Take A Look Around

Well, I’d finally done it. After 11 years of post-high school education, I’d earned my dental degree and specialized in pediatric dentistry. I was married, had one daughter, and I was ready to take on the world as I moved from California to Massachusetts to join my dream private practice. It was perfect, right? I had my wonderful family and I was (finally) starting my career in an amazing place with incredible people, and I knew that I had made it.

As it turns out, I had a lot to learn. Working in private practice was completely different than being in dental school and residency. I had to get to know so many new people, and in a small, tight knit community, I often felt like I stood out like a sore thumb. Plus, living as an adult outside of school was like living in a completely different world. Gone were the classmates, study groups, and organized social events. Suddenly, I had to figure out how to make friends in a brand new community without a built in social network. Add to all of this our decision to have another child, and suddenly life became a total whirlwind.

Somehow, despite being incredibly busy and always being surrounded by amazing people, I felt alone.

Don’t get me wrong – I had my husband, and he is my best friend and my rock. But sometimes even we found it hard to find time to be just us. The girls always needed something, the late night feedings were tiring, and now that there were two kids how on earth were we supposed to get everything done and still find time to sleep (let alone have meaningful conversations)?!

At work, all of my coworkers were incredibly supportive, and they’re all lovely people, but it never seemed like there was time to chat and make friends. Between seeing patients and pumping and learning how to help run a practice, there was always something for me to do. I was running around (quite literally) all day, talking to everyone but feeling like I hadn’t really spoken with anyone. It was busy, and it was exhausting. I probably could have done a better job of finding friends outside of work somehow, but I was just happy to sleep whenever I could at that point.

Sometimes it feels like that’s just the reality of being a working mom. We’re so busy doing everything that we don’t really get to do anything.

One day, I was at the end of my rope. We were packing up the house since we were one week away from moving from our rental into the home we had bought, and both my girls managed to catch a nasty virus. Our house was a mess, the kids were miserable, and I’d been up most of the night comforting my girls. I still had to go to work in the morning, though. As I was getting ready to leave, my then three year old daughter looked at me with tears welling in her eyes and said, “Mommy, please don’t go!”

My heart broke. I felt so awful at that moment because I knew she just wanted me to stay and snuggle, but I couldn’t. I had to go to work. My coworkers were counting on me; patients needed me; and people had waited months for their appointments. I had to go in. But I didn’t know how to explain to my daughter that it didn’t mean that I didn’t love her.

Late that night, after I’d gotten back from work and gotten the girls to bed, I wrote them a poem talking about being a working mom and letting them know that my passion for career did not diminish my love for them in any way. I posted it to Facebook, and suddenly all my friends were responding and sharing it. People recommended turning it into a book, so I decided to take the idea and run with it. I hired an artist and an editor, and we created a beautiful book. There was only one problem: Printing a high quality picture book is VERY expensive. I’d already spent a lot of money on the creation of the book, and I wasn’t sure how to take the next step. A friend suggested a Kickstarter campaign, and I decided to take a leap and see what happened.

It was magic. Suddenly, I was hearing from friends from so many different times in my life. From elementary school buddies all the way through people I’d met here in New England, I was reminded of all the people that I knew and loved throughout my life. Everyone was so kind, generous, and supportive. Every time someone shared the campaign, donated to the Kickstarter, or commented on my posts, I had the chance to reconnect with someone. I always knew I had great friends, but now they were being pushed to the front of my mind instead of getting stuck behind all the chores, dirty diapers, and obligations at work. I had been feeling lonely, but in reality, I had this vast sea of friends that were there all along.

That’s when it hit me: I wasn’t alone at all. During the Kickstarter campaign (and even afterwards), so many moms I knew reached out to say they understood exactly what I was going through, and they felt the same way. Many working moms face incredibly similar challenges; we’re all just so busy overcoming any obstacles in front of us that we don’t see all the other women to our sides. We are strong, and we are fierce, but we don’t need to feel like there’s nobody there to help give us a boost when we need it. Although I’m happy I was able to create my book thanks to the Kickstarter, the best part of that campaign was the reminder of how many friends I have. Maybe they’re not all nearby, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there, and we have so much more in common than many of us realize.

So if you’re like me and sometimes you start to feel alone, take a moment to stop looking forward and look to your sides – I’m betting your tribe is bigger than you think, and if you reach out a hand, someone will be there to take it.