Sometimes we make decisions and we never look back because we know we made the right choice, the best choice, the only choice. Other times, we don't look back because we can't, because we are afraid we made the wrong choice, or because it will hurt too much to think about what could have been, what would have been, and we wonder if it is what should have been. We make decisions every day. Some of them are small and inconsequential and others change our lives and the lives of those around us. Some decisions are bigger for others than they are for us and sometimes we make decisions that seem small to another but are our own giant hurdles.
Nearly two winters ago, I made a choice. Six years before that, I made a choice. In 2008, less than a year after Caroline was born, I left my full-time job, in a field that I'd planned for, and trained for, and hoped to become a leader in, for a part-time, entry-level position in a new field that I was interested in but not trained in. A field in which I never imagined I'd become a leader in because, at that moment in time, I didn't see my professional future. I did not have eyes for myelf as a professional. I had eyes for a little person, a little girl, who was beautiful and full of joy and love and who took my breath away with each of her own. Along came another miracle and my life was so full. There was no room for a full-time job, a professional life that pushed me, and required 50 or 60 hours of my physical time and many more hours of my mental time.
Despite a part-time schedule, I spent many panicked days trying to work from home after calling in sick with an ill child or due to being stranded at home because of a snow storm. I spent many days feeling exhausted and trying to hide my exhaustion so I could keep up the appearance that I was "in the game" professionally. I I pumped in bathrooms while at meetings on the road. I cried in pain in a hotel shower because I forgot a critical piece of my pump and had to self express, and then I went to a work function and smiled despite feeling like I had boulders attached to my chest. Others may have spontaneously stayed in the office late to catch up. I carefully planned every after- five work night and most eves, I rushed from the office to the daycare and home, willing myself to be patient and at ease when all I wanted to do was go to bed. I made a choice to work part-time but there were many days, and many teary-eyed nights, when I asked myself, and Andy, if I had made the right decision. The decision I questioned was never about deciding to leave full-time employment. I regularly questioned if I should be working at all.
I did what I could at work and then I did what I could at home. While I worked part-time, during those years I felt like I was a full-time staff person and a full-time mom. There was always so much to and never enough time. But I wasn't working full-time. I made the decision to share my energy and time and I did that. While I was salaried, I generally worked 4 days a week. I worked 10 months and, in the first years of my part-time gig, I checked out of work almost 100% during the summer months. Yes, juggling both worlds was hard. Yes, I never felt like I was doing enough or being enough, at work or home. But I was. I was being everything to everyone, and personally growing, despite my exhaustion or doubt. It was the right decision for me.
It was right for me because I was able to spend time home with my daughters and while, in 2008, I could not see my professional future, in 2014 I could. After tears, after pain (what seems like a lot of boob pain), after doubt and through mommy-hood, raising my daughters, and summers at the lake, I made another decision. I was offered the director position in my office, a full-time, five days, 12 months, position. At the time, the decision seemed clear. The girls were getting older, Charlotte was headed to school in the fall. I worked hard to prove I deserved this opportunity and there it was, right in front ot me. I traded in Friday laundry days and said good bye to summers in the sand with my daughters for summers under A/C with a lap top.
I used to write a blog post, at the end of each summer, titled, "Reflecting on a Summer with my Girls" and last year I had to retire that post topic. I thought about writing a post titled, "Reflecting on a Summer without my Girls" but I can't bring myself to do it. I made a decision. Yet, hindsight is 20/20. As the summer comes to a close, and I come home to the smiling, sun-kissed faces of my children, I can't help but wonder if I made the right choice. Yet, I can't look back. I can only look forward. When it comes to making a decision about work and family, professional success and personal satisfaction, there is no ultimate and final best choice, right choice, or only choice. There is just the best choice we can make at any given moment.