Let it Go…or Not (Thoughts on Motherhood and Work)
By Nicole Wolfrath
My head is propped up on my hand. (Laying on my older daughter’s bed at this angle is only slightly less uncomfortable than laying on the floor waiting for her to fall asleep.) I close my eyes and my head swims with thought after thought. Not the breezy, fluid thoughts I used to daydream of years ago—of things I wanted to do or places I wanted to go. These thoughts are rigid, sharp and dart angrily in my tired brain. They are about work…
- The event I have to host tomorrow.
- The unsent email I need to remember to get out first thing in the morning.
- The remark someone made today that annoyed me.
My younger daughter shuffles in her crib across the room and my eyes quickly open, remembering where I am. The room is quiet and calm but I am a fiery, loud ball of anger, lying next to one sleeping child while looking over at the other. Queen Elsa’s large, blue eyes are staring up at me from her place on the bedsheet. She looks at me as if to say:
“The answer is right here, you have to let it go.”
My mouth smirks in the dark. I know I should let it go. I should let it all go. But I can’t. Because what does letting go really mean? Does letting go of certain work stresses when others have an expectation of me mean I’m being insubordinate? If I don’t respond to someone who is not respecting me does it mean I’m not advocating for myself? Does letting go mean I’m giving up? That I’m lazy or complacent with the way things are?
I look at my two young girls sleeping soundly and feel the weight of being their role model resting heavily on my chest. This job of being a mother is very big… yet the job of being a working mother for me is even greater because my own identity and self worth is somehow tied into that role. (Which I pray culturally changes by the time my girls are women and trying to navigate this themselves.)
These days I find myself unsure of exactly where I’m supposed to lean in. My current career? Finding another career? More at home? More with the volunteer work I find so rewarding? My art? And, when I lean out of one of them, is it because I’m tired, scared, or just not seeing the value?
I used to be very sure of these things. Of what to do and how to feel. That is, before I had kids…
I continue to look at a wrinkly Elsa under my elbow. I wonder if I am mistaking a strong sense of urgency and anger at my inability to let things go for a passion about something I am actually concerned about or interested in. I wonder if I am restless and anxious because there are things about being a working mother that just don’t fit for me, and I am shoe-horning myself into them because I feel I have to. I need to stress about something. I need to care about something. I need to make myself available for someone. I need to do these things because they are expected of me. When all I really want is to have each and every thought trickle away from my hand like soft snowflakes and watch them melt away.
I get up from the bed and give the girls one last look before I leave their room for the night. Tomorrow is another day for them to learn something new, create something fun and dream. I used to be like them. We were all once like them. The little kid that knows how to create, dream and have fun is at the core of each of us. But tomorrow, and like everyday, I’ll bury her deep under my work clothes and other piles of responsibility. Maybe she’ll get a little bit of air in between emails and meetings and in those short, sweet breaths, she can whisper loud enough and remind me to somehow figure out how to let it go.
Leave a Comment: Do you find yourself struggling with your identity as a mom versus a professional? How tied to your self worth is your professional identity? How do you turn off the million thoughts racing through your head when you just want to “let it go?”
Nicole Wolfrath is mom to two feisty girls ages five and one and has worked full time in university career services for the past 14 years. She and her husband share a unique family dynamic where he works full time from home while also being their girls’ primary caretaker. Nicole has taken leadership roles in her children’s schools and loves to create art when she can find the time. She is currently a volunteer with Mom-Mentum for the Work/Life Resources and Programs and a Member Community Ambassador. Nicole enjoys having random dance parties with her girls and creating family traditions such as movie night (where you can often find all three of the Wolfrath girls on the couch with a giant bowl of popcorn mixed with M & M’s!)