used to resent, who’s heart never really seemed to be in it and who seemed to be out of the office more than they were in it. That person who’s slack I had picked up for years.
That person who I never really understood. Until now.
I get it now. The fact that is, that person not a slacker. Those Moms are actually working harder than anyone else out there.
I know that I am up before the sun everyday striving to get work done while my brain is most alert. Before my family is up and needing my attention. I’ve done two loads of laundry, emptied the dishwasher, fed the cat, packed two lunches, dried three sets of tears and gently and patiently coaxed a tired toddler to get dressed and out the door all before heading into work. I have meal planned, meal prepped and communicated with the teacher. I’ve stressed about whether she napped, whether she had someone to play with on the playground, if she skinned her knee or needed me for something while I wasn’t there.
I’ve spent years questioning if I’m good enough and if I’m doing enough. Am I doing this Mom thing right?
Being told that I prioritize my family over my work was one of the most validating experiences that I have ever had as a parent. After five, almost six years of trying to fit into the Mom Club, I finally felt like I had arrived.
I know that I am good at my job And I know that I am a good Mom!
I wake up every single morning and set an intention to be present for my daughter, no matter what that takes. My default is to go one hundred miles an hour, to multi-task and to be busy all of the time. Learning to slow down and appreciate what it means to be little has taken a lot of work.
I have done the hard work. The intentional mindset shifts and I have fostered the self awareness to be the kind of Mom that I want to be.
I have LEARNED to prioritize my family over work and I could not be more proud!
Lastly, I’m going to remember something that my Mom always used to say to me. “Don’t worry about what other people think”. She’s not here to share this journey of motherhood with me (oh yea, there was that time I prioritized a terminally ill parent over work as well- but that’s a story for another day), but she taught me well and it’s with her fierceness that I continue to face each day.
So if me taking time off to be with my sick kid, to support my family during a pandemic or (gasp) enjoy time with them during our very short Maine summer makes me less than. Well, that’s on you.
Being a Mom is hard. Being a working Mom is really hard. There is no road map, no navigational beacon or course that I can study up on. There are no right answers and no guarantees.
All we can do is wake up each day and set an intention about how we want to approach and prioritize our life. Perhaps you have been steadfast in your approach all along, or perhaps your perspective has shifted. Either way, it’s all good.
I’m sure there is someone else out there that needs to hear they are doing a good job. You’ve got this Mama. They are only little once. Soak in those extra snuggles or the few extra minutes as you drop them off. Take the day to go to the beach or to cuddle on the couch.
Find where your heart lies and then hold tightly to those beliefs. I’ll be right here with you, continuing to work on the same!