I’m delighted to feature Ilene of The Fierce Diva Guide to Life today. I obviously write about my family-career juggle often. There are certainly moments when I want to cry, but there are other times when I feel like I’m getting it right. Every woman is unique, every family has different needs and every mother wrestles with choices as to how to raise her children. One of my greatest hopes for women is that we will eventually become better supporters of one another – regardless if we make different choices about work, home and juggling it all.
We each have moments that guide us on new paths, or simply reaffirm the choices we’ve made. I hope you enjoy the words from Ilene below that reflect a time of clarity as she wrestled with working motherhood …
Something Has to Give
“Cut it to my chin,” I say emphatically.
“Are you sure?” The stylist asks.
I sit back in her chair and watch as the hip, youngish woman slowly snips off my long, dark, shoulder skimming layers into a page-boy bob. She told me her name when I walked into the salon, but I don’t remember it at that moment. Maybe I was too busy checking my Blackberry, or the time, or thinking of what I had to get done when I got back to work.
The haircut had been an impulsive decision but a necessary one. Maybe there had been too many layers cut into my hair or maybe it was that I was tired of fighting the August humidity with my blow dryer, or maybe it was the fact that I was trying to fight the too many layers and August humidity with my blow dryer with a 20-month-old tugging at my skirt and a five-year-old jumping all over the bed I had actually remembered to make that morning, and a three-year-old painting the bathroom walls with toothpaste. Maybe it was all of that and the fact that my Blackberry hadn’t stopped beeping since the moment I woke up and I knew there were messages and deadlines waiting for me and that I was late for work once again, so after I dropped my kids off at daycare, I decided that something had to give, and on that particular day, I decided it was my hair. The layers, the length, all of it took too much time. I needed something sensible, shorter, something suitable for a working mother with a demanding job.
“You had such nice hair,” the stylist says, as if she’s in mourning for what about I’m about to give up. “But this will be nice too,” she adds, in a somewhat hopeful tone. Perhaps she realized that instigating a buyer’s remorse in a haircut when my right side was already chin length wasn’t such a great idea. My regular stylist was on vacation that week. I didn’t know this woman or her work, but at that point, I didn’t care. I needed my hair off.
I had been suffering from a lot of “something has to give” moments of late. On that day it was hair, but there had been other throwaways as well, my book club, cooking, yoga classes. I kept trying to carve out more time in my life. I had thought that time was the problem. My job was demanding, raising three young children was demanding, and I was doing a terrible job juggling it all.
I was lucky, and I knew it. I worked for a great company. My bosses loved me and made it clear to me that I had a job as long as I wanted one. I had survived many layoffs through the recent years, and while my workload increased as certain colleagues were let go, my gratitude always outweighed any resentment of the additional responsibilities. Plus, my salary gave me access to the accoutrements of an upper-deck suburban life, great vacations, designer handbags, full-scale kitchen renovations, a brand new SUV. Plus, I was able to provide well for my children.
Except the “things” never made me happy. And the job didn’t make me happy. I had become really good at something I didn’t particularly love to do and at a place, despite a great environment, I didn’t want to be. There was so much of me that I had no time for, and all of the sensible haircuts and missed yoga classes in the world wouldn’t bring that part of me back. I knew in my heart that it was time for me to do a hard reset on my life before I had another angst filled morning of knowing that “something had to give.”
I left a secure well-paying job in a down economy without any real plan to see what was next. I studied yoga and became certified to teach, I began finding freelance writing jobs here and there, I launched my blog. I started a small baking business out of my kitchen. I allowed all parts of me to flourish, not just the ones that would make money. In recent years I earned a fraction of what I used to make, yet, I earned my self-respect back, because I made decisions that were true to me. And yes, I grew my hair long again.
I am a feminist in every sense of the word and a huge supporter of working women. My only hope for all women and all of mankind, for that matter, is that if you work, it’s the right job versus the one you feel you need to have, either for status, or money, or because that’s what you went to school for, even though you never enjoyed being in that field a day in your life. And far more significant than who or what company signs our paychecks, may we never forget for one moment, that what we do for a living holds minimal importance to who we are inside.
Ilene Evans, the Creator of The Fierce Diva Guide to Life, is a single mother to three awesome kids, a freelance writer, yoga teacher, lover of eyeliner, incense, and skullcaps, and a believer that doing what we love and being who we love go hand in hand. And preferably in the other hand, is a really good slice of pizza.