In a way that only 3-year-olds can, my youngest stretches this out to two singsong syllables. “Mo-om!” It’s carrying up from the basement, where she’s making pretend dinner while I’m hustling to get the real thing on. It’s loud. It’s insistent. It’s on a continuous loop. “Mo-om!” No other words. Just this two-step symphony of need.
She’s 3. It’s hard-wired. Her worldview is all about me, occasionally Dad. We are the givers and takers, the ones in control. A power grab is bound to happen at some point.
My third child pushes a special button in me that her siblings didn’t seem to find so easily. To her, it’s a big, shiny, irresistible button marked PUSH. And does she ever. My youngest and I have some epic power struggles, and it’s all the usual things: getting ready for bed, how much gum she can have, actually going to bed, which clothes to wear, bedtime, and, did I mention? Bedtime.
It’s the refrain that lights a flare of impatience in my chest and makes my face growly. None of my responses soothe her, because they’re all variations on the theme of Not Now.
That’s when I remember: I started looking for a Real Job a year ago, thinking perhaps I would hear a little less of this and I little more adult conversation. I found one, got the interview, landed the position, and returned to the 8-to-5 office world in January. And it was great, for a while. I had something that was all about me, for a while.
But then it wasn’t so great anymore, and the specific reasons aren’t important. This is: It wasn’t the right fit for me. I know a great many moms with jobs who make it work. Not perfectly. Not without sacrifice or slip-ups, at home and on the job. But mine overwhelmed me. And when the paycheck is the best thing about a job, it’s not much of a way to spend 45 hours a week.
I made it eight months and then turned in my notice. I looked at how I worked from home before, and saw ways to do it better. This blog is one. Investing more of my time in Brand Me is another. My spitfire youngest goes to daycare part-time, for more hours than when I last worked from home, but fewer than when I was cubicle-bound.
She’s still demanding, and I see this is part of her personality. With more time together, I hope to learn how to roll with it, turn it into a positive (she’s determined! Ambitious!). My nature is to fight, too, so it won’t be easy. (Hello, apple, you’re quite close to that tree, aren’t you?) But if I can admit when I’m overmatched in my work life, maybe I can choose my battles more strategically on the home front. No full-on free-range parenting for me (twitch) — we’ll always be way too controlling for that. Just a little looser, and lighter, and quicker to make a silly face than an empty threat. Because deep down I know that will dissolve “Mo-om!” into the bubbling fountain of giggles I’d much rather hear.