Bringing home the bacon

August 23, 2013

blog_stephanie_wagnerThe Kitchen Sink. A blog by Stephanie Wagner. 

I can honestly say I love my children more than life itself.  I would also be lying if I told you I wasn’t looking forward to school starting in a couple of weeks.

I recently had a conversation with someone, who when they found out I worked from home, spent the next ten minutes extolling the virtues of a home office.  And I agree – nine months of the year at least. 

When my husband and I began the conversation about what our life would look like with children, there was always the assumption I would be primary at home.  When he went back to get his Master’s degree, I was already stepping back to prepare for the role of motherhood.  I quit working full time with our first child, and have been frantically trying to find the sweet spot between family and career ever since.

Sometimes I am a little bitter that I was raised in the era of “supermom”.  The role models of the 80s held up their executive careers on their padded shoulders, children balanced on their slim hips, without a hair on their over-sprayed heads out of place.  They truly did bring home the bacon, cook it into their mother-in-law’s secret recipe, and present it to their husbands on a platter of thinly veiled sexiness.

No one ever talked about the sacrifices that were made, or the constant feeling of inadequacy that comes from the never-ending struggle to “have it all”.  I know I felt guilty stepping back from work – like I was letting down activists who had fought so hard for equality, wasting the college degree I hadn’t even paid off yet, and somehow failing at what so many others made look easy. 

Twelve years later, I am still trying to figure it out.  And at least now I know I am not alone.  It is rare that I talk to a mom who isn’t facing an internal battle of whether she is doing the right thing – working moms wonder if they are doing a disservice to their families, stay at home moms worry that they are losing themselves in the monotony of home management.

I know that my husband faces the same battle.  He has a demanding job that requires him to travel, and there is constant pressure for him to work harder, which means he misses a lot of field trips. The choice we made for me to step back means that he has to carry the financial burden for the family. Last month, he accepted a new position that will require even more travel and focus.  

We are still trying to figure out whether I will be able to continue working.  Countless people assume that I will not.  There is still a prevalent and outdated assumption that women work because they “have” to. The truth is, I work because I like to.

Fortunately, technology has allowed me to be in a virtual office space no matter where I am physically located.  I have had a home office that consists of a cell phone and my laptop for the past 4 years.

The problem is that I am never really unplugged from home or work this way. 

I have worked through doctor’s appointments and haircuts, while folding laundry and emptying the dishwasher, on sick days and snow days and summer vacations.  I have worked from my home office, my bed, and the beach. A couple of months ago, I had a multitasking extreme moment when I realized that I was on a call analyzing complicated data while wiping poop off a toilet seat that I haven’t used more than twice since we moved into our house 8 years ago because no one would go in there until I did.  

For the most part, I love my work.  All the time, I love my family.  I know that for us, this is the only way I am going to get both and so I work through the taunts of a full laundry basket, arguing children, and looming deadlines. 

And I wish – just a little – for the silence of the first day of school.

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