I have been feeling really sad and stressed lately. Even though there are a lot of issues that are beyond my control, like people's personalities, I am really humiliated and embarrassed with how things have been playing out at work. My one supervisor is just very hard to work with and all my confidence is slipping away from me. My fear of fucking up and disappointing her manifests itself in knots in my back, tension in my neck, and an upset stomach.
A few weeks ago, I was approached by HR about going part time and just working with the supervisor with whom I have less drama. The HR person strongly encouraged me to take the option and said that I would have the best chance of success. From a mental standpoint, it would be nice to not feel stressed and cry every week at work. Financially, it would be challenging. I decided to take it because I imagine that it would be worse to get to the end of the probation period and not have a job at all rather than just having something part time.
From reading a lot about different types of work schedules, I know that it can be challenging to get promoted, integrating into a work team, and giving opportunities to grow as a part time employee. I also worry that I am starting to take (more) steps away from career progression. I want a career, not just a job. When I thought about my professional future, I imagined having a position that was both personally satisfying and financially stable.
I also want to be a good partner and a good parent. Being stressed, tense, and exhausted to the point where I am cranky with the Little One and sad with partner is not good for anyone's quality of life. I am glad that I will be home with the Little One two days a week. Although, I am nervous about upsetting her routine and being as awesome at keeping her entertained as the day care providers. Any stay at home parents have ideas for keeping toddlers occupied and happy?
While the decrease in hours creates a bit of financial stress, the potential for quality of life improvement is tremendous. I am looking forward to trying another way to have career, partnership, and parenthood with room for things like sleep, time to cultivate other relationships, and energy to prepare yummy healthy food for my family.
Thank you for all the kind and supportive words over the few weeks.
A few weeks ago, I was hit with an intense sensory memory of crying in a bathroom stall in elementary school because the other kids made fun of me and would not play with me. I do not remember many details except that I felt so lonely and wanted to fit in so badly; I also wanted to go home. A few other things came back to me with surprising force. I used to spend most of the morning strategizing who I would sit with at lunch and who I would play with at recess; I also tried to come up with multiple options so that I was not left by myself. Confession: sometimes I was purposely late, so that I would get detention and have to spend recess inside. Another Confession: sometimes, I faked a stomach ache so that I could see the nurse during recess or lunch.
All of these memories came back to me as I was crying in the bathroom stall at work and was struck with how quickly we all go back to being little children trying to figure out how the world works and our place in it. I had a rough meeting with my supervisors which startled me. My probation period got extended which means that in January we will have another formal evaluation and, if I have not improved to their satisfaction, I will be let go. In addition to being surprised, I was horrified and embarrassed. I wondered how I could have missed something so fundamental in my combined three hours of meetings with them weekly. On the list I of things for which I was wishing was an office with the door and a desire to not be seen or heard by my coworkers. Another flashback to my parents advice that people should not see you upset because it will only fuel their bad behavior.
I also could not call Partner because he was teaching and could not be reached. The loneliness and desire to go home hit so hard. I thought about the Little One and started crying harder because I worried about jeopardizing our economic future. I also thought of how much I miss her, how hard it is to leave her every day, how tough it is to be present with her for the time we have together when I am worried about work. For the first few months, I felt energized by this work and felt that it enhanced the time with her. (Not always, but most of the time).
Since that day, I have been doing more work from home as I am not concentrating well at the office. We have a plan in place for things to do and I am nervous about how they will be accomplished. I have tried to communicate the need for better communication with my supervisors and we are committed to making that happen. I am learning more about how I want a job that makes me better or at least does not take away from my energy and sense of worth in other aspects of my life.
Most of all, I have been thinking about my daughter. When I asked my parents for help as a little girl, I was frustrated by their response. On the other side of the parent child relationship, I know they must have felt upset. Some of the mocking from my classmates came from the fact that my father wore a turban and my mom wore Indian suits. My parents came in to give presentations and taught me to do the same. Every morning when my mom did my hair, she and I would count all the friends I have; the list included a lot of family, some of her coworkers, and neighborhood kids who did not go to my school. Even though that conversation did not change much of the reality at school, I left home feeling well liked and surrounded by a posse who loved me.
One nice thing about getting older is that our responses do not have to be so polite. After crying and getting mad at work, I immediately called and emailed my mother. She gave me solid advice. It felt really good to be able to say, "It is such bullshit Mom!" and have her agree and not scold me for my bad language. Plus, her advice was spot on and has made things better.
I hope the Little One will not cry in bathrooms. I hope that she never experiences the shame and isolation of being picked on or shunned for being different. Most of all, though, I hope that if tough things happen to her, I will be on her call list and can help her find ways to kick ass.
Dear Little One:
I have been thinking about what to write at this milestone for quite some time. All I return to is an image of you filled with joy and what I want more than anything is for you to always have this happiness.
When I see you in action, I feel like I am watching a really good movie that I never want to finish; a movie I know will be my favorite even as I am not sure what will come next or in the midst of some madness I am not sure how I will get through. The soundtrack to this time in our lives is the patter of your feet running across the floor, accompanied by your laugh, and the sound of your voice singing songs and pointing things out to us. You are so affectionate and sweet-- you give hugs and kisses with great enthusiasm and tenderness. You love to point animals out in books and tell us the sound they make. All your energy and confidence come out in great force when you are upset at not getting something you want or are frustrated that we cannot understand you. We laugh so hard when you tell us that you are "being shy" while yelling or laughing hysterically. Your sense of humor is also blossoming. You do something silly and then tell us you are funny with a huge grin.
Since I started working full time outside the home, I have been thinking about chapter titles for this new phase in our lives. The best I could come up with is: A Tale of Two Parents Who Work Outside the Home and the Daughter They Love, Miss, and Try Their Best to do Right By. << I feel like it is descriptive, but too long to be marketable. Plus, how can a title that ends with a preposition be taken seriously? Someday, I imagine that you will learn rules of grammar and worry constantly that everything you write will be labeled as WRONG!
Since becoming your mom, I am not certain about much. However, one thing I know for sure is that I want to create a happy home for you and a childhood that is filled with memories that make you smile and feel warm. Part of a happy home is the people who are in it. Even as I question (almost constantly) whether I am enough... either as your parent, as your dad's partner, as an employee.. I do not waiver in the importance of modeling self-care for you. I am constantly figuring out what that looks like or means. For now, I know that it means cultivating parts of my identity that are beyond parent and partner. Some of that is doing work that inspires and energizes me, other parts are reading, blogging, having adult interactions outside of my job, and maintaining friendships. I struggle to make space for all of these things at once. Often, I feel like a mis-dressed bad juggler, but most of the time I am laughing.
These last few months have also reminded me of the importance of letting go of rigid ideas of what it looks like to be part of a happy family, a healthy marriage, and a warm home. I know I want laughter and joy in all those areas. I had some firm ideas of what I needed to do to make those things happen. What I discovered is that in order to turn these ideals I hold so dear into reality, I need to loosen my grip just a little. Letting go of the desire to have neat compartments--yes, I do work at home and yes, I think about non-work things at the office. Yes, your dad and I talk about you on our dates. When I am doing "me" activities, parenthood, partnership, and career come up in conversation. The lines are blurry and messy, but much like your art smart creations, the chaos is reflective of passion, happiness, and fun.
As we were falling asleep on your birthday, I told your dad that one thing which has remained constant over the last two years is that I am overwhelmed, exhausted, and incredibly happy. We hugged each other and cheered.
Thank you for another amazing year.
P.S.--- I read last year's letter to get some inspiration and started crying.