You know those motivational posters that used to line your high school classrooms? Usually a picture of some natural wonder or a cute baby animal with a deep and meaningful quote written at the bottom. I loved those. Maybe it was because I was a competitive athlete at the time and deeply believed in the power of positive thinking and mind over matter and all those other things that helped me get through the last race of a long meet or the end of a tough practice where my arms had turned to jelly. I kept journals of motivational quotes and had copies of them taped all over my bedroom, car, and locker room.
I like to pull up certain entries from my mental quote catalogue to comfort or motivate me at different times. When I think back on Landon's babyhood and start to travel down the pointless path of wishing I'd done certain things differently, or realized certain problems sooner, I remind myself of what a blog commenter once told me, "You do the best you can with what you know. And when you know more, you do better." It's a quote that I think will remain relevant through the entirety of this parenting journey.
There's two specific quotes that I keep dancing around in my head when it comes to being a working mom and I've been meaning to write about them.
One is something I heard at an alumni roundtable my 1L year of law school. At these roundtable lunches, a very distinguished alumnus would come chat with a small group of students about their career path. This one featured a pretty famous law firm partner who had previously held all sorts of fascinating international law positions all over the world. We knew from her bio that she had two young children, so I asked what that was like - balancing her job and her family. And after she talked generally about their childcare choices, her husband's schedule, etc., she said something that has stuck with me, "You know. I tell my children (then ages 5 and 7) that they are THE most important thing, but mommy's work is important too. And I think that's okay- both that it is important to me and that they know it."
The second soundbite comes from a Women's Initiative lunch we had at the firm a few months ago. Colleen Barrett, President Emeritus of Southwest Airlines, was the speaker and one thing she talked about was being a single mother and raising her son while working full-time. She said something along the lines of, "It was important to me that he didn't see work as the enemy, as something that only took me away from him and gave nothing back. He came to the office with me if I needed to stop by on a weekend, he came to company picnics, he met the people I worked with on a daily basis ..."
The idea of work not being the enemy is something I try to impart on myself, JP, and Landon every day. Yes work is something I need to do, but I try not to phrase it as "Mommy has to go to work" - it's just "it's time for Mommy to go to work" or "yes, Mommy goes to work today." The phrase "have to" pops up, as it must, because sometimes, like when it's 8:30 and I have a call at 9, we really do HAVE TO GO. But words have power, and in general I don't talk about my work- my financial commitment to my family- in disparaging or begrudging terms. JP goes to school, Mommy goes to work, and Landon goes to daycay. It's what we do during the day. Landon has visited my office on many an occasion and thinks it is pretty much the coolest place on earth. He sees me get papers out on the weekends and likes to sit next to me at the kitchen table and color while I highlight cases. As he gets older I'm sure that will continue, with our kids doing homework at the table while JP or I do some work of our own. And I hope that the way we talk about our jobs will influence the way they think about their own obligations- whether it be school assignments, family chores, or jobs of their own. Because I have found that in trying to talk about work in a way that does not make it sound like the enemy to Landon, it ends up affecting the way I view it in my own mind. I do not love every aspect of my job and I have had assignments that I have hated with a passion, but in general, I like it, and I appreciate the fact that I have it and that it provides a comfortable life for my family.
I doubt I'm writing this as clearly as I could be, but I really think that having these two soundbites in my mind has helped shape the way that I view my role as a working mother and the way that I live out that role with Landon. My career is important to me- very important, in fact. Landon is more important and I will sacrifice a lot career-wise to be the mother I want to be for him, but that doesn't mean there isn't room left for my career to have any importance at all. And it's okay for him to know that. So I try to talk about my job and our daily routine in a way that is not full of complaint or negativity because this job, this thing that is important to me, it is not the enemy- not to me and hopefully not to my children.
Because man I freaking love this kid, but I still think there's room for me to love and value both him, his sister, and this career path I've worked so hard to barely start.