Dear Savvy Sister: Can women have it all?

Dear Savvy Sister,

I am a 40-something woman and recently gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. I also have two older children. My husband plans to stay home with the baby while I go back to work. But I’m worried. Will I be able to juggle work, breastfeeding, and a precious newborn?

Signed,

Hormonal

juggling_mom 

Dear Hormonal,

Historians believe juggling dates back to the ancient Egyptians. At one point, jugglers were considered freakish and suspected of being witches, then regained popularity in medieval times. These days, juggling can be viewed as both a sport and a profession. It’s hard! I can juggle two balls, which isn’t really juggling unless you’re doing tricks. But three? No way.

Will you be able to juggle work, breastfeeding, and a precious newborn? No, of course not. Think of each of those duties as an egg. Now think about juggling the eggs. Oh, sorry. Did I just make you reach for the paper towels?

Listen, women have come a long way. We can wear pants to work now, you know. But we haven’t escaped that damn maternal instinct. We still harbor a burning desire to be with our babies, at least until they turn into children. Then it’s like, SEE YA. But as long as their tiny skulls have that weirdly addicting smell, we want them attached to us – even though it’s no longer a required tenet of motherhood.

You can have it all, sister, and I’m not saying you can’t. You can work and have kids and be a walking milk cow. But you can’t do it all well, at least not at the same time, and even if you could, you’d be able to focus on nothing else. Have you ever even watched a juggler? Maybe one who’s hurling swords or knives in the air? Do you think he’s able to focus on a single thing other than the three sharp objects threatening to stab his eyes out? If you expend all your energy on work and the baby, everything else will fall by the wayside: marriage, your other children, friends, your household. You. Obviously this means you should have thought twice about having a third child. KIDDING! But seriously.

Still, what’s done is done. What you need to do now is buckle down and make some choices. In order to maintain your personal equilibrium, something will have to give. First of all, you’ll need to relinquish some power to your husband, and be happy about it.  This requires some mental gymnastics on your part – a recognition that a baby doesn’t need his mother 24/7, especially if he has his father. He just needs love and sustenance, and he’ll have both in abundance.

Which leads us to the next subject: breastfeeding. Before those damn La Leche freaks start spraying my front door with breast milk graffiti, let me state right here and now that yes, breast is best. UNLESS IT INDUCES STRESS-RELATED PSYCHOSIS IN THE MOTHER AND SHE SPIRALS INTO MADNESS. I’m all for breastfeeding as long as you can. But when baby starts to eat more, and you spend half your work day pumping, and you’re sick of not being able to drink heavily whenever you want, just let your boobs shrivel back up and add Enfamil into the budget.

Contrary to media depictions, women were not meant to juggle. Don’t think of your life as a series of balls you must keep in the air. Think of it instead as a colorful, frayed, irreplaceable, beloved scarf you carry, defining you not just as a working mother but also as a spouse, friend, citizen, and child of the earth. You can drape that scarf across your shoulders, or tie it around your waist or wrap it around your neck, and each time it presents itself differently. In this way, of course, it will be just like you: striking, complex, and complete, with myriad possibilities, defying definition, and lovely to behold regardless of which part is showing.

Good luck, dear girl.

Sincerely,

the Savvy Sister

4 responses to Dear Savvy Sister: Can women have it all?

  1. CarolLHarris says:

    Brilliant, yet again, Tricia! I agree with you. Breastfeeding is not the be all and end all of motherhood. It is one part– important but not irreplaceable. The mother’s quality of life rates up there as well.
    Thank you.

    • tricia says:

      Happy New Year, Carol! Yes, hooray for a mama’s quality of life, right?

  2. Lida says:

    As my mother-in-law helpfully told me when I was in a daze of tears, hormones, and entirely lost perspective, “You know, I’ve never looked around a cocktail party and been able to tell who was breastfed and who wasn’t.”
    (Awaiting graffiti.)

    • tricia says:

      Lida, HAHAHAHAHAHA! For the record, I was not breastfed. Let’s just hope the graffiti lands in an artful pattern. ; )

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