Saturday, April 26, 2014

Being a Grown Up

Today, after completing my first week of my new job, I've been contemplating grown up things.

Retirement funds.
Grocery budgets.
Yard work.
Trimming the cat's toenails.
Writing thank you cards.
Meal planning
(add at least a thousand other things to this list, and you get the idea)

It's actually a very long list of things I've been contemplating, and like my to do lists at work, it's overwhelming and never ending.  I'll never check off all of the boxes, of course.  I'll never catch up, and it'll never be done.  I'm making peace with that, even as I strive to do more, and it makes me feel like a grown up.

How is it that I'm 44 years old and I often don't feel like a grown up?


I think about the Mommy Wars all the time, and I think about what to write about it all the time, and I've started a number of posts and stopped, because ultimately I still don't know what I believe, or what I would recommend to my daughter if/when she had a child.  There are no simple answers for a complicated question such as "Is it better to be a stay at home parent or a working parent?" and anyone who proclaims to have it all figured out is, in my opinion, either light years ahead of me in their evolution, or completely delusional.  There are great arguments on both sides, and I've experienced some of them first hand: a stay at home mom for nearly a decade, I'm a working mom now.  There was a time when I really wanted to be a stay at home mom and loved it; there was a time when I was resentful of it.  Now, as a working parent, I'm delighted to be working and feel like my daughter is getting benefits out of it (and I'm not just talking health insurance and food on the table) and I enjoy it, even as it stresses me out and makes me so tired that it's hard to think.

I won't fan the flames.  I don't have a conclusion to offer you, because I know great women who do a fabulous job at being stay at home moms and they show no signs of having made a foolish choice.  I also know great women who have been working moms all along, and they love it and have happy kids, and now they make a zillion more dollars than I do.  I don't know what the right answer is, and I'm not proposing it here.


In my marriage, unique to me, I think that somehow my tax status of "dependent" made me feel like a child.  I felt like I needed permission to do basic things, and clearly my ex felt like he could do whatever he wanted with "his" money because we certainly didn't agree on how he spent it and he spent it anyway.

My last job, my first full time job since motherhood, made me feel a bit that way too.  I was working for a friend, and it seemed like she was doing me a favor, and I felt dependent.  Her management "style" (and I use the word loosely, because I don't think she thought much about how to be a manager) was erratic, and I was responsive to that, trying to make it right no matter how I felt about it.  It made me feel a bit like a child, trying to please her and not having a full say and feeling powerless to her whims and moods.

And all of that has changed again with this new job.

I was hired on my merits, and I fought hard to get this job.  They are clear that I was their first choice candidate, and that it was unanimous with the board and the executive director that I was their first choice.  They didn't do me a favor: I earned this with a zillion hours of networking (an important skill for a fundraiser) and self education and a solid background doing things they hired me to do.

I knew I'd love the job.  I knew that it is work with a mission that touches my core, and that I'd be proud to work there.  I knew that the organization's reputation was incredibly solid, and that  people would say "ohhhh that is wonderful" when I told them where I worked and what I did.

Last week I went to a two day conference for organizations like mine, and people, one by one, told me how much they admired the work "we" do.  They said, one after another, that my organization is a pioneer, doing amazing work, and that our leadership is the best.

I met super smart people doing amazing work.

In tandem with that, my boss refers to myself, himself, and our COO as "the leadership team" and expresses his appreciation for my input.


It makes me feel like a grown up.  I didn't know how childlike I felt, how powerless, until I got these grown up feelings.

It makes me feel alive again, awake again, as if a part of me had been sleeping for a decade.


I don't know about the mommy wars.  I don't know what I would have done differently in my life: when Katherine was little, I was incredibly compelled to be a stay at home mom and didn't regret it then.

But I love these "new" feelings, the ones that make me feel 30 again.  I feel more powerful, even as I struggle with a too small budget and too little time.


After my first week on the job, I was exhausted coming home on Friday night.  I wrote three grants last week and started a fourth, learned more than I knew could fit in my head (I swear it makes grad school look like a breeze), met a zillion people.  But more than that, I was adjusting to my new life: balancing getting work done with being a great mom, with eating healthy food, and all the rest.

Up before dawn to make lunches for Katherine and I, drinking coffee while she eats her breakfast, checking homework forms, going through her backpack.  Twice a week, making sure that dinner is ready before I leave (leftovers one night, easy to reheat; another night, sandwiches made with leftover Easter ham along with crudité and dip) because the gymnastics schedule means that I barely have time to pick up Katherine after work and get her to the studio on time.


This business of paying the bills, exercising (more on that later, but I have an injury that is delaying my marathon - arghhhhh!), eating healthy food, keeping the household going, staying in touch with friends, being a great mom, helping with charity, working full's not for sissies.  This is hard stuff.  The hardest.

I had one of Katherine's friends over for a sleepover on Friday night, which meant sleepover dinner and breakfast.  We had some appointments for my charity commitment this morning, and we had gymnastics this afternoon (and in between Katherine's events, I read work documents).  After all that, grocery shopping (I aim for 1x/week) and then chores at home (finally brushed the dog, vacuumed, cleaned the bathrooms, etc.), and the hours had slipped away and the day was gone.

It's imperfect.  I have to squeeze in some hiking, some having dinner parties, some museums, some live music and (oh pleasepleaseplease) some travel.  As I type this, Katherine is downstairs watching some awful Disney TV (and loving it) and it's not the high quality interaction I aim for (perhaps we could watch "Cosmos" together instead, if we weren't gallivanting around the world?).

But it's all the right stuff anyway.  And tomorrow we'll do more fun stuff, in addition to a bit of yard work, because we're not so scheduled.  Maybe we'll go explore somewhere; maybe we'll go on an adventure.  Or maybe we'll just curl up and read together, and that would be okay, too.

I haven't got it figured out.  I don't have all of the answers, and my life is so far from perfect that it's laughable.

But steps are being made, and I like where I am.

This week, I feel much more like a grown up.  And, despite the responsibilities and the crinkly lines appearing by my eyes that signify my age if not my grown-up-ness....I'll take it.  I'll go so far to say that it suits me.

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