Multiple identities: motherhood, adoption, work – and a dilemma

I never seem to manage to make the time to blog much any more, and that’s a perfect microcosm of how it feels to be a working mother – there’s never enough time for anything. Which is crazy, because I have a million unwritten blog posts swirling in my head. Many of which are about the strange hinterland that is being a working mum (mom!) after years of infertility.

First things first: I am so grateful to be here. I still do a double take every single day when I wake up next to my beautiful boy and I realise that somehow, after all the struggle, I am a mother. How did this happen?, swirls through my mind every day. I thank all those people silently who helped that dream become a reality. And I don’t easily forget all the years where it didn’t seem possible.

Second things second: Being a mother after infertility is a strange thing to be… I feel like it’s almost a different thing from being a “normal” mother. I don’t think we post infertiles ever really forget the deep grief and fear, the joy-pain of pregnancy after loss, the hoping and wishing that something will go right after so many wrongs. My overwhelming emotion most of the time is deep joy and gratitude that I have managed to have this experience of carrying and giving birth to a human being… my first known biological relative.

Which brings me to the third point: Having a child after being adopted [in a closed adoption] is a huge thing. It’s monumental. Having a child after having been transracially, transnationally adopted – if you weren’t, you can’t even begin to comprehend the profundity of it. I couldn’t, before it happened to me, despite that person being me.

To look into my baby’s face and recognise my own – to feel that deep kinship, to feel joined to someone else when it has never happened before in my living memory – it’s the most gut wrenching joy-pain you can imagine. To realise what I lost as a baby. To realise what I’ve gained through having my baby. To realise my birth culture and language is lost to me and I can’t pass it on to him… To realise that matters – even despite the joy. To live in that complexity where joy can coexist with grief and loss.*

Of course – I don’t want to put that on him. He has no responsibility other than being my baby doing babyish things and hopefully drawing as much joy out of life as a baby can inhale. And yet – he is everything.

(*I already knew what I’d gained – prevailing adoption narratives always focus more on gain than loss. I can be happy and adopted and have suffered deep loss all at the same time. That’s adoption complexity for you.)

Fourthly: After so many other “Not like the other” categories, Working Mother has to be the most stark. I genuinely never knew that the battle lines of Motherhood were so entrenched. And none more than Stay At Home Mother vs Working Mother. I never wanted to be caught up in these battles, any more than I wanted to define myself by Crunchy Mom vs Gina Ford Mom, or Breastfeeding Mum vs Fed is Best Mum – and yet, if there’s one thing mothers seem to like doing, it’s defining themselves as a Mum Type. (I’m Haphazard, Intuitive Mum… completely disorganised and completely in love. That’s all really.) I realise in so many spaces I don’t really fit in. And the (relative) loss of my antenatal buddies – who fell by the wayside as soon as I went back to work – felt like a rejection of the old school kind. (And that’s not even to get into the whiteness of motherhood… and how that makes a transracial adoptee feel. A complex subject for another day!)

And yet, I think we’ve settled into our own niche. I’ve found mum friends – some of whom will probably last and some of whom probably won’t. Quite honestly, it’s hard to cultivate friendships when you work full time and other mums seem to have endless pools of time to do Mum things and they use their weekends to catch up with their husbands… My baby is at nursery during the week and so even if I’m working from home, I can’t really meet mum friends, because why would I want to go and spend time with someone else’s baby when mine is in daycare? Like I said, it’s a strange hinterland and we find our own way.

I have made some Mum buddies whose kids go to our nursery – their kids are a bit older, because I had to go back to work so soon. But it’s good because we have more in common. (I’m the terrible one feeding my child Ella’s Kitchen premade pouches instead of developing a varied baby menu and posting pictures of tot cuisine to our whatsapp groups. Our working mums group is a safe space for all of us who’ve ended up rushing across town all sweaty to grab our babies at the last possible minute. No Lingo Tots or prosecco in the play park for us!)

The thing is, I wish I could join those other mums. I’d love to be a stay at home mum, for even a time, and I find myself wondering whether it’s possible to have it all, and I’m pretty sure it isn’t – something has got to give. For working mums, it’s missing out on all the mundane stuff that our SAHM friends take for granted. The idea I might not see my child’s first steps.

Which brings me to: The Dilemma.

I’m doing not too badly in my job. Weirdly… It always makes me a little nervous when things are going well because I’m primed to feel like something is bound to go wrong. But I’ve managed to develop a great working relationship with my boss (the one I wasn’t happy that my old boss – who I love in a work platonic way – put in place). We seem to be quite symbiotic and complementary and work well as a team. And I am lucky that what I’m doing right now means I have the flexibility to work from home a fair amount and to continue breastfeeding/ pumping. (11 months next week. How did that happen?!) It’s important to me that I am able to do that. And coincidentally, I also get paid more than I ever did before, and my working hours are more reasonable. I honestly don’t know how that happened. I like to think it’s my karmic reward for putting up with so much **** in my old job!

Let’s not beat around the bush – I’m the main breadwinner. By a lot. I get paid almost double what T gets paid. We were lucky enough to have an offer accepted on our dream flat this year and it’s my salary that enabled us to get the mortgage (plus a fair bit of help from my parents with the deposit). So I need to work to continue to provide for our family. T is an awesome partner as he’s much more organised than I am and he figures out everything we need to do domestically. I just have one job – to earn the money. (Well, and to feed B!) Doing what I do helps keep us afloat. And getting promoted, earning more and doing well would help us reach our sweet spot (pay off debts and mortgage) sooner.

So…

Our company is having a leadership summit in January, and I received an invitation. It’s a long way away – a transatlantic flight away. It goes on for four days plus travel. And only approved people get invited.

I got an invitation. It’s a big deal.

I asked my big boss if there was a mistake. (Surely not me!) My manager wasn’t sure either… She said our big boss had to approve all names so I must have been invited, but maybe not.

I emailed him to check there hadn’t been an error.

He called me. No error. I’m invited. “As a member of the leadership team.” Of course! (I’m like the most junior person in the team. They’re all one or two grades above me, or in his case, four!)

And when is this conference? Smack bang over my baby’s very first birthday.

Oh.

He told me, You don’t have to come. Let me know and if you don’t want to, I’ll give your space to Andy. (Andy is another relatively junior member of the team. Hopefully not as well regarded as me.)

All the global leadership will be there… It’ll be a great networking opportunity. All expenses paid.

And… It’s my baby’s first birthday.

T says, He won’t know. We can move it a couple of days and celebrate then. I say, But I’ll know. I’d be on the other side of the world when my baby turns one.

My manager has asked me to work on a big piece of work over that time anyway, so the decision may yet be taken out of my hands, but the summit probably takes priority – if I want to go.

Every few minutes I change my mind about what is an obvious decision. And it comes back to my multiple identities and how the “obvious” answer changes according to which identity I’m cloaking myself in at the time. I am a mother. I am a working mother. I’m an adoptee whose baby is the most important person in the world to me. I am a mother after loss who realises how precious those small mundane things are. I am a transnational, transracial adoptee who finally made a family. I’m someone who was cut off from her roots who invests a huge amount emotionally in birthdays because they are the only link to my past.

I am all those things and I am my baby’s mother and I am a great worker and I want to do well so I can provide for him and make him safe, keep a roof over his head, keep him happy.

But he is not me. B is not me. He is himself, and he’s wonderful and joyous and giggly and amazing and cute. He doesn’t need to be anything for me, but I need to be everything for him.

How do we ever resolve our multiple identities? How do we decide what is best?

I don’t know if we ever can, but I’m going to have to try…

Advertisements

40 comments

  1. sewingbutterfly

    Any chance B and hubby can fly and hang out for 4 days? He won’t know at all and if this is a big work deal, I say go for it 🙂

    Haphazard intuitive is my style! I just do what feels natural and works for is and my baby. Winging it is what I call it. I like to think I am an eclectic style mum 😂 I am a c-section, formula feeding, traditional weaning, baby wearing, working mum (I return to work in January, thanks Australia for the awesome leave provisions). I am also a mum who functions without family close by (they live 5 hours away), yes my son forward faces in his carseat, yes we let him watch small amounts of tv like the Wiggles, I am usually crucified by a lot of mum groups but I don’t care anymore. I have realised that when people attack me for a particular aspect of parenting like having a section or using formula or going back to work, it is because they are insecure or maybe just a jerk and I don’t want my baby mixing with their children anyway. I have a group of mums who are amazing and I will stick with them 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Nara

      Thank you! Sorry for the late reply. Got caught up in everything and trying to figure it out. The good news is… They are coming! I think it’ll be fine. I won’t see them for what amounts to a long workday, but T and B will be able to have nice bonding time to themselves and at least I will see B on his birthday. I’m not ready to break from bf yet as he hasn’t been without be overnight yet and still feeds a lot.

      I’m a c section mum too! Pretty much all of the things you mentioned, but lucky you to be off till January! I get what you mean about not caring any more! Haha! That’s me too! Glad you have a good group of mums. X

      Like

      • sewingbutterfly

        Yay! That is awesome they are coming too 😊 especially if B is still breastfeeding. Woo! I am so nervous about going back to work. I feel like I have forgotten everything 😂

        Like

  2. Sofia

    I believe now (with the modest experience of two kids and 9 years of motherhood) that as long as some basic things are done right (empathy, love, lots of time together), kids will turn out alright with very different kinds of parenting styles and choices.
    The job travel thing is tough. I think it’s absolutely the rational &clever choice to go. I understand the birthday thing, I’d be devastated to miss the actual day but I would probably go if it was just that. For me, the 4-6 day separation would be very difficult to handle – but I’m never been faced with a professional trade-off like this. But if they like your work, as they seem to do, it’s also possible that one missed conference does not matter. I think? Do what feels right at the gut level, that’s usually the right choice!

    Like

    • Nara

      Thank you! Sorry for the delayed response… been sorting it all out. The good news is, they’re coming! I have to sort out some of the finer details but we have booked onto the same flights so at least I’ll see them overnight, which is when B needs me most. Hopefully will be able to sneak some time on his actual birthday! And T is rather pleased to be getting a holiday!
      I was mainly worried about the evenings because B is usually at nursery during the weekdays but he’s never been apart from me overnight. And I don’t really want to start the weaning process in such a brutal manner! Luckily T can get time off work and he can hang out with B during the day. They’ll probably have a lovely time!

      Like

  3. Amy M.

    I was going to ask the same thing, if there’s any way that the boys can go with you? It sounds like it’s a pretty important meeting, and maybe (I have no idea) help you move up in the company? If you look at the long term affect it will have on B, maybe it would be better for all of you if you go? It won’t any difference to B if you celebrate his birthday early, if they can’t go with you. He will just see that you’re having fun and making a big deal out of him for a day. He may not even see it as that…C had no clue what was going on for her birthday party. On her actual birthday I took her to a park and for ice cream and made a “special” dinner that she could enjoy with us…but she had no clue that it was a day that was any more important than any other. I know that YOU will know it’s different, but it’s not going to have a long term affect on him at all. Or even a short term one. I hope you can make a decision that you’ll be able to find peace with, no matter what happens. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nara

      Yeah! We have finally sorted it! We will have to pay for the flight but the accommodation (5 star hotel in a hot country!) is all paid up. So hopefully they’ll have a nice time. I was considering going without them but I’m still breastfeeding and whilst B has expressed milk during the day, he still feeds a lot overnight and we cosleep. So I think it would be really difficult to leave him. Fortunately T thinks it is a nice holiday and it’ll be nice for them to have some bonding time during the days I’m at the conference. I’m not really planning to do anything big for B’s birthday – maybe just a family gathering when we get home. Thanks for commenting… It was really stressing me out!

      Like

  4. mamajo23

    Wow this is tough. As a SAHM who never thought I would be (I was primary earner before kids) I know the pull of being at home but also sometimes mourn leaving my lucrative and fun job. Ahhh we just cannot have it all. Honestly I say you go but plan a big production to celebrate his birthday right before so the actual day is less of a deal. Xoxo

    Like

    • Nara

      I don’t think we can have it all! It’s a shame! I have found a sort of solution – as others have suggested, they’re going to come with me. It’s very far away (7hr flight) and I’m not prepared to leave him for 5 days when he’s still breastfeeding. (He’ll take expressed milk during the day but he still feeds overnight A Lot. We cosleep.) Hopefully it will be fine!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. RJ

    That is quite a dilemma. I also was thinking maybe the boys could fly out with you. I honestly have no good answer for you. But you are a very thoughtful person and will do what feels right.

    I am also a working mom (mum!) and I have found it hard to connect with parents who don’t work. I feel like the odd one out in the play dates with the few moms I’ve met in my immediate area. But my good friends with kids all work and that makes me feel better. Honestly people can be so mean and up in your business when it means nothing to them.

    Like

    • Nara

      I think everyone has come up with the best solution, for them to come with me! Fortunately T could get the time off work and he likes the idea of a little holiday. We had to cough up for his flights though and B is officially on his reservation, but the airline seems nice. They even have onboard nannies!!!!

      Yeah I find it really difficult now that I’m back at work, with the SAHMs I used to be friends with (through antenatal group). They really aren’t interested in “part time” mums because we aren’t around during weekdays to do anything. It’s a shame!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Rach @ Stories for Strength

    Oh I’m so sorry you have this dilemma to face. It sucks!!!!! Far out. Congratulations on getting the invitation. That’s awesome! I had a similar dilemma for Holly’s first birthday last year. One of my best friend’s was getting married in the states on her first birthday and I really struggled with what to do. To take her would have been hectic (16+ hours of flying) and then not able to be separate from her at all to participate. She has been a much more clingy baby than my first though. I didn’t go and I was so sad when I saw the wedding pics as truthfully, she wouldn’t have known. We could have done a pre or post birthday party and she’d have all the pics but as she was my second I felt like I couldn’t rob her Dad and her brother of the experience. Still, knowing what I know I’d say for you to go. Bubba will never know any difference. I do appreciate the struggle though. I do!!! I hope you work it out x

    Like

    • Nara

      Thanks for this. They are coming with! As everyone suggested!
      My main worry was about that many nights overnight as I’m still breastfeeding and he feeds a lot overnight. He’s used to having expressed milk (and food and water) during the day now so I’m okay with being away during the day, but that would be 5 days and it’s about 7hrs flying each way so it’s not easy to get back if anything happens. I don’t know if B counts as clingy. He likes to be with me! But when he is, he doesn’t cry much. So it’s all good as long as I’m with him at night!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Courtney

    I was all about work, loved being the go-to person for everything, enjoyed a fabulous income with crazy benefits to boot… It was my life. And then… BAM (not really BAM… it took 3 years!) baby and we made the unplanned decision for me to stay home just two weeks before my return to work. I went back to make sure it was what I really wanted versus me just being emotional about leaving Matthew. I quit work 7 weeks later. I mourned the loss of my prior identity for probably two years, but you couldn’t pay me to go back to that line of work now. I’m a changed person. I sometimes struggle with my identity, but not like I used to. If I didn’t do what I do, Brian couldn’t do what he does and make the money he does. It’s a team effort, and I really like that.

    I understand your struggle over B’s birthday. I was the mom who cried every night the week before her son’s first birthday because “he’s no longer my little baby.” He was the same baby the day after he turned 1 as she was the day before he turned 1. That one day meant so much to me, but it meant nothing to him. 😂 Honestly, his second birthday meant more to all of us because he was able to enjoy the extra fun stuff and KNEW it was for his birthday.

    Your invitation is a very BIG deal. If you skip it, what will that tell them about you and your priorities (I don’t question your priorities!)? Will you be passed up at a later time? Truth is, if Brian skipped an invitation like that, it would impact his career. He was in the leadership program for two years and we knew he had to go to every off-site for that no matter when they happened (3 times each year). We don’t regret the decision to commit to that, and important things were missed. His career advancement though? So worth it. (He has the type of flexibility you describe and he is a very present person in our family because of his position and the flexibility it affords.)

    I don’t envy you this decision. Good luck. You’ll choose the right thing.

    Like

    • Nara

      Thanks for this. It means a lot. I’m sure I would feel the same if I could be a SAHM too… I’d mourn the loss of my career, but then you get to be such a great mum to your boys so that’s the tradeoff! I love seeing all the stuff you guys do! Poor B gets a bit of snuggle time and tv in the evenings! 😂

      I am not skipping the invitation. I think you are right that it would send a message that I don’t want to send! Fortunately we have figured out a way to make it work – hopefully. They’re going to come with us and T will look after B during the day and we will be sharing a room so we can still cosleep and do the overnight feeds etc. I do think it’s important to try and maintain a good career to provide for my family, even if we are slightly switched in roles! Hopefully it’ll be worth it in the end!

      Like

  8. TAO

    Hugs to all your thoughts. Whatever your decision, never look back and feel guilty over it, if it was the wrong one, learn from it going forward. We all have made good and bad decisions seen through the lens of hindsight. (I’m also the worst person to follow that advice – but I’m trying).

    Like

  9. Lillian

    The first birthday is 100% for the mother, not the baby who won’t understand or remember it. It’s the anniversary of a super emotional day! Honestly you might be better able to reflect back on it if you were away than if you were at home running around to deal with diapers, guests, the mess… 😂 (Don’t let him actually eat all that cake or frosting, he’ll puke it up!)

    Like

    • Nara

      Oh yeah for sure! I think it’s worked out okay as they’re coming with me… I know B won’t even care about his birthday, but he isn’t used to being away from me overnight so hopefully T can cope with looking after him all day! Haha!

      Like

  10. Nora

    I’ve been discussing a similar option with my partner. I think if the opportunity is good, it’s a good idea to take it. It may not be around in a year’s time. Would you enjoy being in a leadership role one day?
    Of course this is just my take on it.

    Like

    • Nara

      Thank you. Yes, I’m happy to be in a leadership role (although honestly I’m more interested in money than status!). Going to the conference will probably not make much difference, but it might send a message I’m not really committed if I don’t go. Anyway, I’m going and the boys are going to come with me! Hurray!

      Like

  11. notabroodychick

    Tough choice….Have you been apart from B before for any length of time more than a working day? If not and if you do decide to go (and it’s not an option for your men to go with you), maybe do a practice night away first. I’ve only had 4 nights (not consecutively) away from my boy and he’s nearly 2. He copes ok if he’s with his grandma, but at the moment he won’t settle for his Dad at all. I personally would struggle to be away from him for 4 days, at least overseas..I think it’s the distance, like if he got sick or something, I couldn’t get back to him easily. But everyone is different. One mum friend has been doing 5 days away with work at a time fairly regularly since her son was a year.

    I couldn’t be a SAHM, it sounds lovely but I’d get so fed up of not achieving much other than kid related activities. Equally I couldn’t do the full time working mum either… Not only because most of the time I’m shattered from sleep deprivation, but because I’d hate to be missing out on time with my boy and seeing him grow. For me, my 3 day week is the perfect balance 🙂 Money is way tighter than before, but it’s worth it.

    Like

    • Nara

      I think you’re really right here – I haven’t ever been away overnight even though I’ve been out late before. I’m glad I’m not going to have to. Because the boys are coming with me! Hurrah!

      Like

  12. Dubliner in Deutschland

    Congrats on doing so well at your job! I think the trip sounds like a great opportunity and you should try to make it if you can.. But I understand the struggle. Hope you can figure out the best decision for you and your family! x

    Like

    • Nara

      Thank you! It’s probably not so good an opportunity as I’m making out, I mean it’s not like I’ll get promoted for going or anything… It’s just that it might go against me slightly if I don’t go, if that makes sense? I think they’d take it as a sign I’m not very interested in progressing, etc. Anyway we decided I’d go and the boys would come with me! At least that means we will all be together for B’s birthday! He can do without me during the day but I’ve not left him overnight before, and didn’t really want to start! How are you? Hope you are doing well! X

      Like

      • Dubliner in Deutschland

        That sounds like the perfect solution! 🙂 I’m doing great thanks. In the final trimester now and still enjoying feeling movement/kicks throughout the day. Just exhausted in the evenings. Hope you have a lovely Christmas! xx

        Liked by 1 person

  13. sbach1222

    OMG, I hear you. Every day. I wish I could stay at home, but still have my salary and job when I would like to do it.

    I went to a ‘party’ last night and I think I was the only working mom there. All of the ladies were SAHMs with jewelry businesses or some other small business. I flt quite out of place. It probably doesn’t help that I hate my job right now.

    But how amazing on the invitation! Congrats so much!!! I know it must be a hard decision, but there isn’t a wrong decision and you shouldn’t feel guilty either way. It really will all be okay!!

    Like

    • Nara

      Oh I’m sorry you hate your job right now! Is it because of motherhood or is it generally annoying? Poor you! I hope you have some decent options for moving!

      We decided that the boys would come with me. I’m not ready to leave B overnight and not for that length of time! Fortunately T can get the time off. I’ll be at the conference during the day but at least I’ll be there overnight.

      I hope your work improves. And at least that you have a nice time over Christmas!

      Liked by 1 person

      • sbach1222

        Oh how fun!!!! I hope you all have a great time!!

        My job is just not fun or challenging anymore. It is quite a bore and I don’t feel accomplished when I leave anymore.

        Like

  14. themooremomma

    I love your writing. The way you put things is so easy and enjoyable to read along with. I hope you figured out your dilemma! I myself am a stay at home mom to three little ones and I still feel very alone most of the time. I guess making mommy friends is hard no matter what. I sometimes get extremely jealous of working moms, being able to make money of their own and be successful. It’s crazy how we all see things so differently, but have such similar struggles!

    Like

    • Nara

      Thank you! Yes, I think all of us have similar struggles even though the reasons might be different. It’s hard making friends for sure! I’ve found a year on that I’m mainly still friends with my pre-motherhood friends! Thanks for commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

Tell us your thoughts...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s