Finding Flexibility: Tales from a Working Mom
I’ve been back at work for about a month now, and for the most part, things are going well. Surprisingly well. The idea of working as a script coordinator (which is pretty much being an on-call doctor, except my “patient” is a “script” and my “surgery” is “editing and emailing”) and being the primary care-giver to my six-month-old (and I say primary not to negate my husband because he is very much involved, but the truth is I am the one responsible for feeding my son and my work does have more flexibility), was VERY daunting. Like, I did not sleep the week before I started back at work because my anxiety was reaching panic-attack levels. And while there have been hard days — really hard days when I feel like I’m failing as both a mother, wife, and employee (so, failing as a human, basically) — it’s been because of everyone’s flexibility that I’m somehow making this work.
I am not a very flexible person. I like my to-do lists and routines, and anything that falls outside of that makes me anxious. But, when you’re trying to balance several things that are out of your control, you’re going to have to make due with the fact there are going to be days that not everything on your to-do list gets checked-off. In fact, there are going to be days you can’t make a to-do list at all. But, flexibility isn’t required from just me. It’s required from everyone in my life right now: my husband, my son, my co-workers, my son’s caregiver, my friends… you get the picture.
Despite everyone’s flexibility and support, I’m still riddled with guilt most days. Every time I leave the office at 5.30 so I can rush to pick up my son by 6, I avoid my co-workers’ eyes because I feel so fucking bad knowing they’ll be in the office for at least another couple of hours. Same thing when I ask to work from home, or when I have to remind them that I won’t be able to get to a script right away because I’ll be putting my son down for bed. This is never met with anything but kindness and understanding, but I feel terrible. Every. Single. Time. And of course that guilt doesn’t even compare to the guilt I feel when I see my son being taken care of by someone who isn’t me. I wish I could clone myself so I could be in two places at once, but instead I feel constantly torn.
And then there are days that I somehow manage to balance it all— the days where I feel like I’m making a worthy contribution at work, get some quality time with my son, am able to work on my own writing projects, stick to my son’s nighttime routine and put him down for bed at his normal time, and am not so utterly exhausted that I can have a real conversation (and maybe even some sex!) with my husband. I think that day has happened once in the past month. But, that’s okay. Not every day is going to be perfect, or even close to perfect. And even on my best days, it’s still rare to have any time to myself. That’s been hard. I try to make sure I meditate and do some stretching every morning. And thankfully, I’ve been able to stick to my weekly pilates class thanks to my parents or sister-in-law watching Jack (or sometimes bringing him along). But taking that hour every week is important, especially since it’s only an hour out of one-hundred and sixty-eight.
It really does take a village. My husband and I have had to make some major adjustments in our relationship. I have to accept the fact that he’s out of the house more than I am, so I’m going to have to be the one who does the majority of the chores. And sometimes he’s going to have to wake up at 6am if he wants to spend some time with me. Our relationship takes work, way more work than when it was just us two, but we’re also so much stronger and so much better at communicating now. I miss my friends terribly, especially since I only have one day a week to get together now, and most of the time it’s with my son in tow so I can never be fully present, but they hopefully all understand and don’t love me any less (even though I’m secretly afraid they all do). One of my best friends was in a terrible car accident and it kills me that I’m not able to go to the hospital every day to see her. But, I just can’t. A baby comes with boundaries.
I am also so extremely lucky to have the full support of my workplace. I truly did not think I’d be able to have this kind of flexibility and support in the entertainment business, of all places. Not only are they extremely flexible with my schedule, but two weeks in, my boss emailed me just to make sure I was settling in okay. It was the kind of email that fills you with a sense of security and comfort. To get that level of support from your boss is a sacred gift, and one I’m so immensely grateful for.
Every day gets a little easier, but I also know that once I think I’m finally hitting my stride, something will come along to shake things up. But, I’ll get through those days too. As long as I stay flexible and present (and surround myself with people who do, as well), everything will be okay.