It’s been two months since you went back to work, my beautiful friend. You look tired. There was no food in the house when we arrived for the weekend. You abandoned your little man to feed himself to take a call. Your husband makes digs at you as he takes over. He is pulling his weight. But he looks wild eyed and tired and unsure how he got here.
I recognise it. I reflect it. Less now, a year in, but those early months still echo. Ambition, which used to be a calm pillar on which you climbed and leant, is a weight you drag behind you as you scrabble across quicksand.
That year away from the office ticks in those first days. That clock, ruthlessly judging us, asking if our achievements are enough, ticks. Peers are promoted beyond us; our seniors are younger. We see women without children; men with children; move faster, work harder, do better. We have to leave at 4, so that urgent, high profile task goes elsewhere. Or gets taken home, distracting through the bedtime routine, worked on finally with half-closed eyes and the humming of the baby monitor.
We were young and promising; then just promising. And now we should have moved to successful, but what is successful enough? In the cold light of day, I am happy with my choices, but when I’m shy in a meeting, when I’m overlooked for a job; the ticking of that clock is suffocating. It drowns out all reason.
I’m proud of you, my beautiful friend, for how hard you’re fighting. I know that the fight will become easier. As you get more confident, you’ll be fighting from a position of strength, not scrapping from behind. When you have less to prove, you can delegate and prioritise and let some of this shit just slide. But be scrappy for now. This work/life balance myth has got to be worth battling for.