Pressure Valve

I read a great sentence today, by a book reviewer discussing motherhood:  “Children deliver us from the pressure of our ambition, the shadows of our failures.”

I like that phrase, “deliver us from the pressure…”

When I had our first child, I was working full-time, with five “direct reports,” and was responsible for a number of projects. It was a rather tumultuous workplace, a nonprofit organization driven by big personalities.

Looking back, I’m not sure I was exceptionally good at what I was doing. I often felt I was just the most reliable and even-tempered person on staff at the time.

I returned to work after 12 weeks of paid maternity leave (I was very fortunate), bringing my infant daughter with me to the office for six months (I was extraordinarily fortunate), at which point she learned to crawl and was no longer an ideal office mate.

I, unlike too many women, had a choice available to me: keep my job and find quality child care, or stay home?  I resigned. (This choice was weighted heavily at that time–as I had just learned that I was pregnant. I miscarried a few weeks after my last day of full-time work. Go figure.) A couple of years later, we had our son.

Raising our children delivered me from the pressure of working full-time, and being a “trailing spouse” relieves that pressure too. When our son was six months old, we relocated domestically. Six years in one city, now four  years in another… and soon (soon-ish), we’re set to spend another three to five years in Europe.

I have not tried with any must-pay-the-bills seriousness to pursue a career reflective of my skills and experience. I’m not clear how to do it, given that my time horizon is generally broken into five-year increments. That lack of clarity is morphing into a near permanent pressure valve.

It feels, at best, like a gift that allows me to dedicate my time to our chilldren, and at worst, like a perfect “excuse” to bide my time and not get back to work.

I shared this with my husband: “I’m not sure how to find a great job, or actually whether I’d be good at that job… Was I ever really that good?”

It’s hard to remember. Actually, I should say it’s hard to remember my professional accomplishments. I’m very good at recalling my failures.

There’s a cost to living with little pressure: my confidence is shaken.

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