As my 39th birthday inches closer, I often find myself getting sentimental about everyday life in my 20s. While I’m sure graduate school, first jobs and a busy social life felt stressful at the time, my 38-year-old self laughs at that naive girl. Those were the days when I could take the time to chat with coworkers because there was never any time when I absolutely had to be out of the office for daycare pick-up, a train to the suburbs or an evening appointment. Every aspect of my life 10 years ago was about my own needs, desires and aspirations. Today, it feels as if every moment of my time is owned by others, whether by my kids, spouse, employer or extended family.
There was a moment during the first year of my second child’s life when I realized I was living with the feeling of needing to “steal time,” whether it was from work to bring the kids to an appointment or from my family to attend an extra weekday evening meeting. To take time for myself, whether to see a friend or take 30 minutes to sit in a café with my journal, was the ultimate in “selfishness” because I was stealing from everyone. More experienced mothers warned me that this way of thinking about time was untenable and unrealistic—that it was vital to take time for myself and that, ultimately, it would benefit both my family and professional life. On a purely intellectual level, this made sense to me. But today, two years later, I’m not sure I’ve found the perfect balance yet.
While I aspire for more calm and control in my life, I wouldn’t choose to return to my life as it was in my 20s. Back then I enjoyed the freedom and adventure, but I desperately wanted a family, longing for kids and marriage. I feel proud and fortunate that today I have the family I dreamed of, as well as professional work that is satisfying and challenging. Ten years ago work was demanding and aggravating at times, but I never got midday photos of my son dressed as the Tin Man (at right) to make my day, pushing me to work harder so I can get out of the office on time.
All working mothers grapple with the challenges of work/life compromise in different ways. I firmly believe there are many paths to success; the secret is finding the one that works best for you. Click here for a meaningful conversation with local mom and author Michelle Cove, who tackles these issues in her new book, “I Love Mondays: And Other Confessions from Devoted Working Moms.” She chats with three other moms of young kids about how they handle the challenges of pursuing their careers and balancing the responsibilities of parenting. I hope this conversation resonates with you as it did with me.