I've seen it coming.
It's been on the horizon for the past several years. I just felt like by the time I finally got to it, I'd know which way to turn. Alas, I've been sitting at what I perceive to be an intersection, with my blinker on for the past few months while the car behind me is laying on the horn.
Should I go left?
Should I go right?
Should I go straight?
If it wasn't for those tire spikes behind me, I'd throw this ride in reverse and back up.
For more than 20 years, I have worked, at some capacity in the environmental industry. I have worked in laboratories, consulting firms, and for a short stint with a governmental agency. Eight years ago, I was hired on with a major oil company and began what has been a dream job.
But once I had children, something happened.
The passion I once had for my career has been replaced with a passion for being a mom. (And then, writing ad nauseum about it.)
Although I had the advantage of working part time for the past few years, since May of this year, I've been back to full time work. Not because I wanted to, but because I had no other choice.
In the beginning, my workload wasn't very heavy, but with time, it has continued to grow. Over the past two months, there has been a lot of traveling, a lot of meetings, a lot more responsibility than I've had in the past five years, and from all predictions, my workload will only be increasing with time.
Less than six weeks ago, we returned home from our South Carolina vacation and since that time, I have traveled every week on a business trip. I spent one week at a hotel in San Diego for a meeting and then for the next two weeks, I was in Los Angeles at a trial. For the past two weeks, I've been gone to various meetings in Orange and Riverside Counties. Most days I'm gone before 6 AM and don't return home until after 6 PM.
In the middle of October, the same week that our triplets turn five, I am supposed to be at a meeting in Virginia. And the week after that, I'm supposed to be at a meeting in Santa Barbara. And although I recognize my attendance and participation in these meetings is critical for my career development, my attendance and participation in my children's lives is critical, too.
Oh, I know I'll just be gone for a few days.
I'm sure Charlie and the kids will be fine.
But will I be fine?
How will I do, knowing that I'm missing days upon days out of their childhood?
It feels incredibly unnatural to be away from the children for such a long period of time. But therein lies the complexity of this situation. When I'm working, I want to be with the kids. But then when I'm with the kids ... well ... sometimes I'd rather be sipping Chai Tea in a pedicure salon.
I keep waiting for things to get better and slow down at both work and at home, but it's like I'm caught in a vortex of crazy and I'm getting closer and closer to the center while things are going faster and faster. Does it help that my husband is starting up a company at this precise moment in time?
Although I do hope that one day he will be hugely successful, that isn't going to happen over night. So, in the meantime and unfortunately at this point in life - despite my fervent prayers for patience and compassion - I'm not the most pleasant person to be around. I want to be an encouraging mother and wife - but I'm frequently the exact opposite. Tonight, during one of my less than stellar moments, Charlie asked, "WHAT DO YOU WANT?"
Do I want to work?
Move to a new house, new state, new country?
Sell everything and tour the world in a Winnebago?
Honestly? I don't know.
(Although I do know I'd like to have some trees. Real ones, mind you. Not the kind that you buy in a 5-gallon bucket, plant in your barren front yard and maybe - if you're lucky - in 10 years, will give you 45 minutes of shade during the longest day of the year.)
I don't know if I have the courage to give up my career. I definitely couldn't do it now, since I'm the primary breadwinner. But maybe by next year, that will be an option for me. And if it is, do I have the patience and ability to home school? Do I seriously have the courage to do something totally different with my life?
The time is looming where I will have to make that decision.
This past week I had my annual review. For the past eight years, I always looked forward to my boss calling to tell me that my performance was exceptional and I was in the top third of the company. But this year I could tell that I was slipping. I wasn't carrying nearly the same number of projects and when special assignments would come up, I would run and hide.
Since Henry was born, I just haven't had the same work gusto.
When I return home from a 12-hour work day, instead of firing up my computer and checking e-mail, I curl up and read stories to my children. We eat dinner together as a family. Charlie and I talk while we get the kids ready for bed. I'll spend a half an hour tucking everyone in and saying evening prayers. And then, whatever energy I might have had to continue working has totally dissolved. And so I sit down and mindlessly update my blog and sip wine.
(It's cathartic. And it saves me a fortune in therapy. Thank you blog world. I love you more than you could ever possibly know.)
When my boss told me that my ranking had slipped, I felt genuinely embarrassed. Sure, I suspected it, but once I heard it, it felt like my privacy shade went flapping up and everyone could see I had morphed in to a total slacker. Almost immediately, I began strategizing what I could do to improve my overall ranking next year.
The very next day, I had a meeting with one of my coworkers. She is young and has no children. She is an absolute workhorse for the company, putting in 60+ hour weeks, routinely. She is a top performer who will be relocated within a matter of months to a new assignment.
She is who I was a few short years ago.
She is who I was before I had children.
See, I know exactly what it takes to be a top employee. I've done it for years. But I'm just not willing to do it now, because the sacrifice is too great. Although it has taken a while for everything to come in to focus, it is abundantly clear to me that I cannot be the best employee, the best wife and the best mother.
Something's got to give.
Because I am currently the primary breadwinner, I need to work. But I know that in the next few years, my position will be completely phased out. So at this moment, I have the choice of throwing myself in to my career with hopes of climbing up the corporate ladder and securing myself a new assignment when my current assignment ends. Or, I have the choice to continue treading water until my job dissolves and pray that Charlie's endeavor takes off and SOARS.
(The problem is, I'm not very good at treading water.)
(None of the women in my family are.)
(Whenever we do something, we like to do it well.)
One thing is indeed for certain. My job will not be here forever. But when I look at my small children, I know that they won't be here forever, either. And if I'm not giving them my absolute best, then nothing else I do right will really matter much at all.
(Please Mom, don't blow it!)
We were planning to do something special with the children for their birthday. Originally, we were going to take them on a cruise. But those plans have changed and now we are thinking of taking them to Disneyland. The question is, do I miss my hugely important (my boss's boss's boss's boss [and maybe even his boss] will be there) meeting in Virginia so I can take my children to meet Mickey on their 5th birthday?
I have to submit my RSVP by Monday morning.
What would you do?