I am pretty sure that if you had asked someone to describe me ten or fifteen years ago that “ambitious” and “driven” would have topped my list of descriptors.
In a little over a month I will start working (unpaid) at a hospital two days a week doing clinical rotations as part of the process of becoming an “international board certified lactation consultant (IBCLC). I am looking forward to the clinicals; I have no doubt that they will be interesting and enjoyable. Along with the clinicals I will be taking classes. The coursework and clinicals together will make me eligible to take the IBCLC exam in July of 2015 (it is only offered once a year). Although the exam has a reputation for being challenging, I expect to pass and begin working as an IBCLC, either in private practice or in a hospital or pediatric practice shortly thereafter. I am going to be a great IBCLC; after my children I probably talk more about human lactation than any other subject. Husband probably knows a hell of a lot more about breasts and how they work than most women or doctors. He is a very good sport about my daily breastfeeding rants.
But despite my obvious interest, I have been mulling over the idea putting off the lactation training for a year and spending the next year as a stay at home mom again. Even though I am absolutely sure want a career beyond my children at some point, I am finding it hard to muster the kind of passionate, driven ambition towards my new endeavors that used to be a hallmark of my personality. I mostly blame the children for this. I just can’t imagine ever having anywhere near the same level of passion for a career – even a career that I know I will enjoy and be good at – as I do for them. I suppose that’s normal, but I am a very all or nothing kind of girl and because of that I wonder if I am making the right choice for now. Seven and half years into this parenting gig and it is pretty clear to me that I love the baby and toddler phase of parenting. Maybe I should stay home one more year and eek out the last bits of Baby’s babyness with her? Until recently I felt an imperative to go back to work as soon as possible. We couldn’t live on Husband’s salary alone. Several weeks ago he negotiated a fantastic and well deserved raise at work and now I don’t have to go back to work in the same way that thought I would have to a few months ago. Sure, we still can’t get out of our two bedroom house, but other than being a bit tight on space (by American standards) out life is pretty close to perfect. I realize how very fortunate we are and that this is a very first world problem to have but I can’t help but feel a bit unmoored as to what I want to do next year.
Next month, Baby is scheduled to start back at daycare three days a week. I am not worried about her. She will arguably be attending the best preschool in town, very developmentally appropriate, with the lowest student to teacher ratio I have ever come across. When we drop Middle off at school (the same school that Baby will attend), Baby sometimes cries because she’s not staying. She is ready. I am not sure that I am.
I have been doing some pro-bono (volunteer) breastfeeding related policy work lately and I enjoy it. It’s great to occasionally put my high heels and go talk about breastfeeding statistics and how we, as a society, can better support maternal and child health. I do think that what we are doing is making a difference in the lives of women and children. I have a PowerPoint presentation to prepare for a couple of events I am speaking at next week. I am surprised that I am not up late working on it, far in advance. Instead I am talking long walks with Baby, painting a bathroom, and organizing my house. I will get the presentation done and I will do a good job of it; no worries there, but I am definitely not throwing myself into it like I might have a decade ago. Is it simply that I am older and more relaxed about life in general? Is it because I am never going to find anything that I care about as much as spending time with my kids? Is it because my children are still relatively young and I am just not ready yet? Is it because my previous career – that I devoted untold hours of effort and travel and late nights to – ended so spectacularly badly? Am I afraid to try hard again and perhaps fail? Have I lost my edge and if so how do I (and do I even want to) get it back?
I keep coming back to the incontrovertible fact that despite my intense passion for my kids and my somewhat lackluster passion for career ambitions at the moment, those kids are only going to get older. I don’t want to hover over them as they grow up, volunteering for every school function, and being just “Older/Middle/Baby’s Mom” – no matter how good I am at it. I could wait to do anything career-wise until Baby goes to kindergarten, but the idea of being forty years old with kids in school full time and no career to speak of is utterly depressing. They are, as they should, growing up and moving on. I suppose I need to move on too.