Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Brees has been sick for a week, enduring her first ear infection and round of antibiotics.
She sniffled and sneezed and slept for hours and hours, her little body working hard to
fight off the bacteria.  Just as she was starting to feel better and I thought we were in
the clear, she came down with a stomach flu and vomited for 6 straight hours.  We
spent Friday night in the pediatric emergency room, replenishing her electrolytes and
waiting out the viral storm.  This sweet, calm little baby barely cried.  She rested her
warm head on my chest, her big eyes looking around at the unfamiliar faces, the bright
lights of the hospital room.  My heart ached for her.
As we drove home at 5 in the morning, I called my boss to let her know that I would not
be able to be on call Saturday as scheduled, my baby girl was sick.  I would not be able to
see patients that day, I could not fulfill my obligation to work because I needed to be
home serving as a nurse to my daughter.  My boss breathed in a heavy sigh, knowing
the difficulty she would have finding someone to take my place on a Saturday.  We
both wished each other luck.
As I hung up the phone, my heart felt heavy.  I knew that my boss was upset, I knew
that patients would have to wait, I knew that some of my coworkers would be resentful
that they would now be expected to pick up the slack.  But as I glanced at the backseat
and saw Brees sleeping, her body weak and tired, I felt angry with myself for even
caring about what any of those people thought.  My family is my priority, they are the
reason I wake up every morning, the inspiration that lights up my soul.  What does a
career even mean if I have to leave my daughter when she is ill?
I have often feel this tug of war between my career and my role as wife and mother.  I
don't want to have to choose between either, I want them to coexist perfectly, to be in
a constant state of balance.  But that is rarely the case, as I am often reminded by nights
such as these.  This is the reality of women today: we want to have it all, but we are
expected to BE all in exchange.  I couldn't help but think of my grandmother and how
much things have changed since she was raising children, my mother and all that
she experienced, so difficult yet quite different from my reality.
My grandparents were married for over 50 years, birthed 6 children, had over
60 grandchildren.  My grandmother never worked outside the home, but she did wake up
at 4 am every day to feed the chickens, milk the cows, and churn fresh butter.  She made
it back to the house in time to cook 3 full meals a day, care for her multitude of children,
iron, sew, and wash countless loads of laundry.  Her own mother lived with her as well,
my sweet little "meme", chiming in with her words of wisdom though she barely spoke
a word of English.  My grandmother referred to domestic duties as "women's work"
and I doubt my grandfather even knew what a broom was.  I wander if she ever
felt unappreciated, isolated, overwhelmed?  I wander if she ever dreamed of something
else, a dream to call her own?  I envy her knowledge of living off the land, her ability to
take care of everyone around her without ever losing her patience.  Women in her day
may not have had the opportunities we do now, but she could make a meal out
of 3 ingredients, she could grow a garden and birth a calf, she could command a
roomful of children with one stern look.
Her journey was one of perseverance, discipline, and hard work.
My mother was a part of a revolutionary generation: she burned her bra and waved
her finger at the idea of being less than a man.  Even while raising two children and
working full-time, she put herself through night school to make a better life for herself
and her family.  She sacrificed every ounce of her free time to work and earn her own
way, struggling to put food on the table but too prideful to ever ask for help.  This meant
that my brother and I were often on our own, fending for ourselves until she made it
home from work, her eyes dark and her shoulders tired.  She did everything she could to
be there for us, showing up right at half time to watch me perform my high kicks, always
in her uniform for every school event and parent teacher conference.  I wander if she ever
felt exhausted, lonely, inadequate?  I wander if she ever wished for an easier way, a
world where women didn't have to work so hard just to prove themselves?  I envy
her strength, her unbreakable spirit.  Women in her day were expected to work for a
living but were not quite respected as equals.  But she never let on that she was
struggling, never complained or worried.  She taught me about work ethic and self-love.
She taught me to be self-reliant not only in my domestic abilities, but in my financial
means as well.
Her journey was one of independence, inner strength, and faith.
I think of these two women, the generations before me and what they have taught me.
My definition of a woman, the person I strive to be, is a combination of my mother and
my grandmother.  I value the domestic goddess that my grandmother was: I long to be
there for my children and spend as much time at home caring for them as I possibly can.
I want to take pride in my role at home, to provide a loving and warm environment in
which my family can flourish.  But I also value the independence and work ethic my
mother taught me: I am passionate about my career and thankful I had the opportunity
to obtain a prestigious degree.  I want to work hard at something I love and
contribute positively to society.  Can I be both of these women, can I fulfill both of
these roles?  Sometimes, like this past weekend, the answer is no.  Sometimes I have to
make phone calls and let employers down, sometimes I have to say no to an
opportunity because it will let my family down.  I can not be all things to all people, I can
only work hard to be the best at what means the most to me.
My journey is one of balance, self-exploration, and opportunity.
I know who I am and I am fearless when it comes to going after what I want.  But I
am learning, day by day, that sometimes what you want is right in front of you.
Sometimes, I have to remind myself that, instead of always striving to have it all, I need
to appreciate all that I have already.
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Jess said...

I don't know how you managed to write exactly what I needed to hear this morning, Liv...but thank you.

Anonymous said...

Olivia, you know so well how to express yourself and share your ideas.
I, too, try to find the balance.

I love the way you talked about your grandma and your mother , different generations but the same strength, surely with minds full of dreams but knowing at the end of the day what matters most was their families and that nothing was too high to provide for them.

I think women of the past generations could not imagine one second thinking about them before thinking about their loved ones. But they gave us the chance to nowadays have the choice.

Hope Brees will recover soon and with her mum next to her it can only help. Take care.

Indi said...

I love this post! So inspirational. So wonderful.

Lucy The Valiant said...

Oh, I go through this same thought process so often, too! Having a career and being a homemaker BOTH tug at my heart so strongly, I often feel pulled apart. It's a delicate balance, every single day.

Anonymous said...

such a wonderful post.. the last part is so inspiring. :) i hope you have a lovely holiday friend :)

deanna@delirious-rhapsody said...

sometimes i don't really know the right words to say, but i did want to let you know that i read your post. and i hope brees is feeling better!

Little Gray Pixel said...

I can't think of anything to say that will do this post justice. So insightful.

And I hope little Brees is feeling better. Is that your mom as a baby in the b&w photo? Whoever it is there is a good resemblance to Brees, at least at first glance!

Caitlin said...

As always, beautiful post. The baby in that first picture on the left looks JUST like Brees! So funny.

I've read a lot about how modern women are expected to be perfect career women AND perfect moms, and as a result we get burned out pretty easily on in life. It's definitely a hard thing to balance! Unfortunately most companies aren't super family-friendly because raising children is regrettably not valued in our society.

Love you girl. Hope Brees feels better soon!