By: Amber Leventry
I am sitting in the lobby of a ballet studio as my four year old daughter takes her weekly lesson. My partner and I alternate weeks when taking her so we each have a turn at 45 minutes of kid-free time. Forty-five minutes, every other week. When you become a parent, time changes; it becomes more than a system used to maintain a daily schedule. It becomes an entity, something almost tangible, and something to crave. Time without the kids becomes space to breathe, hide, and feel accomplished. And now that I am a parent, the question that was asked of me so many years ago—the one we should probably stop asking our own children—has changed too. What do I want to be when I grow up has turned into what can I be today? What can I be in this moment?
I recently closed the cleaning business I had been running for eight years in order to become a full-time stay at home mom for two of my three children. When our twin boys were born, I cut my business in half and my partner and I hired a nanny to care for our boys. Our oldest is in preschool, and, until she starts kindergarten, we cannot afford to have our now 21 month old boys in daycare too. Our nanny took on extra hours so I could focus on writing assignments too. But even a part-time nanny wasn’t making financial sense.
My role is now full-time stay at home mom, and most of my time is spent with my boys. I am struggling to embrace this new role. So much of our identity is in the work we do and in the time spent doing what we love. Stripping away the business owner layer of my identity, one that included working outside of the home, has left me with little to call my own. I love my life. I love my family, but being just a mama to my kids is not fulfilling. It’s not enough.
Yes, the monotony of the day, the few interactions with other adults, and the mind-numbing toddler behavior is plenty to drive me crazy, but the most challenging thing about caring for two of my three kids, the housework, and a dog is that I am caring for myself less. The energy needed to do this new job day in and day out is taking energy away from other parts of my life.
And I am desperately trying to hang onto a very important and growing part of my identity. I am trying to maintain my work as a writer. Sustaining a career while being a parent is hard. Sustaining a career at home while taking care of two little kids is even harder. My writing hours are very early in the morning or late at night, times when the house is dark and sleepy and when it is challenging to create energy that produces creativity. It is difficult to focus and clear my mind during these hours. And if there are short windows throughout the day when I try to sneak in 30 minutes of work while the boys are awake, I don’t feel like I am doing anything well.
But because I know this period of time when my boys are young is short, and I know that my role will change again when the boys head off to preschool, I am trying to cling onto something each moment. I am clinging onto the fun times with my guys and trying to let go of the moments that are not. I’m not putting pressure on myself to embrace every moment, because a lot of them are not worth holding onto.
And I am trying to be okay with unfinished writing projects, unexplored opportunities, and what feels like a career on hold. My only hope is to provide quality work while being a quality parent. I want to be really good at both. I know I can have it all—I do have it all, just not all at the same time. What I wanted to be when I grew up is not one thing. And it’s not achieved every day.
The best I can hope for each day and each moment is to ask myself, what can I be right now?
Right now I am writer. Soon I will be a mom at the grocery store with a four year old. All day long I will be mom, chef, and referee. And tonight is one of the rare nights I will be my partner’s date while we sneak away from the kids.
My life is full, but being a full-time mother is not fulfilling, nor is being full-time at any other piece of my identity. I want to be everything. What can I be today? What can I let go of and hold onto moment to moment?