2 years ago…
“Dada,” my son said as he tried to squirm out of my arms once again during the family photo shoot. As he said that, my mind drifted off… I thought about “dada” being his first word and how it took him many more months to name me. This was consistent with usual speech development since the consonant sounds are easier to say, but nonetheless it was emotionally heart-wrenching for me. I thought about how I had so few pictures of us together – not just because I was usually the one behind the camera, but also because during his first year of life, so much of my life was consumed by my work and the routine daily tasks of caring for an infant. I had been just getting by; I had not remembered to have family members take our picture regularly. Fearful that I would not have special moments captured with my son, I had scheduled a professional photo shoot, but in that moment, it felt like capturing the special mother-son moment just wasn’t happening.
I held back tears, feeling the guilt, shame, jealousy, and sadness I had felt all year. I kept thinking that I was spending too much time at work. Thinking that as a result of my work commitments, I wasn’t being a good mom and that my son preferred my husband. Thinking that I was being selfish for choosing to work, while simultaneously wanting more connection with my son. I wondered, as I often had, if I could have both: a fulfilling career and connection with my child.
As I pondered that question, I hoped the next year was going to be different. I had signed up with a life coach who was going to help me feel better, help me gain control over my work efficiency, and finally live a life without regret.
3-6 months later…
I came home from a long day at work and settled in for the evening. My mind was still thinking about the day, but there was a change from how I used to think: I was able to pause long enough to see that my son was ready to walk on his own, and I made a choice to be fully present for this momentous event. He demonstrated his new-found skill as he walked back and forth between me and my husband as we coached him to continue taking his first steps on his own. In that moment, I saw that it wasn’t just about me, my husband, or my son. This experience was showing me how we were all learning to be ourselves, be with each other, and be there for each other. We needed to have curiosity, acceptance, and love in order to grow.
Once I had signed up for coaching, I knew my first focus was to be the best mom I could be in the space and time that I had. I also wanted to feel good about the choices I was making as a working mom. I became extremely diligent in learning to separate what was actually happening with my son (i.e. that he was healthy, happy, and loved his mom and dad) from what my mind was saying was happening (i.e. that he preferred my husband and that I was a bad mom for working so much). In these instances, I learned to experience unconditional love in the truest way. Knowing that his dad held a special role, and that I did too, I was able to answer the question:
“What can I do to love him the way he needs to be loved right now?”
I learned to refocus my mind and energy into doing what my son needed, rather than forcing a connection through negative energy. In doing so, I started to experience more often a deep feeling of love, connection, and being loved. It was exactly what I had been yearning for all along.
When my son needed it, I was able to let go and hand him off to my husband without jealousy or bitterness, knowing it was what my son needed. I stopped asking the question, “How can I get him to love me more?” Because the truth is, for me to experience love, I had to choose to see that it was there all the time if I wanted it to be. I had to deliberately choose to feel it. And I had to express it myself first.
I also worked on improving my presence at home and being more engaged with my son. I set boundaries so that the effects of work would not spill over into my home life.
“I love you, Mommy,” my son says spontaneously sometimes. I’m ready to hear this from him.
“Mommy, listen to my words!” he bellows sometimes when I am distracted. Instead of endlessly judging myself for my inattentiveness, I redirect myself and am grateful that he wants me there in his life.
“I want Daddy,” he still says occasionally. I no longer make it mean that I’m a bad mom or that I’ve done something wrong. Instead, I’m grateful my son has both of us, and that I can get some time for myself every once in a while!
I am more present with my son than I have ever been. I intentionally take the time to reflect upon the sparkle in his eyes, to hear his laughter, to observe his behaviors, and enjoy seeing the world through his eyes. I approach my time with him with the thought, “I want him to know that I am here, that I see him, and I hear him.” Whether I have ten minutes or an hour after I return home from the office, through practice, I have learned to feel gratitude for the time that I have with him. “There’s no amount of time with him that could be enough” is no longer a part of my regular way of thinking. I see my time with him as enough, and with this mentality I have a deep sense of joy and appreciation for what I have.
Now, I am able to make decisions about my work more confidently. I am able to choose to give time to my clinical work when I need to. When guilt about how I’m showing up as a mom is present – I reassess, tell the guilt to quiet down, and then let it come along for the ride. I’m no longer driven by it. Are things perfect? Of course, not – I’m human. But I’m in control.
Why I Share My Story…
I share my story so that you can know that right now, in the time that you have, it is possible for you to balance your career with connecting with your family at home.
You may or may not have had the same experience as me. Yet, I suspect that you may have had some similar experience or wish that you could have more connection with your kids while you are trying to figure out how to get a handle on your workload. Even if you don’t see a direct connection to your own experience, I hope my story may have prompted you to think about how a shift in perspective could enhance even one of your best relationships. We can all have deeper connections, and it begins with us.
If having a deeper connection is the one missing piece between you and your ideal life, it can happen without anything having to change.
If you are in the process of making some changes at work or in your career, you don’t have to wait for everything to be “figured out” in order to have more fulfillment and connection in your relationships.
If you are feeling joy, satisfaction, and complete unconditional love each and every day with the people in your lives, applying the work of life coaching can help you to maintain and deepen your love, and help it remain resilient to life’s most mundane and profound challenges (those that we may easily miss, or those that try us the most, respectively.)
It all starts with a small shift in perspective.