Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: I am a working mother of three young children. It’s been bothering me a lot lately that I feel unable to conjure memories of them when they were younger. The only “memories” I seem to have are from photographs.
I’m wondering if this is a result of working, and the resulting increased pace of our lives, or if this is just natural when you’re exhausted by young children.
I feel like all we do is rush around during the week, and I don’t want to look back and feel like I missed my kids’ childhood. At the same time, I’m afraid if I quit my job I will miss using that part of my brain, and be unable to break back into the workforce.
Should I Quit?
To miss using “that part” of your brain, that doesn’t move me; having one thing means missing another, fact of life.
Losing your foothold in the workforce, on the other hand, is a real, quantifiable risk. So is missing your kids’ childhood.
So to accommodate these two conflicting objectives, figure out which one has room to give. Can you simplify your family time? Outsource housework? Schedule fewer activities?
And/or: Can you change jobs/workplaces, job-share, telecommute, etc.?
If you quit, and your co-parent became ill or jobless, could you stay afloat? What about your retirement funds? What’s your plan for remaining employable?
You’re looking at this emotionally – and dog-tired – which is the enemy of lucid thought. Treat your feelings not as marching orders, but instead as alerts to do a self-audit (more for the to-do list!). Bring only logic to an assessment of preferences and possibilities, even if it costs you vacation days to do it. Come at it rested. Figure out what you want, need and can ultimately pull off.
Re: Lack of Memories:
I’m the youngest of several children, and my mom often thought it was hilarious that there were no baby photos of me.
It’s just weird this mother sounds so concerned about it and your answer was so serious, whereas my parents would chuckle at such an observation and say, “That’s life!” Then again, the last family vacation we had was in 1981. Maybe it’s not so funny.
I’m the youngest (with a mom who stayed home till I was 10-ish), and there are no pictures of me, so I get it.
Well, someone kindly managed to capture this: http://wapo.st/19Fovw3.
But the letter-writer fears she’s missing something important, so I’m not comfortable with a ha-ha brush-off. While nearly everyone struggles to remember details of life with small children (good thing, or else there’d never again be small children), not everyone is moved to say, “Wait, am I doing this all wrong?” And there’s no one right answer for those who are. Some find genuine peace in deciding to stay their original course, and some who make changes are almost giddy at the result.
We’re all chipping away at this giant block of granite, and we all stand to learn something from others who have done so before us – but we also bring our own strengths and skills to it. We’re all making something unique. This mom sounds ready to stand back a bit to see how it’s turning out.