I have so many conflicts over working and parenting. As I sit typing, I feel the scratch in my throat, a nagging reminder of a major problem of the arrangement -- the fact of ongoing sickness. Everything seems to blow through here -- every snatch of cold, flu or related virus. Earaches, vomiting, sluggishness -- all unwelcomed but constantly visiting guests.
But that's not the only problem. Deeper than that irritation, which is no minor problem when fevers rise or sleep is thoroughly interrupted, is the fact of my feeling torn. I don't at all feel integrated, but schizophrenic instead. I am living two lives. In one life, I find myself caught up in the pleasures of work -- relating to students, teaching my material with enthusiasm, then alternating between pleasure and boredom when grading seasons hit. But always at the back of my mind is the reminder -- Finn is waiting for me! -- which brings about a sudden anxiety, a surge of guilt, not a pleasant anticipation that I will see him soon. I don't think he dislikes the arrangement, though. He is rarely upset when I see him at daycare, which is often, considering that I still nurse him frequently at 8 months. But I feel that I have somehow abandoned him there, tended less by loving hands than by quick hands. He is one of 6 little lovelies, but the lovelies don't inspire the heave in the bosom of his caretakers. They treat him fine, but they don't love him. Does that hurt him at this age?
Granted, Finn only spends a few hours of each day in their care. On good days, I can finish my work in about 3 hours and complete the rest at home. Other days, i am on campus for 6 hours, and those days I feel terrible guilt over my absence from him. But the guilt doesn't only apply to him. I simultaneously feel guilty for being divided toward my students as well. I form relationships with them, but not with the free abandon that characterized my relationships in years past. I guard my time much more now; I hurry home. That is different for me, and I'm sure it's not an attitude that my superiors would approve of. Yet I cannot seem to help myself. It is a strange place in which I find myself this year. In the classroom, I lose myself in the work and enjoy it. When it ends though, the vision of Finn appears before me, and I am gripped; it's time to get to him.
I cannot seem to reconcile the issue. If I were to take some years off to spend Finn's early childhood with him, we would lose some of the income that helps to make our lives pleasurable. I might also lose my connections to Loyola, which is my safety net as well as a good gig (a topic for another meditation), and I might miss the intellectual activity of the day. But I would solve the problem of feeling so divided, which creates so much anxiety within me -- the feeling that I cannot give 100% of myself either to my job or to my child.
I wonder what other women in my position feel about the issue. I wish I didn't feel quite so beholden to my work environment. But teaching has always been more than simply a job for me. It's more like a duty, though I don't think the word resonates easily with the meaning I wish to infuse in it. When I describe it as a duty, I mean that teaching inspires a deep sense of commitment for me. It entails a promise made to the students that I will guide them toward a new understanding of the materials or even also of themselves. High orders, yes -- but I also have high standards. I know that teaching works best for me when I connect fully with my students. Yet these connections take time, and that time spent with them is less time devoted to Finn, who is merely a babe -- soft, tender and vulnerable. My responsibility, my dearest delight.
I imagine that as Finn grows older, he will need me less and less. In time, I will be free to spend more time at work, burrowing myself deep into whatever projects or relationships beckon. If I step out of the working world next year, will I sever my chances of going back at a later date to a good job? I consider Loyola the best gig in town. Will I regret losing the money? And if I stay on and continue teaching, will I forever regret not having been able to devote myself fully to Finn's baby years, to wading in an undivided love? It is such an unpleasant issue to debate, one that I cannot seem to make heads or tales over. All I can seem to do is to pray for clarity of vision, to see myself and my desires more clearly so that I choose to act in a way that aligns with my deepest desires.