“Mommy, did you choose your job?”, my small girl asked curiously.
A slight smile threatened to sneak across my face as I straightened my spine and took a deep breath imagining the beauty of the mother-daughter conversation that was to come. The light in my eyes must have reflected my enthusiasm, my joy that she had NOTICED that I was choosing to do a job I love every day.
“Why yes, baby girl, I most certainly DID choose my job, ” I replied with more than a little pride, anticipating the slew of ‘how, why and can I do it, too?’ that was certain to follow.
She tilted her head, her ringlets bobbing with the movement, her deep chocolate eyes gazing steadily at me for a solid twenty seconds. And then she spoke again.
“Then why in the world would you ever choose a job that takes you away from me so much?”
The light disappeared from my eyes. The air disappeared from the room. Tears threatened to fall. I like to joke to other mothers that I needed to take a moment to remove the guilt-shaped knife from my back, but the reality is, my small girl missed me when I was gone and she blamed ME for being the one to pull ME away.
Yes, I travel. At this time in my life, I had just returned from a six-week book tour, coming home only a few days at a time. This wasn’t the norm, but, as a child, she couldn’t figure out if we were settling in to a new normal.
Clearly, she deserved an answer.
I pulled her in to my lap and tipped that sweet freckled face upwards until our eyes met.
And then I told her a story.
“Punky, during an interview just last week when I was on book tour, I was asked what I want my kids to say about me at the end of the day. You know what I want you to say when you are all grown up? MY MOM DID BOTH. She was a present mother – she was there most nights to tuck us in and say prayers, to make dinner, to be here when we got home from school and she was at nearly every baseball, softball and basketball game – but she never stopped being who SHE wanted to be when she grew up. You see, little one, I want you to see the time I am here with you and the work that I do and love and know that someday you can do the same.”
I want her and my son to know that choosing a partner in life doesn’t have to mean giving up on being you. It isn’t easy. There is no such thing as balance, but it is possible to be a good mother and to CHOOSE your job – one you love.
I could see her tiny wheels turning.
I could see a calm coming over her.
I could see her picturing a bigger version of herself doing BOTH.
The smile and the hug that followed assured me, that despite ‘choosing a job that takes me away’ sometimes, it is ok for my small girl to miss me. It is ok for her to know that it isn’t always easy, but that being an example to her matters to me. It is ok for her to see the imbalance in motherhood and love and work and know that the puzzle can still fit together beautifully.
And it is definitely ok for me to miss her right back when I’m in the midst of doing this crazy, amazing job I chose.