I love my job. It's something I've worked at for 15 years, nearly half of my life to achieve. It's the kind of job that when you tell others what you do, they look at you differently, curious and impressed. It's a job you pursue for passion, not for money. The perks are nice too. It's a job that gets me access to restricted people and places with a flash of a badge. I am a TV news reporter and anchor. And I love my job.
The other day, I read former CEO's Max Shireson's blog post about why he left his job to spend more time with his family. Now granted, I don't make millions of dollars and I don't travel 300,000 miles a year. In fact, I have what's considered the best schedule in the news industry: 8:30am to 5:30pm Monday through Friday. Already you're thinking, "Quit your whining, then!" Let me explain.
It's the guilt. That mom guilt that all working moms and some working dads experience at one point or another. The guilt when you realize others spend more time with your children every day than you do. The guilt when you can't attend an awards ceremony or performance because you're working. The guilt when your kids keep calling you grandma because that's who is raising them. The guilt when dinner is once again fast food because you didn't have time to cook. The guilt when you feel like your best, most productive hours and talents are given to your employer and not your family. As a working mom, these feelings are regular occurrences. And I'm gonna assume they were for my mom as well.
The thing is, despite spending long hours at our babysitter's house, home alone, or at the after-school "fun club," I don't recall ever feeling like my mom wasn't there for us. When I flip through my childhood photo albums, I see an ecstatic 10-year-old winner of the Spelling Bee. Who quizzed me on all the words? My mom. I see a beaming angel excited for the school play. Who made the costume? My mom. I see a nervous girl about to perform in a piano recital. Who sat by my side, making sure I practiced? Mom. What I didn't see at the time, or in the pictures, is what happened behind the camera. My mom pulled many all-nighters. Despite being exhausted from a long day working the cash register at the diner my parents owned, she stayed up, lovingly sewing the last stitches and ironing the material of that beautiful white angel costume trimmed in silver.
I recently got eye surgery which put me on medical leave for 6 weeks. I couldn't work. Initially, I was pretty helpless and miserable. What I wouldn't give to just watch the news without my eye being watery and blurry and in pain. But as the healing progressed, I embraced my other job: being a wife and mom for my family. I experienced joy in doing the things I usually can't as a working mom: planning day trips with them on their days off, picking up the kids from school, supervising their homework, planning and executing delicious dinners. I heard from my kids in more detail, while the events of their days were still fresh in their busy little minds. My husband and my children expressed how much they LOVED having me home. So did I.
To make matter worse, my husband discovered this long-lost video in which he asks my then-2-year-old daughter if she likes me working at Action News. She replies, "No." He asks, "Why?" She then delivers the simplest, most heart-melting answer in her little lispy baby voice, "Because I love her. And I want her to stay home." Talk about pouring salt in my still-fresh wounds. At that moment, I looked at my husband and said, "Look at the budget. Can we afford for me to stay home?" Surely we could live without cable, private preschool and my monthly facials if it meant I could be there for my children! He looked shocked and incredulous. Understandably. I've been a career woman my entire adult life. Even while on maternity leave with both of my children, I never considered becoming a SAHM. What changed? Maybe it was because now that they're older and more aware, I feel like they need me around more. As my return date to work neared, I started to dread going back. A friend asked me if I was excited. I honestly answered, no. "But this is your dream job!" she exclaimed. I started to wonder if my dreams were different now.
Well I'm back now. And I still love my job. My return was a whirlwind of busyness, co-workers and viewers welcoming me back, and a TON of work. Fulfilling work. It was like I never left. The kids, while they expressed some regret that I was going back, never missed a beat. We adjusted to the schedule, the juggling and insanity of life B.S. (Before Surgery). And I started to become convinced again that I can be a good mom *and* a working mom too. I'm lucky enough to have an employer that allows me a break in the day (within reason), to attend class parties and doctors appointments. And I want my son and daughter to grow up with a role model that pursues her passion. And if working requires me to pull a few all nighters to find the time to bake cookies for a party, create some costumes or help with science projects, I've got a cup of coffee with my name on it.