Lean In, Opt Out, What the F*ck?
Our kids’ issues can start to take over our lives.
They can be so all-encompassing that you can lose your connection to non-issues life .... which often means, you can lose your identity and your individuality. Sometimes (Sometimes? How about every day?) it can feel like you’re losing your brain or your mind.
And sometimes ... it’s just not that good to be so focused on one child in particular. It’s not good for the kid, it’s not good for the siblings, and it’s not good for you.
Because of all of these things (here’s another hard part to write) – I was not the cheeriest, most involved mom to all my kids. I was so overwhelmed so much of the time, that often I was just trying to get by, day by day.
Maybe if I hadn’t lost so much of myself, I would have been a happier individual, and therefore a better mother? I’ll never know. But I do wonder.
Ultimately, I did “lean back in,” in a modified way. I realized that having my “issues kid” become my full-time job was not healthy either for him or for me. So I started a new career (teaching) that, in addition to being personally and professional fulfilling, would allow me to always be around when my kids were home – after school, summer vacations, winter and spring breaks, etc. It didn’t pay well, and there were many frustrations (and even though I was “home” at certain hours, I certainly wasn’t 100% available, due to the 24/7 nature of what teaching really is).
I made some subsequent career choices, too, that all revolved around being available for people who needed me, but that also meant much lower pay and narrowed career opportunities. Exactly the opposite of what Sheryl Sandberg writes. And the result – well part of me still says, “Lady, you have NO F*CKING idea” ... and the other part says .... “She’s right.”
Because .......... and this the one that is the absolute hardest part to write .......
If you have a kid with issues .... and again, this is hard to say, but I’m going to say it .... chances are, your marriage may really take a hit. There's a lot more stress, and a lot less time as a couple. Some marriages pull together and get stronger under stress, but others do suffer. And that could mean that at some point in the future, you may need a full time job. One that pays well. One that secures your own future. And guess what -- your Opting Out means that you have cut those possibilities, and your income-earning potential, to a fraction of what they would have been if you had stayed involved in the workforce some way. (In fact, the New York Times magazine article addresses this very issue.)
But ... again .... especially if you have a kid with issues .............. could you have done it any other way? Would you have?
One last thing – no matter what you choose .... leaning in, opting out, combining the two, etc. ...... someone will judge you negatively for it. That’s a given. (Welcome to motherhood .... :-) )
That’s a lot of rambling for one blog post ....
As I said, I don’t have any of the answers .... I’m still living with the questions ... and with the repercussions, both good and bad, of all of the “Opting” and “Leaning” that I’ve lived so far .... while I figure out where the next phase of my life will lead.
I do know that I did the best I could at the time, and that I’m glad I am who I am today because of it all.