Opening my back door, I ease into the house. I set my purse and keys down on the counter and rifle through the mail I collected before entering. It’s just sale flyers today. I see one for diapers and it doesn’t take but a minute for a memory to re-surface and a smile to form across my face.
Today was my first day on the job after a twenty-three year hiatus from the working world. And the reason for that is a diaper. A very stinky, runny, horrible diaper.
I remember the day like it was yesterday. It was my first day of work at the firm of Mason-Bigman. I was all dressed up in my “power” suit - navy pinstripe, I think it was. I still remember those shoulder pads! I recall distinctly the white blouse I wore underneath it with the little bowtie around the neck. I was so proud of that outfit! I remember my husband, Mike, whistled at me as he left for his job, and encouraged me to go “wow” my new employers.
And I probably would have, except that by the time I was to enter the hallowed halls of that firm, that same white blouse was covered in icky, yellow-brown infant diarrhea.
I laugh as the memories roll through my mind. You see, I was a brand-new college graduate back then all set to amaze the world and begin my climb up the corporate ladder. But I was also a new mother. Mike and I had married the summer after our junior year of college and on graduation day, instead of marching down the aisle, I was pushing out ten -pound Kevin in the hospital.
And while Kevin was a bit of a surprise, I told myself it didn’t matter. After all, this was the eighties. Women could have it all. In fact, my professors in college assured us that, in fact, it was vital that our future children see their mothers fulfilled in the workplace. The 1950s were long gone, along with poodle skirts and sock hops. There was no such creature as June Cleaver anymore. To do anything less was a betrayal of all the hard-fought victories that had been won by the women who marched before in pursuit of equal rights. I owed it to them to do it all. I owed it to myself.
And, too, there was the certain matter of my college degree. That thing was hard earned -- how could I walk away from all that work? I just couldn’t, that’s what.
But none of those college professors told me how I would fall in love with my child the moment they placed him in my arms. They didn’t tell me how sweet the days would be and how I would lose myself in those big blue eyes. They didn’t tell me that I would creep into his room at night, just to make sure he was still breathing or that motherhood would re-define my womanhood.
But, I still clung to the belief that I could do it all. As the weeks rolled on I began to prepare myself for entering the work force. I scouted around for good daycare and ended up choosing a grandmotherly friend of a friend to watch Kevin for me.
And then the morning of my interview arrived. Grabbing the diaper bag and my new briefcase in one hand, and scooping up Kevin in the other, I prepared to enter the Land of the Modern Woman. I walked out the front door. And then it happened…
Kevin screwed up his little face, turned beet red, and exploded. Rivulets of baby diarrhea ran down my white blouse, dripping onto the briefcase. It was so disgusting. And yet, that blow-out remains one of the most defining moments of my entire life.
Standing in our driveway, holding a wailing baby, my clothes covered in excrement, while it dripped onto my high heeled shoes and the pavement, I was rocked with a sudden realization. Anybody could go work at Mason-Bigmans. But only I could be Kevin’s mommy.
And that’s why I smile today on this, my first day back to work. It came twenty-three years later than I had planned, but I learned along the way that I was right - women can do it all.
They just can’t do it all at once.
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