Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Lucky to Have this Problem

I've been meaning to write a post about how this pregnancy has already impacted my identity at work. Unfortunately I keep getting waylaid by sheer exhaustion, lack of motivation, and more interesting posts such as I-am-going-to-have-a-baby-in-a-day-spa!

This week seemed like a good time to sit down and finally write this post because I am finding myself struggling with being very behind at work and feeling like my performance is suffering and trying to accept that this is not the end of the world. Let me give you a little caveat first about myself. I have always been an extremely driven person. Doing "well" for me is not enough. I have do "the best." I am really hard on myself about mistakes or even "average" performance. I'm not sure where this comes from. No one in my family is an over-achiever. I'm sure it's somewhat anxiety driven, but I feel it has also grown into a part of my professional identity. I value doing things the right way, with integrity and care. This pregnancy has forced me to treat myself like a regular person. There was no way for me to be super-employee while feeling the way I felt physically. So...I let things slide. Unfortunately, in my job, everything is based on how many billable minutes you bill each month. When you are behind, that is NOT ok. And guess what? I have been behind for the past two months. Likely I will be behind again next month due to our planned vacation. And thus, this post.

So how has pregnancy "switched my identity?" Well, I think this is happening in two ways. First, on a day-to-day basis I am starting to feel differently about this "do everything perfectly" mentality. I have started to accept that maybe being "perfect" at work is not the most important thing in the world. For example, the day that I had bleeding and needed to schedule an emergency doctor's appointment, I didn't think twice about rescheduling an entire afternoon's worth of patients -something that I would have agonized about in the past. Also, I may not call people back the very day that they call me. I may wait until the following day. Or, um, later in the afternoon. Ha. It feels a bit like I am starting to value myself more and allow myself more time to be human within my role at work. Now, don't get me wrong. I still feel that stress pop up (as it is this morning) when I feel that I really am not doing all that I can do. This isn't an easy, fluid transition and I'm not sure I want to completely lose that anxiety that drives me to do well. But, if I am able to let go of just some of it...well, that's a good thing.

The other way in which I feel my identity changing is on a much deeper level. I'm sure this is the same identity crisis that every woman goes through when suddenly realizing that, despite what you are told, it is ridiculously hard to "have it all." I've always been a quietly passive feminist. I don't really go out of my way to broadcast my views or promote women's rights. BUT, for some reason, my professional identity crisis is bringing it all to the surface. I want to have a successful career. And not just, a job, but a lifelong career in which I move forward, grow, obtain recognition, and give back in some way. But, at the same time, I want to just relax and be a mom. We are at a point in our lives financially where I think we could make it happen that I could do just that. I could choose to stay home and just be a mom.

But really, as amazing as that sounds, I'm not sure it's who I am. It may be the kind of mom I want to be, but it's necessarily the type of person I want to be. Because my job, specifically, being a psychologist, is an integral part of my identity.

So that brings me back to my passively quiet little feminist voice inside. I feel happy that I have choices, but somehow resentful that it is a choice I have to make because I am a woman. Does that make sense? I know that it is illogical to say I am resentful of having a choice. Because it is a choice that didn't exist before. And yes, I know that men have the that same choice as well, but somehow, it's not as present or conscious for them. For me, I am fairly sure that if I give up who I am as a psychologist, I am giving up a part of myself. And yet, I want to be less-stressed, more present, more in the moment, more available as a mother (and yes, as a human) than I am currently able at my full time job.

I already feel the push-pull at work. For example, one of the things I live for at work is to train and supervise interns and postdoctoral fellows. When supervision assignments were made, I realized that I wouldn't be part of that this year. In order to take the maximum amount of time for my maternity leave (something I strongly believe in), I have to sacrifice a component of my job that I love. I can't provide mentorship and supervision to a trainee when I am spending half of their training year at home bonding with my baby! So, here it starts. You pick one thing, you lose another.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not bitching about little things here such as missing out on opportunities at work, or feeling guilty for being behind on my billing. I am just bemoaning the fact that I can't have it all. In order to make this transition to being the type of mother I want to be, I need to relinquish my death grip on being a driven professional.

I remember when I was still trying to get pregnant, I wrote a post about feeling ready to let go and not care so much about work. About wanting to have something more important to care about. I still feel that way. But, now that it's rapidly approaching, I am quietly mourning the loss of a familiar role. Oddly, I find myself wondering if any of this will matter once the baby comes? And finally, I try to remind myself that all of this agonizing and deliberating is a luxury that most women don't have. I need to remind myself to be glad that I am able to redefine my role instead of being forced into one. In the past, I may have been pigeonholed into homemaker. Or, in a different life, I may be forced to work 60 hours a week and leave my baby with whoever I could afford. And so? I will keep on being aware of how I am changing and allow myself time to contemplate it, but try to remind myself that I am lucky to be able to have this problem.

p.s. I re-read this post before publishing it and I realized that most of you will probably be reading this and thinking, "Well why can't she just work part-time and take the middle road?" Yes, that is my ultimate goal. I'm not sure yet if that will be an option at my current job, but it is my hope. So, logically, I am planning and hoping for that. Emotionally, I am just stuck straddling both worlds.


  1. Yeah this stuff is very very hard to deal with. I think it has to do with the fact that structures in society have to change, for example, I believe workplaces should have their own daycare facilities. It would create jobs and make it easier for everyone. Some schools work like that. And I think everyone's performance would be better knowing that the baby is close to one of the partners. If they can have restaurants / canteens at workplaces they can also have a daycare facility.

    I hope you will be able to work part-time at some point, since you work based on appointment it does not sound like something impossible to arrange (at least in my mind).

    Going through fertility issues while unemployed makes me feel like my life is a big cruel joke of the universe. I already kind of "gave up" my career (though I keep applying), but I've became OK with the fact that things might not be how I always dreamt they would be even after 8 years at university and 2 degrees. But when on top of that I don't seem to be able to do the task women have been in charge of since the dawn of times it feels like I am failing at all aspects no matter how hard I try. So I get you on the dilemma, having it all is a lie, or you can have things at different times of life, or on different intensities at different moments, or you can choose / prioritize, but the whole "you can be an astronaut and a TV-show mom , pick up the children at 2 and have a pie baked and lots of energy left for , say decorating or knitting" is just unreal.

    I am sure, though that you will find a way to make things work, even if it means compromising some aspects of your (or your husbands') work life, because you are both in this together and I am sure he supports you.

  2. I think it is only natural that you will experience some discomfort as you try to work out your new identity as a Mom AND a career-woman. As you said, we are lucky to even have this choice because many women around the world do not. However, as much as we appreciate being able to decide, it doesn't make the process any easier. I do think the middle road (part-time) would be ideal, but unfortunately, we don't live in an ideal world and I'm sure you will have some juggling to do over the next couple years.

    I think the best thing you said here was that you are going to allow yourself time to contemplate. It's wise to be aware of your changing role in life and give it time to sink in. I'm sure your path will reveal itself.

  3. You are not alone lady. I think those of us that are working will always feel weird stepping back during pregnancy/stepping away during maternity leave. It's definitely going to be a balance that might take a while to figure out. I had a mom who was super-mom holding down her stressful full time lawyer job while also taking care of two kids so I have a lot to live up to!

  4. That whole "having it all" thing kind of drives me crazy... like, what does "it all" mean anyway? It always tends to refer to both career and children, but really, each woman has her own definition of what being fulfilled means, and it's usually different for everyone. And I also think life involves constant compromise. So if "having it all" means working 9 to 5 in a corporate job and then seeing my kids in the evenings and weekends, that's great, but I probably won't have that exact configuration, and I'll probably be fine.

    Anyway, I know what you mean by being lucky to have these problems... first-world problems, indeed. But it's still so important to give thought to this stuff. I will join you in stressing out about it!

  5. This post makes a lot of sense to me! It reminds me a lot of my feelings. I'm also a perfectionist who works really hard and stays on top of everything. Once I became pregnant, besides being distracted for obvious reasons, I also felt like slowing down. I felt like there were more important things.

    Becoming a mom really does change things! I had no idea my priorities would shift so much. In fact, they've shifted so much that first - I was going to return part time after the baby was born (prior to that I was planning on full time work). But now - I don't know if I'll return to work at all. Which is crazy to me because being a Nurse is a huge part of my life/identity.

    Now, I've been written off work indefinitely for my back/bum problems, and I don't have a position to return to if I wanted to. So things have taken yet another twist. It's been difficult for me, and I've shed a lot of tears over it. But I know that it's best for right now, and we'll figure things out down the line. I'll always be a Nurse, so I can return to that when/if I want to. It's a lot to think about though!


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