I looked up from folding laundry on a recent Saturday afternoon and my son was standing up in his crib for the first time, looking incredibly proud of himself. I was proud too, but also a little sad.
The past seven months have gone by so fast. Before I know it, he’ll be walking. I’ll be celebrating his one-year birthday, and in a blink he’ll be in kindergarten.
A mom I used to work with told me to cherish special moments like these. They can be rare when you’re a full-time mom with a full-time job.
That particular mom just left one awesome job for another one, with one key difference: the new gig gives her more time at home with her two little ones.
When you are nursing, of course you leave work on time every day. You have to, she told me. But once your kids get a little older, it gets easier to stay at work late one day, and then the next day. And then it becomes a habit. Before you know it, you are missing baseball games and other fun stuff because of your job.
We used to work together on big projects, and she never wanted me to spend time on them after hours. Our mommy time is little and precious, she told me.
She told me to protect myself as my son gets older. She said to make sure I reserve my after-work time just for him.
I’m a recovering workaholic, so I need to hear these reminders.
Back in May 2012, I wrote about a Pew Research Center study that reported more women than men put an emphasis on careers. Back then I said: “I’d definitely rank my career as a top priority.… Work is a huge part of my life. I’m working or thinking about work or talking about work at home. I think it gets on my husband’s nerves, actually.”
It makes me laugh to read that. I remember that woman. She was obsessed. So much of her self-worth, her time and her day’s mood were tied to her work.
These days I’m a new woman with new priorities. I still make my living as a writer and editor and I enjoy what I do. But now that I’m a mom, work isn’t something that consumes me. It’s something I do to provide a good life for my son.
Sometimes I get wrapped up in a a new project and I think, “Oh, I could finish writing this story at home after I pick up the baby.”
But I remember what that mom told me: My mommy time is little and precious. So I save the work for the next day. And you know what? I haven’t regretted it once.
To reach Pamela E. Spencer, a former Kansas City Star reporter and editor, send email to email@example.com.