Embracing the Chaos - Working and Being Mom
We find freedom when we let go of control
and embrace the chaos.
I wake up, roll over and grab my phone. It's 6 AM and this is how I start the morning - I check my email to determine how stressful the day will be. If I have less than 50 emails, the day may not be so bad. I have 150 - that is not a good sign. I check my calendar and see that my first meeting starts at 8:30 AM, and then I have back to back meetings until I leave work at 5 PM. I must leave at 5 PM because I have to pick up my oldest son from piano lessons. I've been late every week, and if I don't leave a few minutes before 5, I will be stuck in traffic. I see that I will have no lunch break, so I need to be sure to grab some fruit to take to work. I also want to squeeze in a run after piano practice, so I need to take my running shoes and clothes.
While I run around the house trying to get ready for the day, I am yelling for everyone to get in the car because we are late again. My daughter walks out with no shoes on because she doesn't have time to get ready (her words, not mine - what does she do in her room every morning?). The boys are arguing about whether they will listen to the radio or ride in silence in the car. I am trying to get my work bag and lunch in the car when I spill coffee on my suit. I also notice that I have on navy shoes with a black suit, but there is no time to change (I know I will obsess about this all day). We finally pull out of the driveway and are on the way to school when my son realizes he forgot his trumpet. Ordinarily, we would have normal consequences (you forgot your trumpet so you can't practice today), but there is a pep rally at school so he has to have it. I have a very important meeting at 8:30 AM, and I cannot be late. I call my husband to see if he can bring the trumpet to school. All of this happens in the first hour of the day.
By the time I get to work each day, I usually feel like I have already put in a full 8 hours of work. I am tired and stressed before the day even starts.
Mornings like this lead to negative self-talk about my ability to be a working mother. I begin to feel like a failure at work and a failure at home. And don't even get me started on the guilt! The moment I became a mother, I was torn. I have a deep desire to use my skills as a lawyer to help people and make a difference. Yet, the moment my first child was born, I had an even deeper desire to be with him - to observe and engage in every moment of his life. When I returned to work after each maternity leave, I spent each morning driving to work weeping. Weeping for the moments I would miss - the first time he stood up, the first time he rolled over. Staying at home full-time was not an option for me, and I had chosen a career that can be all consuming if you are not careful. In my early days of motherhood, I also had few friends that were in my situation. I felt intense loneliness, guilt, and frustration. Mostly, I felt torn between two all-consuming, demanding worlds - my professional career as a lawyer and my role as a mother. I couldn't give anything 100% because there was only one me to give. So I ran around trying to give everything to work when I was at work and everything to my family when I was at home. However, lines are never that black and white - work always bleeds over into family time and family issues often creep into the office.
One of my friends, who intimately knows my struggles, sent Lara Casey's Live Video "When You Have To Start Over." In the video, Lara talks about "sitting in the tension between work and motherhood." I love that phrase - I often say that I am "embracing the chaos of work and motherhood." This is where working mothers find themselves - precariously balanced on a tightrope. If they lean too far toward work, things can be off balance. The same can be said for family. Yet the tension between work and motherhood is what holds the rope tight.
Lara also talks about "feeling the guilt, like I have to do one or the other - motherhood or business and that is not where God has me. God has me in the mess." I, like most people, don't want to be in the mess. I want to believe that I can be the perfect working mother that achieves balance and has it all.
No matter how strongly I believe that I can be perfect and have it all, life is not that black and white - life is all the color in the middle. And color can be intense - color can be overwhelming. But color paints a beautiful world.
For now, I am trying to embrace the chaos and live in color. I don't have to choose between work and motherhood. For now, God also has me in the mess - I am to be a part of both worlds. I won't be the perfect mother or the perfect lawyer. But I can be a great mom and a great lawyer. But to be ok with this, I have to let go of expectations and feel the freedom that comes when I embrace the chaos.