I rarely am in the driver’s seat on my commute to Bastrop. Last Thursday I rode up with my mom and Wrigley and Leila and took a moment to snap a shot of the beauty of the westbound Texas highway.
One night last fall I was lying in bed, stricken by feelings of inadequacy, grieving my own lack of success. I’d spent adulthood eschewing the traditional trajectory, and on this particular evening I longed for a quantifiable measure of accomplishment. My days are entrenched in the work of raising a child and growing our small family business, endeavors that require years to adequately determine the fruits of your effort. This compounded by our bodies’ continued inability to garner a positive pregnancy test. I’d relinquished the vision of an extended gestation. At that point I simply wanted one round of urine with elevated hormones of a particular kind.
“I just need a win,” I told Ben.
And then with earnestness offered me this, “Maybe you should get that chicken coop.”
I laughed and started to cry. It was the best wrong answer I’ve ever received.
I get a lot of questions about my employment status. The count is at least up to two for this week alone. Quite honestly this is a question I dreaded even before having a baby. What do you do? It feels loaded to this English major that has spent the years since college graduation studying social work and trying out life as a temporary ex-pat volunteer teacher and later a therapist and then an adoption counselor, not to mention quite a few other in-between occupations, and has still not yet found a career niche. The number one thing you want to know about me is what I do? I do not have a succinct, sufficiently comprehensive response to that.
I could be coy. I could pretend like they are not asking what I do to make money, what profession I have chosen. However, for better or worse, I have a compulsive need to be superfluously honest. And too often I give into this innate need to answer in extraneous detail. Then there is the inconspicuous mini shame spiral that sometimes ensues. If I am not careful, I believe I really should be doing more with my life and I am a little bit less than because I am not.
This summer I ran across a headline when I logged out of my email announcing the hiring of a six-month pregnant Marissa Mayer as the new CEO of Yahoo. In the article they quoted her as saying she intended to only take three weeks of maternity leave and work during that time. By the time I finished reading the blurb I was feeling angry and self-righteous. In spite of some legitimate concerns about the implications of touting that as the example of a working mom, deep down it struck a fear I could not quite squelch – if I was more awesome (read more perfect), I too would be a brilliant professional and mother. Real women really do it all.
Even last night I felt the need to qualify myself by my part-part-time employment instead of simply saying, “I stay at home with our daughter.” I am back to work. Taking care of another human that is incapable of taking care of their needs is a full time job (as only someone who has taken care of a baby or a chronically ill adult can truly know). No, this is not my career, but it is my employment. And I enjoy it. I love being full time mom and full time caretaker during this stage of her life. I am happy at home with her.
There is a good chance that I might be back to work in a more socially recognized way had I, in all my years of concerted effort to find meaningful employment, stumbled upon a fulfilling career. Alas, I did not, and I lost a job I hated 10 days before peeing on a stick. I’m glad I did. I like my new boss.