Welcome to the first post in a new series called Moms to Marvel. I’m inviting guest moms from all over to share their experience related to working and motherhood. Going back to work initially felt soul crushing to me– and yet now it’s surprisingly hard for me to imagine life without it…for now, anyway. Every mom inevitably makes some choice around this topic, and I am so excited to have other moms share about their journeys! Do you have a story? Contact me!
I have never been a baby hungry person. Ever. Probably because I’m a little selfish. Probably, as my sister pointed out once, because I’m the youngest of 5 kids: I was never around little children (particularly babies). I was always chasing my older siblings, trying to be more grown up. And I especially disliked babysitting.
My childhood best friend, Jesse, and I have known each other since kindergarten-ish. She was the opposite of me when it came to children: she was great with kids, the favorite babysitter in the neighborhood, and knew that she would be a mother someday.
Jesse and I grew up with very different interests and friends, and for many years our journey’s only intersected a few times, but our roots were strong and we had one of those rare relationships that could marinate for a year or two without much contact, and still be perfect once picked up again.
After college we started connecting a little more often. She called me one day out of the blue: I was living in San Francisco, and she was visiting a boy in Mexico– “Marth,” she says, “I’m getting married”. A year later she and her husband stopped in SF over New Years on their way back to Mexico with their first born baby, only a couple months old. During this visit she exposed me to motherhood and how it changed- and didn’t change- her. She made it look so effortless, and she was still herself, just with a magical new layer of motherhood on top. She probably doesn’t know it, but this and the other visits I had with her family really gave me the confidence that I too could become a mother and hold on to parts of my identity that I felt the world told me I couldn’t keep very easily: my love of travel, urban living, exploration, and of course, my career.
But enough about me. Meet Jesse:
Martha once dubbed me as her ‘momtor’, a clever take on mentor. Even though she has known me for about 25 years, I’m pretty proud that I have her fooled into thinking my stories and advice are worth listening to.
This is the story of me and my waffling feelings of being a stay at home mom a working mom.
I have been married to Eric for five and a half years and together we have two kids. Six years ago I never would have imaged any part of that last sentence could be true. I met Eric in his last semester of undergrad and my second to last semester. When we met that August, he knew he would be moving out of the country for medical school and my plan was to move to New York City or Los Angeles after graduating, ideally for a job in the music industry. Marriage and children were nowhere in sight. Yet after a long-distance friendship and a 3-week fling on his summer break, I moved to Guadalajara, Mexico where he had begun school. We were married and then pregnant by the end of 2009. I felt like the luckiest woman in the world. I still feel that way, though it wasn’t until about a year ago that I realized that my professional plans had been up-ended by my whirlwind family.
I had always thought I would be a stay at home mother. I grew up with my mother at home with me and my siblings. Through elementary school she had been quite involved in volunteer work, especially teaching music history and music theory in my classrooms. I grew up singing to her guitar playing, and in all reality, it was quite a charmed childhood. She was a fantastic example of keeping her own identity while being a stay at home mother. When I was in high school she returned to the university to get a second bachelor’s degree (she decided that her first one wasn’t something she cared about and had always wondered why she didn’t pursue music in the first place). And you know, now that I’m typing this I’m remembering that she did take a paying job for a couple of years. She took a position at an elementary school as a music teacher in an effort to save the money to buy her first grand piano. She truly made staying at home look easy. I never heard her talk about any feelings of missing a career, of needing a break from regular home life. She is a smart, loving, talented woman who has taken her time to refine her talents and passions.
I sure wish I were more like her.
I stayed at home after my son was born, and I did this happily. He was born about a year after I had moved to Guadalajara. Moving to a new country just after graduating really derailed my career path, but I was a young newly-wed who really hadn’t thought much about what my next steps would be, I only knew I wanted to be with Eric. I was pregnant within the first 3 months of being married, so that only further put off a career plan because learning the language to get a real job just wasn’t realistic when I knew I was going to stay home with my baby in only 9 months. And again, I was okay with this because I was in a new city with so much to do and see.
Eric was quite busy and gone a lot with school, and loneliness did start to sink in about 2 months after moving there. We bought a piano and I picked up about 5 piano students and I also found an English school a few blocks from our apartment and applied for a job. I immediately was hired to teach about 6 hours of classes per week to both children and women. Some of those women grew to become my best friends in the city, one of whom I still consider a good friend. I taught these classes up until my son, Israel, was born and took a month off, and went right back to it. The women in my class insisted on having Izzy in the class with us, so one of the major obstacles of being a working mother was eliminated.
My time in Guadalajara was quite charmed. Everything came easily (except Spanish) and my circumstance had inadvertently had me put off a realistic career for those 3 years. Work in Guadalajara was more of a social necessity than anything else. It was enough to keep me busy and it paid for our groceries, more or less.
In January 2012 we moved from Guadalajara, to Brooklyn, New York. I had my daughter Stella via C-Section just 3 weeks after we moved. (I had a visit from Martha about a week before Stella was born. She stayed with us all day on a Saturday, but we only got off of the sofas once to get donuts from the famous Dough bakery around the corner.)
I was suddenly a mother of two in a small city apartment thousands of miles away from family, and Eric was gone so often due to school. We spent our days at the libraries, parks and museums. Oh, what a place to be when you have nothing to do but wander around a beautiful city entertaining a newborn and a two year old. I met so many great people- so many smart, talented and creative people. It was definitely during my time in NYC that I began to feel the pull of a career. That city has so much going on, and I felt like I wanted to be a part of it. And I’d be lying if I didn’t say that wanting to just get out of the house and use my brain in a new way wasn’t a huge part of the equation. During the days with my kids, sometimes I felt like the only part of me that was really being challenged was my patience. I mean, I just don’t think mothers are made like they used to because I didn’t feel like I was cut out to be a full-time stay at home mom.
Yet, our circumstances were a little up in the air; we knew we would be living in the city for only a few more months, so that deterred me from getting a job. Though what really stopped me from seriously looking was when I looked into the cost of child care in the city. That alone was enough to end the conversation.
We now live in Phoenix where Eric is doing his residency. We’ll be here for three years, so living here has been my first realistic chance at really working since I’ve been married. But as I explored my options for work, it seemed I had really shot myself in the foot leaving the professional world just 2 months after graduating from college. I realized that not only did I have a major gap in my resume, but that I really haven’t worked in my field of choice since college, more than 5 years ago, and Phoenix wasn’t exactly the place to live if you’re wanting a career in the music industry. And as I began exploring my feelings about what I went to school for and what I used to want to do, it dawned on me that it wasn’t really even a world I cared about any more. I no longer care about music labels and performance contracts and being in the know about the latest talent.
So now what? That is the million dollar question. It is a question I consider in one form or another multiple times everyday. As the kids get older, I cherish my time with them more than I used to. It’s like this time at home is limited. I want to be home with them while they’re young and before they go to school. So it seems I can maybe put off my dilemma another couple of years. I guess my story is to be continued.
What I really seem to be figuring out is that I’ve been flying by the seat of my pants since I’ve been married. In all honesty, probably since I was 18. My feelings seem to change all of the time and I’m so glad I’ve had someone who will listen to me debate all sides to this story over the years, and someone who has been so supportive of me. -Jess
I can’t thank Jesse enough for sharing her story, which I personally find to be absolutely incredible. She’s killing it at motherhood, and her children are insanely charming and adorable. I can’t wait to see her next move.
I also want to give a very important shout out to Dr. Overton: Eric was the unsung hero from our rash scare. While we were mystified/terrified about what has happening to our little girl, I decided to text him pictures (because duh, don’t all your doctor friends want to hear about your kids problems?) and he, from texting alone, suggested it was probably an allergic reaction to the amoxicillin. 1 texting conversation and he figured out what took 6 different doctors and 4 different clinic visits to diagnose. Oh, and he is a super talented photographer (and sculptor), as you can see above. So between them, Jess and Eric are basically my heroes.
amazing photographs courtesy of Eric at www.ericoverton.com
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