What I Want People To Know About Being a Working Mom
It wasn’t really a choice.
When my husband and I had the whole kid discussion years before Teddy existed, we knew I would keep working. We have considerable student loans and other commitments and debts and financially one of us staying home with our kid just wasn’t an option for us. Like many millennials who entered the workforce during the Great Recession, we even delayed having a child longer than we wanted in an attempt to get more financially stable. Eventually we realized we would be 50 before we got exactly where we wanted to be, and might as well go for it, knowing a double income would be the only way to make it work.
If it was, I would still choose to work.
I love my job, and get a wonderful sense of fulfillment from being creative, applying my degree and experience, and working on something I find meaningful. I’ve always been very career-driven. To be completely honest, my job skills are something I feel most confident about. I’ve been doing marketing/PR/event planning for ten years, and I feel like a pro. It’s the parenting thing I feel much less adept at (don’t we all?).
Sometimes the grass looks greener.
Sometimes I wish it was ME spending all day with my kid, instead of a preschool teacher. Sometimes I wish I had the quality time in general.
I can see it now. We would leisurely stroll Target together with my traveling latte, and purchase special outfits for every holiday, attend mom-and-me events, hang out with fellow mom friends, and create elaborate Pinterest-worthy crafts for us to do together. I would use the childcare facility at the YMCA and keep myself in shape. I would actually cook for the family. (I realize this is a fantasy I’m sure even SAHM’s have and fail to achieve, as it’s rather ambitious.)
And I can see the fantasy swing in the other direction – I KNOW the relief you sometimes feel handing off a surly toddler to a professional and driving off to Starbucks before getting to the office where you can leisurely sip your espresso and read emails in calm silence until the caffeine kicks in. It’s great having eight hours at a time where no one is pawing at you or climbing all over you or slamming toy dinosaurs on your face or whining for something. The adult world can be an escape. But work is still work, and the truth is you still have deadlines and stress and things you worry and think about once you are home and supposed to be focusing on your family.
Each is a different kind of challenge, but they are both just that – a challenge.
Weekday evenings are extremely precious.
During the week, I see my child exactly 3 ½ hours a day. From 6 – 7:30 am as we all get ready for the day and 5:30 – 7:30 pm between when my husband gets home with him from preschool/daycare and when he goes to bed. If I am with you and NOT my child after work before 7:30, you and what we are doing are very special and important to me. It is time away from my son, and time my husband has to do double-duty to compensate. It’s a big deal, and a lot of time why I say no to a lot of events and opportunities I would otherwise love to attend. (Note: The saying no is something very new and still hard for me, but I’m working on it!)
I am tired. Really tired. Like, all the time.
This is really no different than being a SAHM. I think there is sometimes debate about which takes more out of you – working all day on “work” or working all day keeping kids alive and the house together.
Let’s call it even.
Because the truth is, whether you’re with the kids all day, or return to them after work, as a parent you’re still never really “off the clock.” And even though that 5:30 – 7:30 pm time with Teddy is precious, MAN is it grueling after a long day at work. Relief comes when they go to bed, but you’re still on-call for when they wake up crying because they are sick or wet or lost their binky or just plain don’t want to sleep anymore.
Factor in the volunteering I love to do and won’t give up, and the time I have left to myself falls between 7:30 pm and whenever I pass out from sheer exhaustion, which is more often than not, 8:30 pm. My days often start again around 4:45 – 5:30 am when Teddy refuses to sleep any more. Alarm clocks have become superfluous objects in our household. So by the time I get work in the morning, I’ve already had about 3-4 hours of a busy day under my belt. Hence the espresso and silence.
So if you see bags under my eyes, dry shampoo in my hair and a Grande Starbucks cup in my hand, just know I’ve been dealing with a masochistic tiny dictator since 4 am.
I wish I had a “Village.”
They say it takes a village. And I honestly don’t know if it’s the fact I work and therefore don’t have time during the day to bond with fellow moms, or that I am a really terrible introvert, or that I didn’t grow up here and have no family here – but for whatever reason, I don’t have a village. Or a safety net. I certainly don’t have a mom squad.
I have a handful of close friends, and we see each other sporadically. But those moms out there that meet up with their kids and sip coffee while they play, and can call each other in an emergency and do pick ups from activities when someone is running late, or just plain call and cry and commiserate with over the challenges of child-rearing? Nada.
It really does feel like me and my husband against the world a lot of time, which has certainly brought us closer and made us stronger. But it would be so wonderful to have that kind of extended family.