…’cause you know where you’ve been.
I just read the Time magazine article on Sheryl Sandberg, “Don’t Hate Her Because She’s Successful.” Had that article been published a year ago, I would have needed extenstive therapy. (Not my typical “free” therapy. My friend has an excellent therapist, so I often pepper her with questions to ask the therapist, then she relays the answers back to me. So much more cost effective.) But bonified, actual, real life in-person therapy…..and probably a script for anxiety meds. I would have felt inadequate as a woman. That I couldn’t be more like Sheryl Sandberg. I never dreamed that at almost-36 I would be more stay-at-home-mom than working-mom. But, I have become an older and wiser person.
A year ago, we were taking a family hike at Oakbourne Park. My sister-in-law, Sharon, was visting. At that point, my youngest had just turned 1, and I was itching to jump back into my old career head first, or start a new one. I told her I was going to put The Nosy Meap and The Middle in daycare, and The Oldest would be fine because he’d be in school all day. She looked at me and asked me how old I was. I responded “35”. She then asked me how old I would be when The Nosy Meap headed off to Kindergarten. “39”, I responded. She then asked me to do the math. 65 minus 39= 26. I could have a successful 26 year career and never regret not volunteering for circle time when The Middle Child was star of the day. That I could spend a few more years doing Cafeteria Duty at my childrens’ elementary school (if you haven’t tried it, I highly encourage spending an hour of your time volunteering to monitor the cafeteria. Com. Plete. Entertainment.) And that I could take my daughter for her first swimming lesson, not cede that honor to my babysitter.
Sharon’s children are grown now, and she has enjoyed a successful career as a logistics expert for an international pharmaceutical company. She had started her career fresh out of college, rose quickly in the ranks, but took a break to have kids and stayed home until her youngest headed off to Kindergarten. She offered the simple advice that so many others have: to be patient, enjoy my children. My time will come once again.
But will it? It was a little hard for me to read the article on Sandberg. She “stayed in the game” where as I have been keeping the bench warm for quite awile. Did I have a successful, if short lived career? I think so. I didn’t just have a job, I earned a living. When I met my husband, I made more money than he did. In fact, I made a lot more money for a few years. I paid a fair share of our bills and funded my sons’ Florida Pre-paid college plans. Even after I had my second son, I was still earning a decent living. But it came at a high price. I am so thankful that my sons were young enough to not remember their mother’s stress level and her inability to manage her job and taking care of her children.
Although these days I don’t think I could pay our propane bill, I have to believe that when the time is right, I will hopefully be able to set an example for my children that their mother contributed – that she “leaned in”.
Yet last Thursday, during music class, The Oldest was allowed to sing any song of his choosing. He chose the song, “Let Your Troubles Roll By” by one of my husband and my favorite bands, Carbon Leaf. I am alway struck by one of the lyrics toward the end of the song: “You’ve come far, although you’re far from the end. You don’t mind where you are, because you know where you’ve been.” The best part of this story is that the week before, my husband and I took The Oldest on a date to see Carbon Leaf. It was St. Patrick’s weekend, and he donned his horned Ireland hat. He then took a piece of my dusty printer paper and wrote “Let Your Trouble’s Roll By”. We got to the concert early enough that he was right up front. During the whole concert, his bouncy 7 year old self belted out songs, drank the often discussed, seldom tasted Coca-Cola, danced like his Mama’s kid…and during the encore, got pulled upstage. That was my lean-in moment…..because I know where I’ve been….