I am not superwoman.
I think I am. Truthfully, in a lot of ways I am, but at the end of the day, I am human. And I can’t do it all by myself. But I forget that, a lot.
Rewind to the end of last year, my daughter was about 6 months old. She was becoming more mobile. She no longer slept all day. And the tug between my part-time freelance work and valuable parenting time was straining. There was no way that I could be successful in both and keep my sanity.
I took a short break when we were at a duty station for 6 months after a grueling 4 years of grad school, work and a long commute. I went crazy for the month it took to start working for my first freelance client. It was a small monthly project and in the time I had off I didn’t know what to do.
I started writing more.
I baked bread.
I went to the farmers market every week.
I watched a lot of Netflix.
But I needed more structure and projects to fuel me, without it I felt lost.
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When it was time to PCS again and we settled into our new longer-term duty station, my local job hunt went sour, but I picked up more freelance work and was loving my new flexible work-from-home life.
My husband noticed immediately. He commented that I seemed happier. And I was. I felt fulfilled having work to do, work that I loved. It got my mind going in all the right ways and gave me my outlet.
I thought it would be the perfect set-up as I entered motherhood. But it wasn’t.
When I came back to work after 2 months of maternity leave I was excited. I missed my job and my coworkers. I thought that my part-time freelance work and motherhood would be the perfect match. I would work while my daughter napped or played by herself.
And it worked really well for a few months, until, well, she grew up way too fast. She could play by herself for short spurts, enough to schedule a tweet here and there. She hated napping so by the time I got a good groove going, she was awake.
I quickly realized that I couldn’t fully focus on my daughter or work, which isn’t fair to her, me or my employer.
At the end of the day when she was asleep, I wanted to veg out on the couch and do nothing. Being a parent is a lot of work. And work is a lot of work, and I was treading water.
I faced a dilemma – daycare is expensive, but to really work and be successful in my career, she needed to go, at least part-time, and for us to afford daycare, I needed to work more. It was a catch-22, but I knew that for my own sanity it had to happen.
With a deployment on the horizon, I also knew that I would need me time.
So the hunt began and I got lucky. Another freelance client fell into my lap and the daycare center minutes from my house had an opening. With my next paycheck spoken for, off to daycare she went.
The first few days were weird. I work from home 3 days a week, and not working with her monitor on my desk at all times was surreal. My house was so…quiet.
But the focus was unreal. I could work for 7 hours. And for me, that was exactly what I needed.
When I picked her up at the end of the day and came home – we could spend quality time together. Not half play-half work stress. I didn’t have to log work hours on the weekend. With my husband deployed I used some of my daytime hours to run errands and work out, the only time I truly had to myself to fit those key things into my schedule.
Daycare made me a better mom.
Self-care is not a cliche or a trend. It is necessary. It looks different for everyone, for others it means church, spending time with friends, running and getting enough sleep.
For me, self-care includes work. It involves me working toward goals and creating plans for success. It involves some pretty fun Google Hangouts to record a weekly podcast without me worrying if my daughter would cry mid-interview.
Self-care means that my daughter gets the best version of me. It means that my husband gets the best version of me. It means that I’m the best version of me.
And that, well, I guess that makes me superwoman after all.
Have you felt conflicted about sending your child to daycare? What factors influenced your decision?