Okay, I’m going to do it – a blog entry about being a working mom.
You know it had to happen.
Here’s the deal: sometimes, during clinic, a client will say to me –because they all know I have two young daughters, I’d like to think not because I talk too much but simply because it’s all so relevant, and I can relate, and the openness strengthens rather than undermines the client-caregiver relationship (right?)—something along the lines of “wow, how do you practice midwifery with two young kids?”
And I kind of hate the question. Because of course I translate it not as how impressive, two young kids and working this crazy, demanding job, but instead how neglectful, two young kids and working this crazy, demanding job.
I know I’m not alone. Every working mother struggles, and most don’t have the luxuries that I have –good child care the most important. Hell, I’m not even really working –as a student, my full-time clinic load is putting me into debt. Two young kids then, working, and not even to pay the bills! It’s shocking, frankly.
Except that it’s not. I know a few women who love staying home with their children, full-time. They talk about the wonder of the early years—how they pass so quickly, how they’ll never come again. They’re right, of course. Both my daughters are under 5, and sometimes it seems I can see them growing as I watch. They amaze me, they enchant me, they make me incredibly happy and unbelievably proud.
But here’s my truth, too: I can’t be one of those mothers. I find full-time child-care mind-numbingly boring.
I don’t think adults were ever meant to spend day after day alone with children, especially in the semi-isolation (an island of one play-date here, one planned & paid activity there) of modern parenting. I picture instead crowded villages or open fields where children basically roamed & roved (is there a difference?) and worked and played while adults went about their own business. Yes, I’m married to a historian, and no, I have no intention of verifying anything – it makes sense, is all.
In Canada, working women are given a one-year funded maternity leave from the government (actually, it can be shared between partners). This makes me proud to be Canadian, and while not everyone can afford to take it, everyone I know does. Where we live, in Victoria, most of the parents we know go one step further—they work part-time or flex-time or not at all. They want time with their children, and they’re willing to sacrifice income and prestige for it.
We are, too, and we do. But midwifery, if neither incredibly lucrative nor particularly prestigious, definitely fits the long-hours and high-intensity bill. Sometimes I am not home in the evening, or the morning, or, one day last week, both. When that happens, missing the girls is a physical ache in my chest. I know that’s a cliché. But it’s a cliché for a reason, trust me.
And yet: I love my work. Both the oldest profession (you’ve heard it’s that other one, but think chicken & egg) and the best current practice (can’t resist this citation), being a (student) midwife thrills me.
Which is all to say: I believe in women working. Women with children. Women who love and care for and make real time for their children, but nonetheless are committed to an interesting & challenging career both for themselves and others. I don’t want to be seen as exceptional. I’m anything but. I’m lucky in all sorts of ways. Most of all that I have a wonderful family, but not least that I have wonderful work.