August 6, 2007

In this weekend’s issue of Gender F in the Seattle Times the topic at hand was women and the workplace, which included the inevitable focus on work/family balance. I found the entire piece really interesting, but I was particularly struck by this statement made by Pierre Kaplan, mother of a 4-year old and a VP at Nintendo:

But to me, whether mothers should work or not work is a hollow question for women who have that choice. What you need, no matter what your circumstance, is a passion for life you can demonstrate to your kids.

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I have felt guilty for not wanting to stay home full time, and I have found myself feeling paranoid that those who do stay home are better mothers than I am. Despite everything I strongly believe about individual situations and individual choices, there’s a part of me that wonders if I’m not as dedicated of a parent for choosing to be apart from my son three days a week—for not doing everything I can to make staying at home a priority.

I’ve also been thinking about how our lives are going to change next year, and what it’s going to be like having two kids in daycare (other than expensive, that is).

The truth is, though, in our current situation and for the foreseeable future I don’t want to stay home. I want all the benefits that my job gives me and my family (I wrote about some of them here). If I were at home full time, I know I would be unhappy, and that’s not the kind of parent—or person—I want to be.

I love Kaplan’s quote because it’s both reassuring to me and inspiring. Lately I’ve been feeling so run down, so uninspired at my job and so bogged down in tedium at home, and it’s hard not to moaningly think, oh, things are always going to be like this. But I can’t think that way, because if things really and truly don’t improve there are steps I need to take to make things better. A new job, more work-from-home freelance work, a side project, more activities with Riley, parenting classes . . . something different, something to change the picture.

This is my responsibility, to give my life passion. I don’t exactly know how to get there, what risks and choices might be involved, but I believe the process of seeking it out is integral to becoming a stronger parent. I know I am a more patient, creative, and happy mother when I feel like I’ve got some momentum going on, when I’m not just treading water and hoping to stay afloat.

There are days when I allow myself to feel burdened by parenthood, as though all the exciting options life has to offer are now closed to me. Like I am trapped on some dreary path littered with sippy cups and diapers, with no exit in sight. And it’s so foolish, really, to be that myopic. To lose sight of the fact that yes, life is busier now and filled with chores and tasks and moments of tedium, but it is also impossibly full, in ways I could never have achieved on my own.

Life is rich with promise. It is expandable.

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