Working and Motherhood: A Dream Deferred, I Guess


What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
Langston Hughes

Because I didn’t make a lot of money as a teacher, leaving the classroom when we couldn’t afford childcare anymore wasn’t a question. It was a necessity.

I get it. We just couldn’t afford childcare. And I guess that maybe if I wanted to continue teaching, I just shouldn’t have had all these kids (*eye roll*). But I did, and here we are, and truthfully, I’ve been lucky enough to have figured out a way to stay in my field, work part-time, and further my education.

Me, every day of my life.
Me, every day of my life.

If I’m honest, the balancing act gets HARD. And really, really exhausting. Work, class, sitters, cleaning, and, oh right, being a mom. Sometimes I think I should just bow out. I mean, what’s the harm in taking a couple years off? A lot of people do it. A lot of people do it and then return to teaching.

And while that’s true, I have clung to my career like a life raft. I have no idea why I’m working so hard to work. But I just can’t let it go. I can’t let go of the fact that I have a couple degrees and a lot of experience and feel dedicated to a job and profession I am lucky enough to be a part of. It’s more than a huge part of my identity. It’s a big part of my purpose. It’s a big part of my brain. It’s just a big part of me.

Don’t get me wrong. My kids are a big part of my identity. They’re a big part of my purpose, brain, and heart. To have this career isn’t to negate who or what they are to me. I think I just thought it would be easier. Or that the path would at least be there. Sometimes I feel like I just got totally duped.

“Hey, Little Girl, you can grow up to be whatever you want to be. You, too, can go to college! Just know that if you go into a profession that has been historically occupied by a majority of women, you won’t get paid very much. Also know that if you want to a be mother, as well (and you do, don’t you?), you’re going to have to figure out how to afford childcare. Also know that you probably won’t get a paid maternity leave, and your insurance may or may not cover you healthcare costs. If you get married and your husband makes more money than you- and even if he doesn’t- you will be responsible for organizing childcare so you can work, scheduling doctor and dentist appointments (the kids and your own), managing any sick days (the kids and your own), cleaning at least half the house, and, well, actually, a lot of the family household management responsibilities that are still spilling over from pre-women’s-lib-movement. You can grow up to be whatever you want to be. And good luck with that.”

Me, every day after work. Lolololololololololololololol.
Me, every day after work. Lololololololololololol.

I don’t know if I’m the only one that feels this way. It’s not that I’m unhappy with being a mother, and it’s not that I thought I could “have it all” (though I don’t know why the hell not, my husband seems to be having it all just fine). I just really didn’t think I’d go to school and work for so long only to find all these structural barriers against me continuing to work.

And maybe I’m selfish, but I’m sad about it. I like the professional part of me. I just don’t know if I can really maintain this. I think the work women do is important. But until some systemic change happens that makes being a working mom more sustainable, this is it for now.

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Nickie is currently an Urban Education Studies PhD student at IUPUI. As co-owner of Indianapolis Moms Blog, she is interested in not only supporting and encouraging fellow mothers, but supporting the small businesses of Indianapolis. She also works for a Civil Rights organization, working specifically with Civil Rights in public schools. She is Mom to Charlie (3), Ivy (2), and Emery (1), and married to her baby-raising partner, Clay. She loves to travel with her littles and husband, walk the Monon, City Market, hikes, dogs, and barbecues. You'll find her with coffee in hand, likely talking to anyone who will listen.


  1. Nickie you got this! Don’t give up! I feel you…I just went back to work after a year off, have a 7 year old at home, I’m 8 months pregnant at a new job and I’m EXHAUSTED. If we can stick out this rough (ROUGH) several years, it will all be worth it. Every day I tell myself – just show up. Just SHOW UP. That’s half the battle. Aaaaaaand I also hired a weekly cleaning lady who does all my laundry. SANITY SAVER. Lean in and show your daughters it can be done! Your an awesome role model!

  2. You can always work. I found that to stay home with my boys was the most meaningful and best time of my life. It is such a short time in the grand scheme of things. Now I am back teaching. You can have it all, but maybe not all at once . . . I have never regretted the different seasons of my life. Takes me back to Ephesions 3:1-8 . . .

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