I’ve been caught in a recurring cloud this week even though the sky has been essentially spotless. It’s been one of those weeks where I find myself spinning around to grab the cup of milk or the steering wheel, muttering, “What am I doing?”

I am back perseverating on how to do this right. Life, I mean.

The issue of balance between work and parenting while trying to contribute to the world and use my skills (read: loaded issue) bubbles up at times. I never quite know what will trip me up, triggering a re-evaluation. But it comes up. Quarterly, let’s say, like state taxes…

There are days I am astonished by my opportunities and the children I get to take care of. And days where I am so delighted by my kids, I cry when I leave for work. And days I question if I have the stamina to endure. Last night by the end of clinic, I was so tired and my eyes so bloodshot (no idea why), that my medical assistant took my temperature. It was normal. But, point is, it happens; I do get really tired.

The real trouble is this: I liked my day in clinic yesterday and the things I discovered: the broken bone I found in a 2 week old, the teenager I helped with depression, the 20+ check ups I completed. But tired and missing my boys, yes. See, this would be far easier if I was only pulled in one direction. It’s not how it works for me; I have tugs on each limb.

The endless tug-o-war between arguments for those that stay at home and those that work while raising kids, goes on and on in my head. Specifically though, the retreat back to this issue of balance between work and home–and my current decision to work (a lot)–was spawned by 4 things:

  • A blog post I read, now 2 months ago, has lingered. The post really was about how we all come to our own decisions. Yet the message on Twitter that led me to it said, “Family comes first for some who have finished residency.” The post details how some docs choose to stay home with their children, even after completing rigorous training. The post wasn’t written by the OB/GYN who decided to stay home with her children, rather it was written by a working colleague. I read it just before I headed out for one of my long clinic days where I work well past 8pm. It ruined my day. And I’ve been thinking of it since. My rebuttal, now months and many moons later, would be entitled, “Family comes first for some who have finished residency,” except it would describe what I do, too. See, my family does come first even when I’m at work. (I can get a little feisty)
  • Recently, I talked with a friend who is now a stay at home mom. After a whole conversation where my work didn’t come up as we chatted about our kids she asked, “Are you and Jonathan okay?” The tone of the question seemed to imply pity for my circumstance of working while raising our boys. I was taken back. See, we were, we are, we will be okay. We exceed okay. We’re ecstatic about our lives and opportunity. The question, gowned in judgment, made my heart hurt and made me question, yet again. Although pity is possibly not what she implied, it’s how I took it and how I remember it. And its lingered.
  • For the last 2 weeks, while I am writing and working in my office (at home), I’ve been overhearing O downstairs playing. He’s 20 months and his language is launching, rocket style. In tough moments (you know, like wanting a toy) he’s been instantly calling out, “Mommy!” It takes a lot in me not to go running…
  • While on vacation earlier in July, we saw an old family friend. She asked about work–my practice, writing and blogging, etc. I told her how much I was working, quantifying it in hours. Her response, “Does that leave you any time to parent?” Of course it does. It just doesn’t leave me time to sleep. Her comment pierced me. And it lingers.

So I’ve been stuck in this confusing cloud. But today, for the first time in weeks, I got a refreshing new perspective.

It was O’s well child check up this AM. I took the morning off (minus a 7am interview) and spent it with the boys.  I did mom type things, a trip to F’s school, a stop at the park, got the car washed, and went to the grocery. Then O and I sailed into the pediatric clinic for his check up.

O’s pediatrician did his check-up. Then she asked how I was. I launched into the aforementioned topic. I was describing how many people over the last 6 months have warned me. They say things like, “Your boys will only be young once” or “Your boys want you around now but won’t want you around later.” I explained to her how it has me all caught up and spider-webbed. That the comments and quandary have been angst inducing and guilt-inspiring. And how I am always chewing on the fact that no one says this to the husband.

But then, just as I was tearing up and re-entering the cloud, a sunbeam shot through. O’s pediatrician (a mom of three) said, “Oh no, that’s not true. Your boys will always want you around, when they are teenagers and grown-ups, too.” She went on to explain her specifics and rationale. Her experience and her success. And her regrets.

All the sudden the cloud was gone. I was affirmed and understood again. And appreciative she made the decision to go to work.

So I’m off the tug-o-war for a bit. Hope you are, too. See you next quarter…