By Caty Borum Chattoo
The new art on my fridge is textbook child psychology material.
My three-year-old son’s latest masterpiece: A picture of a giant smiling head holding hands with two smaller smiling heads-with-legs…and one additional smiling head (with impressively-obvious lipstick-wearing lips) floating above the scene.
“Look, Mommy, that’s Daddy holding hands with me and Simone [his sister]. And that’s you, floating up over the air because you are always flying away for work!”
Yeah, I travel here and there for work. Yeah, I work full-time in addition to being a mom. But this is not a rant about maternal guilt. Let’s face it, guilt and worry come with the mothering gig, no matter what your status – full-time working mom, part-time working mom, stay-at-home mom or whatever. No, this is a look at reality. From college to graduate school to a dizzyingly busy career path across two coasts, it’s been a wild ride. And to be truthful, I’m not sure I ever had a serious moment when I thought about stepping off the ride and taking a break (well, maybe just a few serious moments, but then I remembered our student loan debt and the thought bubble was over).
Has becoming a mom of two kids changed my professional life and aspirations? Sure. Am I the same person I was pre-kids? Somewhere between the sleep deprivation, the joy of the toddling and the sudden realization that some of my colleagues were born when I was rocking out to mid-80s Madonna, I forgot to worry about it. But those questions are secondary to this one: Am I happy about my decisions? Yes. I am a mom, a professional, a busy multi-tasker, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Is it hard sometimes? Sure.
Here’s how I look at it: My kids are getting exactly who and what I am. I had an imaginary company at four and a job since I was 16, always coming up with a new project or activity. Now my professional fantasies include flex-time vs. exotic travel, excellent health care vs. fun happy hours – but that doesn’t mean I’m less ambitious or less frenetic or less, well, me, than I was before my mommy status.
And yep, my life is a lot busier now, but that pales in comparison to the gains in my life since becoming a mom: I am more empathetic (dealing with a two-year-old’s hurt feelings is a lesson in problem solving), more able to place things in perspective (aggressive work deadlines have nothing on handling a tantrum in a nice restaurant), more accepting of my body (I grew two actual humans!), and less fixated on the little things (what working mom has time to accessorize, really?). I appreciate the “It takes a village” adage in a totally different way – Hillary Clinton had it right. My village includes my kids’ teachers, my other mom friends (definitely parenting by committee), and my remarkable husband, who would definitely make the better stay-at-home parent of the two of us. I really don’t do it all alone, and that’s a key realization for a type-A type like me.
Back to the scene at my house, cuddling at the end of the day with my kids: “Oh, Mommy, I have 150 love songs in my heart for you,” says my sleepy little son as he falls asleep on my shoulder.
And it’s in moments like these that I know my children will not know or see all of the little and big moments of juggling a busy life in the way that we/the culture might frame them (“Can women do it all?”, “Should women do it all?”, “Is it good for the kids?”). They will just see their mom, exactly as she is.
These are the biggest moments. The ones when I know I’m doing OK.
Caty Borum Chattoo is a senior vice president at a global communications agency and an adjunct professor at a university in Washington, D.C. She lives with her three-year-old son, two-year-old daughter, and very helpful husband. Everything posted on this blog is her personal opinion and does not necessarily represent the views of her employer or its clients.