On Wednesday night, I went out to dinner with my boss and some other colleagues at Morton’s steak house.  Thats the place where they don’t give you a menu, they just wheel in a cart loaded up with steaks as big as your head.  While it oozed testosterone and had the air of backroom deals and macho power lunches (not really my kind of place), I was so happy to be there that I practically glowed every single second.  I didn’t even mind that my car got locked into the office garage  and that I had to take a $25 dollar taxi ride home.  I got to have wine and chocolate cake for dessert. 

There are many days that I regret having to work outside the home.  On a beautiful summer morning, when many friends are gearing up to take the kids to the pool, I grouchily struggle into hose and heels and head into the office.  In the evenings, it can be stressful to mentally transition from the “shark-eat-shark”-ish Washington job to the gentler land of playmobil, playdates and parks.  Most days I really struggle to go from patient, loving and infinitely curious to efficient and curt, and back again in the space of 10 hours.  I long to live in just one world where it would be so much simpler.  And since I know I couldn’t live without my  Maxidoodle, I long to be a work-at-home Mom.

But tonight I relish having my foot squarely planted in two worlds. 

For one, there are all those cliches that are actually true about the advantages of working outside the home:  You get to stretch your mind, have 8 hours of grown-up time, wear pretty clothes without vomit on them.  After a long days work at the office I can often measure progress concretely:  a polished memo, a well-run meeting, a decision that’s been made.  After a long day’s work at home the results are less concrete:  the house is just as messy (even though I spent all day picking up), the boy is just as messy (despite 2 baths), and all the love and attention I have poured out leaving me drained is still sinking into his little heart with few visible side effects.  The victories at home are smaller and can be missed if you blink.  No communications expert will broadcast to the world “Max used kind words 8 out of 10 times today.  Mom making progress on teaching compassion” the way my team’s successes might be touted by press release. 

But I am not writing all of this to convince anyone that it’s good to be a mom who works outside the house.  That’s not my  point.  Not at all.  In fact, I love being with my son and in our home so fiercely I would give it all up without looking back if only I could.   But tonight as I think about the steak I had at Morton’s, I find myself thinking that sometimes the universe puts me exactly where I need to be to learn exactly what I need to know.  And lately thats been in this crazy duality called “working mom”. 

Me, I have been known to be a “grass-is always-greener” girl.  Its not unusual for me to realize I have spent whole minutes, hours, even days yearning to be somewhere different than where I am.  This situation I am in–this living in two worlds–can bring out the best of that “grass is greener” thinking.  As I rush out the door on a sunny morning–I wistfully watch the stay at home mom load her kids in the car and remember the joy of splashing in the pool or running in the park with Max.  However, staying home from work with my little guy, picking up dirty socks for the fifth time in  3 hours, I find myself thinking about being at the top of my DC game, productive and making stuff happen.

Sometimes when I notice that I am doing this I get really really mad at myself and this silly way I torture myself.  My inner critic joins in the fun. “What’s wrong with you woman?  Can’t you be satifsfied?”  If I am lucky I remind myself to breathe.

But lately, sometimes, with a little bit of grace something else may happen.  I ignore my inner critic and simply make a note to self.  On a lovely summer workday not that long ago, as I dragged the briefcase to the car I found myself wistfuly dreaming of the look of pure joy on my son’s face when I tell him we are pool bound.  Instead of indulging in the drama of “Oh why can’t I be doing that?  Its not fair!” and then  “What’s wrong with you?  Many women would kill for your job” that morning I simply smiled and filed it away.  Later that week when I was up to my ears in dirty dishes and dreaming of being fabulous in a meeting I did the same thing.  Notice.  Sigh.  File.

I have to say this has been much more pleasant than beating myself up.  But its not the end of the story.  For the universe had a few tricks up her sleeve these days.  Sometimes she mixed up my files. 

It went something like this.  I am telling Max to put on his shoes for the 29th time.  With great tension in my voice I say “If you want to get to the pool before it closes we need to go NOW”.  I instinctively reach for the file–the one that tells me I would rather be at work being smart,well-dressed and listened to.  But instead, the picture I take out is the one I filed a few mornings before–the one that reminds me how much I want to be in this spot.  How fabulous it is to take Max swimming.  How much joy it gives the both of us.  How there is no other place I want to be in the world than exactly where I am.  The reminder I never would have filed unless I had to go to work.  I sigh…the edge falls out of my voice and I relax into the moment.

And then there I am on Wednesday night, a little bit grouchy that I am missing my baby’s bedtime to go to a stuffy restaurant with a bunch of men.  I go to pull out the yearning for my boy’s sweet smell but again I grab the wrong file.  I pull out the one I filed at the kid-friendly restaurant where I said “Sit down and eat” for the 14th time.  The one where I told myself how much I wish I could be at a grown-up restaurant with people who ask me any question but “Can I please please please have soda?”.  And then  something shifted.  Suddenly there was nowhere else I wanted to be than Mortons.  Yes, there I was, enjoying every single bite, laughing at the guy I didn’t know was funny, basking in the fun of the work dinner at the steak place with the guys.  Its a miracle of sorts.  A funny sweet joke.  A knock me over with a feather life lesson.

It seems that all the while that I had been whining about my two worlds, I was really building up a catalogue of all I love about my life.  A catalogue I had simply been accessing all wrong until a little bit of grace set me right.

I am trying to figure out how to wrap this post up.  How to summarize this insight in a clever way.  But I am still giddy with the miracle of figuring it out and therefor not feeling pithy or clever.  Instead of mourning this reality  I will just giggle and enjoy the gifts of this moment and spare you a conclusion.  I will simply smile and just enjoy being exactly where I am right now.

Blessings to you this night.  May you find yourself a gift in every minute of this weekend no matter where you are.

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