It seems unavoidable, the paradox that life is long and the years when our children are at home full-time are vanishingly short. And life’s sole zero-sum component is time. It’s in the whitewater between these two indelible truths that this debate happens. How could it be anything but charged? These are years we can’t get back, with our children, in our professions, in our lives. I don’t think there’s a single answer to something so fraught with emotion, and I don’t presume to know what’s right for others. For me, it was worth it never to opt out completely.
By staying in the workforce, albeit in part-time roles, when my children were small and at home, I never had to opt back in when they went to school full time. When I read Judith Warner’s piece last Sunday I felt grateful for this anew and reminded of all the ways in which life can surprise us.
I also thought about what my daughter wrote in the “about the author” section of the book she spent weeks writing in fourth grade: “It took Blue five years to write Chasing Vermeer, because she was teaching and also taking care of her kids.” I loved reading this, because I saw that she recognized that life has seasons when certain things take more or less of our time, but that we don’t ever have to let go entirely of the various strands that make up who we are. May Grace always have this expansive a sense of her own future.
Lindsey Mead is a mother, writer, and executive search consultant who lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts with her husband, daughter, and son. She graduated from Princeton with a degree in English and has an MBA from Harvard Business School. Mead writes daily at A Design So Vast.