Just a little one, so no worries. No one has been physically harmed or irreparably damaged.
Yesterday Daddy-o jetted off for a week-long business trip. After Boopsie and I waved good-bye to his taxi, we finished getting ready and headed off to Miss A’s (her sweet new daycare… more on that later, though I know better than to think anyone’s been waiting on the edge of their seat for that!).
My first clue that things weren’t going to be easy were when Boopsie wouldn’t walk to the door. She wanted to be carried. When we walked inside, she immediately performed her trademark “spider monkey” move, grabbing on tight with both arms and squeezing around my torso with both legs. She also started crying…”No… nooo.”
I took a deep breath and started working with Miss A to get her engaged in one of her favorite activities, looking at a book. No dice. She got even more upset, and screamed in frustration and (what felt in the moment like) fear*. I gritted my teeth, told her I loved her and her grandparents would pick her up and peeled her off me. She cried, “No, Mama! No! Mama! Ma-maaaaaaa!”
It was a good thing I had my big girl undies on (and my big girl high heels). I wanted to pick her up and walk out for the day — leave day care and work behind. I wanted to enjoy a nice long time with her on a perfect summer day. But I had to work. I really did. I had meetings, and tasks waiting, and even an event to facilitate. So I left Boopsie wailing for me. And my heart broke a little.
There was something so plaintive and defeated in her small sentence: “No, Mama!” It cut me to the quick and I cried in my car on the way to work. And I thought about her all day long, even though I tried to follow the advice a female executive had shared with me before: Put your head and your heart where your feet are. That didn’t work yesterday. I literally counted down the hours until I could get back to Boopsie.
I stopped fooling myself a long time ago, even before I had a child. I don’t entertain any secret leadership ambition, despite the fact that I work at a giant company, have had quite a bit of success and could potentially parlay that success into “greater opportunity.” I don’t want opportunity that makes me travel a ton, or work more than I do. I don’t want the life of the women vice presidents I see around me — most work a LOT and either have a “house husband” who doesn’t work, a super full-time nanny (one was looking for recommendations for a nanny who could work a minimum of 60 hours per week), or no children. Yes, I think it sucks that this is the way our culture seems to work (literally and figuratively), but I’m also realistic. There are 24 precious hours in any given day and that’s not going to change any time soon. I’ve chosen to try to have a very good career, not a remarkable one.
Recently the VP of my area asked me what I wanted next from my career and I couldn’t tell her. Instead, told her what I value: autonomy, flexibility, a boss who understands that if I’m not well rounded I will go insane. A lot of people in the corporate culture where I work would probably think that makes me soft, and weak, and short-sighted. Some of those women VPs would say I’m selling myself short. I say it makes me focused. And clear-headed. And unafraid.
Even with my potentially Faustian bargain (time for my life at the cost of potentially chopping my career off at the knees), I still had to do the hard thing yesterday. And. it. hurt. I don’t think Boopsie was harmed by it. In fact, I’m quite confident she got over it faster than I did. But it hurt.
* Don’t call Child Protective Services. I don’t think she’s actually afraid, nor do I think she has any reason to be. And drop off today was much better.