Professor, Virginia

This is a working mom on a “work from home” Friday taking a conference call with my nursling situated close to her “mute button.” This is an attempt at multitasking, a skill that working moms feel like they must master in order to “have it all.” But mostly it feels like I’m not devoting enough attention to either task.

I’m torn between my desire to spend time with my youngest one while she’s still so little, and the desire to keep trudging along on that upwards trajectory at work. This is our last baby, I want to slow down time and inhale her babiness, squeeze her chubby cheeks, snuggle with her while she naps…things that I can’t devote enough attention to on weekends when I’m also chasing after my very active toddler/preschooler. But these are also the crucial pre-tenure years at a faculty position at a R-1 university, the kind of opportunity I’ve put in years of work to obtain, and one that I don’t want to let slip away.

I am fortunate to have a flexible work schedule and temporary modified work duties directly after maternity leave to where I can allocate some Fridays to working from home. But I frequently second guess my decision. Time is a finite resource. Every minute I dedicate to rocking my baby to sleep is a minute I take away from work. Every minute I’m at work is a minute I miss of my children’s childhood. It’s only a dozen or so Fridays of my entire life, but what will I regret more when the kids are grown? Not being able to squeeze in one more game of peek-a-boo, or not being able to squeeze in one more research proposal? What’s the best allocation of time when you want to do your job outside and inside the home well?

I don’t have the answers, but my baby just interrupted the director of a national research center because she wanted to interject her adorable baby coo in the middle of our discussion. I’m the only woman on this call so I think I should ignore it and pretend like nothing happened. Or maybe I should recognize it with some humor, acknowledging this delicate balance act called working motherhood.