Monday, May 25, 2015

Working a Balance


The perennial question of my life has always been how and when to transition to motherhood.  By the time I was 13 or 14, I had ambitions to get an Ivy League degree, become a constitutional lawyer, start a non-profit, and help write constitutions--oh, and have 10 children. (As you do.)

Yet those ambitions were also agonising.  I believed my greatest call would (hopefully) be as a mother. The leader of my faith as a teen taught in an age of feminism that women with families should be in the home. I believed my career dreams would either be mutually exclusive to motherhood, or very difficult - and perhaps doctrinally wrong- to realise together.

Then I researched the sociology and my faith's doctrine on motherhood and the law as a first year law student.  I conducted dozens of interviews and read just as many books and articles about motherhood, mothers who worked in and outside of the law, and doctrinal approaches to both.  The product can be found here, a bible-study-like lesson (yes, I am not a named author, but neither are the law clerks who write judicial opinions).  

The things I learned have guided my thoughts and choices regarding being the type of mother and professional I am.  Highlights include the following:

* The Family Proclamation (1997), "By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation."

* President James E. Faust, "Message to Our Granddaughters", Devotional Address, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, Feb. 12, 1985, "In the book of Ecclesiastes, it says, 'To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven,' (Eccl. 3:1)...It seems that the new roles of women have not decreased their responsibilities because while the new roles are challenging, the old roles of wife and mother are in the soul and cry out to be satisfied.  Fortunately, women do not have to track a career like a man does.  She may fit more than one career into the various seasons of life.  She cannot sing all the verses of her song at the same time."

* Elder Bruce C. Hafen, "Principles and Preferences", Clothed with Charity (1997), "Our very confidence in the correctness of the Church's positions on numerous lifestyle issues leads some of us to become opinionated and judgmental about other people's choices....At that point, we may wrongly assume that our personal perspective is also the Lord's perspective and that our preferences reflect his principles.

"I have learned from a variety of Latter-day Saint women that this tendency to judge other people's choices can become emotional and ugly among LDS women.  A woman who writes for a Church-owned publication reports that no matter what feature stories her publication runs on LDS women, she receives angry mail from women readers who disapprove of the messages they think are hidden in the stories.  Stories about women doing professional work may prompt the complaint that such features undermine the Church's counsel that a woman's first priority is her family.  Stories about women doing domestic work provoke the response that such features improperly exclude all LDS women from higher education and meaningful careers.  According to this woman, the people who are hardest on LDS women are other LDS women.

"Even when we eliminate differences of preference, personality, and circumstances so that we're talking only about principles, all situations will not yield the same results because of the natural and often unavoidable paradox of competing true principles.

"How essential it is for us to 'let' people govern themselves and be themselves in circumstances in which they apply competing principles and consider appropriate matters of preference."

*President Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 13:61"We have sisters here who, if they had the privilege of studying, would make just as good mathematicians or accountants as any man; and we think they ought to have the privilege to study these branches of knowledge that they may develop the powers with which they are endowed.  We believe that women are useful, not only to sweep house, wash dishes, make beds, raise babies, but that they should stand behind the counter, study law or physics, or become good book-keepers and be able to do the business in any counting house, and all this to enlarge their sphere of usefulness for the benefit of society at large.  In following these things they but answer the design of their creation.  These, and many more things of equal utility are incorporated in our religion, and we believe and try to practice them."

OK, one more quote!

* President Gordon B. Hinkley, "A Prophet's Counsel and a Prayer for Youth," Ensign, Jan. 2001, at 2, "You need all the education you can get....Qualify yourselves to do the work of the world.  That world will in large measure pay you what it thinks you are worth, and your worth will increase as you gain education and proficiency in your chosen field."

__________
Based on my studies, I learned that no woman who worked full time and managed a family was thrilled with how she mothered or attended to her career.  I became convinced that for me, seasons, ala Justice O'Connor (who took an eight year break to raise her boys) and advocated by President Faust, was the way to go.  I figured life is long, and babies are only babies for a very short period.  Yes, I could pursue a career full-throttle while single, but there would be a time after babies grew when a bit more time would free for other things.

Now that the babies are here, I have learned that season can apply on a macro and micro level. 

I'm in the intensive motherhood season of life, but I take daily breaks, or mini-seasons, to work.  Some mothers sleep or do yoga, paint or blog  (I'm not really *that* serious).  I work.  

Working a little bit every day helps me appreciate the time with my kids more, and spending time with the kiddos playing hard helps me appreciate the little time I have to work.  Because I have taught my babies to sleep, sometimes I have been able to work without childcare.

It means there are big and small sacrifices I am making in my career right now.  My doctorate is on pause for 8-10 years. I can't live in Libya or Tunis like other internationals working on Libya.  I didn't go to Beirut when Esther was four weeks old to meet with the Libyan constitution drafting assembly.  I have to pace myself, and don't produce as much as quickly as I have - my weekly to-dos could have been accomplished in a day or two back in the single days.  And working for myself--a choice I made to give me maximum motherhood flexibility--means no one pays me to find clients, do the accounting, recruit and manage good interns or other staff, or pay my overtime when good work requires it.  

On the small scale, my "work clothes" are often fairly casual, have stains on them, and are usually  washable.  I work from home or in the local library, so I'm still on call if things go even mildly bad.  Many a Skype call has been taken with a baby on my lap, and I have even breastfed (with a cover) in a business meeting.  I do warn people ahead of time, but don't apologise for incorporating my children into my work.  They come first.

On work trips, such as my weekend trip to Oxford, the kiddos (and some childcare) go with me.  I loved having Gideon in Libya with me as a three month old, and this last weekend in Oxford was made magical by having the kids there.  I made extra time to let it be so, and still got the work done.


Stayed with my dear friend, Mary Cox, while in Oxford.  The kids loved her!


Worcester College has amazing grounds and was very family-friendly





"Quack quack!"

G was mimicking a student practicing cricket


Excuse the dungaree/overall failure!

Worcester College has an orchard.  Amazing.



clinging to flowers for Mary


About how I feel about St. John's college.  They were *not* family-friendly.  

Port Meadow - the largest remaining common grounds in the UK




"Cow! I sit. Chair (patting the grass). Cow! Booo!" (his version of moo)


After close observation of his heifers, the bull came very close and acted as if he was going to charge with some vicious sniffing.  Gideon was scared, and I explained that the dad was being protective of the moms.  As we left, Gideon said, "daddy cow!"

Watching the ducks with Donna, our au pair.  Upon leaving this scene, he said, "Bye bye, quack quack!"


Our final luncheon destination, The Trout


Gideon was great at sleeping during lunch after our long walk (is it three miles from Oxford town centre to the Trout?) 



Small Wonders

* Gideon has gotten very good at saying "Thank you" whenever he receives anything.  He will often follow this up by saying "your welcome."  Hasn't quite gotten the exchange concept yet.
* Esther now has two bottom teeth!  She only had one rough morning but largely got through it all quite easily.  I unfortunately took away the binky/dummy right as she was teething, and didn't realise it!
* Gideon is a bit OCD.  He is obsessed with putting things back in their right place, throwing things away, closing doors, and doing things in their proper order.  If we put on his jacket and shoes by the front door, for instance, we have to trick him to go out back by going out the front door and around to the back rather than going out the back door.
* Gideon will pull something apart, say "e broken", then bring it to us, and say "fix it" if he cannot reverse engineer it.
* G has had a hard time sharing.  A week ago, I taught a very short lesson (as part of FHE) on sharing, including this rather lame Youtube video.  Later that day, Esther was reaching for Gideon's crackers in the bike, and G was protesting loudly.  I asked Gideon to remember what we had learned earlier that day about sharing, and asked him to be a big boy and share.  He gave Esther not only his cracker, but his food pouch.  I was a proud mamma.  He's been much better ever since.
* G will say "help" whenever he wants you to do something.  I picked him up from a play date with best friend Iori to discover that that's how he got Iori to do what he wanted, to.
* He was an absolute champ traveling this weekend.  Granted, he is now a veteran, but all of the changes he took in stride.
* He has started to pray now, and can repeat one or two words per phrase.  He often will be thankful for his girlfriend, Kate, pictured dancing with her below.
* Esther has become quite communicative, especially when it comes to food.  She can usually indicate with her eyes and facial expression what kind of food (bottle, food food, or breastmilk) she wants.  But if you take away her food, such as the chicken drum she was nearly choking on the other day, you will learn what an angel baby sounds like when they finally decide to cry.  Don't mess!
* She can also sit for a few minutes and I was called out of the shower one morning to see her kneeling for the first time, below.  This was a difficult shot - moving kids, low light, and (mostly) in a towel...






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