Last week I was invited to speak to one of the Teach For America national teams. I said that I would gladly come, but I let them know that I was still on maternity leave and would need to bring my baby with me. I asked if I could come at 11:15, which I knew would be the start of Tate's morning nap.
I woke Tate up from his first nap at 10am and breastfed him. Then I gathered our stuff and drove downtown. Once we got there, I put Tate in the Moby, gave him a pacifier, and gently swayed him to sleep while I spoke to the group and fielded questions about the work we are doing. Whenever he started to stir, I would gently pat him on the back for a few seconds and he would fall right back asleep.
Later that week, one of our volunteers came over to my house so we could collaborate on a grant application. Again, I wore Tate in the Moby through his naps, breastfed him while my colleague and I continued to work, and put him on the floor under his wooden arch during his awake times.
Both of these episodes left me feeling incredibly--over-the-moon--grateful that I get to have everything I want. I get to be there for my son during these formative months and I get to pursue my personal passion for educational reform. I get to work and be with my son.
I'm not talking about this set-up in order to brag. I'm talking about it because I was only able to make this happen for myself by a) being really honest with myself about what I want/need in my life b) having conviction that I could make it happen for myself and c) having the courage to make it happen. (Of course there's a whole other conversation about the privilege in my life that is the foundation upon which all the rest of this was built. This article pretty much sums it up; I, too, had "challenges" while young--my single mom was on welfare when I was a baby--but at the end of the day my family's perspective on education, my race, culture, background, sexual orientation, etc. bestow incredible privilege upon me.)
After staying at home with Henry for 14 months and pushing myself to the edge of my sanity, I realized that I needed to work. I'm not the best version of myself if I'm not engaged in activities that are directly and urgently impacting social justice out in the world. And if I'm not the best version of myself, then I can't possible be the best mother possible for my sons.
But on the other hand, I realize that we aren't making the world any better if we compromise the health and wellness of our own families. And so I spend an immense amount of time trying to figure out how to do both: How to be there for my sons and to work in the wider world.
That was the be-honest-with-myself-part. The second and third parts were about having conviction and courage, despite not having too many mentors/role models in this arena. I had to get over the fact that I look like an unprofessional hippy when I'm wearing Tate in the Moby. He's cozy. He sleeps. End of discussion.
It's been a constant creative pursuit. At first making this all work looked like five days a week of part-time daycare for Henry while I worked. Then I consolidated those part-time hours into three slighly longer days. Henry napped at school and then we spent the afternoons together. I tried to have our second baby in between turning in the charter application and opening the school, but then I had a miscarriage, which meant that the ideal window for having a baby closed and we had to revise the plan based on our new set of circumstances.
I officially start part-time work on the school in October (if the charter goes through--we find out on the 27th). I'll continue to piece together creative solutions that meet all of our needs. It's definitely not easy, but it's the only thing that feels right.