I’ve been a mom for almost four years: four years of care, constant attention, and crying children. It’s been four years of putting my business (and myself) on the backburner. It hasn’t been bad — plenty of moments have been some of the best of my life — but it has been a life lived in limbo. Those in-between places have become my oases.
There’s so much shame and guilt around childcare whenever you talk to working parents. A darkness briefly slides behind their eyes as they over-explain their reasons for full-time childcare; whatever it takes to assuage the guilt when faced with a situation that makes them feel bad for their decisions. (Which is pretty much all the time. Have you seen how judgmental some parents are these days, especially on this here internet? Holy Hera.) They feel guilty that maybe they missed some milestones in their child’s development; they feel guilty for needing to work; and they feel guilty for, well, feeling guilty.
I feel that shame is doubled for entrepreneurial parents. Y’know, those of us who chose to start our own businesses and have children and pretend that Doing It All floats our boats. I don’t know about the rest of you entrepreneurial parents out there, but I’m terrible at keeping it all together. I rapidly move between my responsibilities as a parent; my client work; my responsibilities as a content editor at The Daily Crate; and my sorta-kinda social life. Even though it’s not nearly as hectic as it sounds, it still takes its toll.
Before I put my children in part-time daycare, I was running the entirety of my business in the In-Between Oasis.
Contrary to popular belief: running your own business does not give you endless freedom. I’ve ended up with dropped client calls (more times than I care to count) because children end up refusing to nap, which may or may not have aggravated a client relationship. Or, worse, I’ve forgotten scheduled meetings, even after I checked my calendar. Client relationships have disintegrated over the last four years because that customer service that I prided myself on hasn’t been at the forefront of my consciousness.
It’s been one-foot in Survival and the other in Discombobulation.
And yet, here I am on the cusp of perhaps outgrowing the need for the In-Between Oasis.
You see, my kids start full-time daycare in June.
As in, no more In-Between Oases. As in, limited evenings and weekends spent working. As in, regaining some footing in my life so that I can melt back into helping people and changing lives, in whatever small way that I’ve done in the past. As in… treating my life as something with boundaries and bookends.
It terrifies me.
I’ve become so used to squeezing every last minute out of my days that More Time may overload my productivity circuits. If I can get a week’s worth of work done in twenty hours, why would I need the extra time? Why should I take the extra time? Good gods, what if the extra time is useless and instead of it helping me, it hamstrings me? Or, my most pressing concern: what if my children lose sight of what they mean to me? What if we — the children and I — forget?
I’m not the type to regret. Every single thing that’s happened to me, be it good or ill, has been in service of building the person I am today. In two years’ time, when both of my children are in elementary school, I will likely look back on this experience with a mixture of bewilderment and mirth — “Oh girl, what were you so concerned about? Look at how they’re flourishing. You helped with that.”
I also don’t want to become the type to regret either the action or inaction; the ocean or the oases. So, here I am, stepping outside my In-Between Oasis in search of the ocean.
If I manage to move in the wrong direction, I can always go back. It’ll always wait for me. Life, on the other hand, won’t.