I was having a conversation with a friend of mine who works in human resources. We were discussing, essentially, how hard it is to be a working mom, and that it’s near impossible to “have your cake and eat it too”. You just can’t have both when it comes to being a working mom, and that’s just the long and short of it – at some point you’ll always draw the shorter stick. Whether by choice or necessity. Our conversation then turned to how much harder it’s going to get in the future. As our babies grow, and grow out of the daycare/preschool stage, and into the elementary school age and beyond – it’s going to become harder and harder to coordinate our days. Even harder than it already is! Between after school activities, lessons here, lessons there, sports, late work nights, projects with friends, doctors appointments, social commitments, family dinners, church – the list goes on. It’s all too true I think, that the world is simply not made for working moms. (Kind of like how the world seems to be made for 4-person families and not 5+ person families!) And that’s not to be dramatic, or poor, pitiful us, or to make a comparative statement about SAHM’s, but it’s just very much a reality in our society. I have yet to comprehend, in my mind, how it is possible for both parents to work 40+ hour jobs, and have multiple children, and still be able to do it all and not constantly live in a state of complete and utter chaos. And not necessarily even do it all, but simply, make it work. I know how it’s possible though – you just do it. And you make sacrifices, and you don’t say “yes” to everything, and you miss out on some things, and so forth and so on. You do what you have to do. I just keep asking myself, who “holds down the fort” when both parents are working full-time? Surely I’m not the only one who has wondered this.
I’ve been a full-time working mom now for a little over 3.5 years. I’ve worked full-time outside of the home in an office setting with my child in traditional full-time daycare. I’ve worked full-time from home with my child in more of preschool setting. I’ve worked full-time from home with my child at home with me. I’ve worked full-time from home with one child in full-time preschool and the other home with me. And. It. Is. Exhausting. And. So. Gosh. Darn. Tough.
As a working mom, like I mentioned above, you just can’t “have your cake, and eat it too.” Either way, your attention gets split, your time gets split, you have to say no to your kids in order to fulfill a work obligation, or you have to say no to a work request because of your kids. You have to say “no” simply because whatever it is you or your kids want to do is only offered during work hours and not on the weekends. Oh, you want to take some “time off” to stay home with your kids while they’re young because “they’re only little once?” First off, congrats on being able to afford that, #goals. Second off, better hope you find a way to fill in that gap on your resume in the meantime so you can actually get hired again in the future. Oh, you actually love your job, and enjoy your career? You must be selfish and not cherish these precious years that are oh so fleeting. Oh, you work from home full-time with your kids, you must not have a real job and it must be so fun seeing your kids all day. Oh, you’re up for a promotion or see a new position you’d love to apply for, but that means more time and more responsibilities? Guess you’ll have to pass. Oh, you finally did find a way to quit your job but your husband’s insurance is half as good as yours but double the cost? Better pray you don’t actually need it.
In just 3.5 years, I feel like I have already seen and heard every “working mom” shame there is, as well as every “working mom praise”. I’ve heard lots of great things, and lots of not-so great things. I feel like I’ve also learned what kind of sacrifices come with being a working mom. I’ve learned a lot about myself and what works best for our family in this short, but seemingly long time. I’ve had doubts and questions and fears and worries and wants and envies. I’ve been jealous of my SAHM friends. I’ve felt lonely. I’ve felt content. I’ve felt 100% positive we are doing the right thing. I’ve felt 100% positive we aren’t. I’ve felt scared about the future and unsure of what our routines are going to be and morph into. I’ve felt sad for situations we weren’t able to make happen and I’ve felt proud and so happy with the situations we have.
I guess what I’m trying to say with all of this, is that fellow working mom, I see you. And I’ve been you. And I support you. I know what it’s like to be completely unsure of what you’re doing, but sure at the same time. I know what it’s like to be so torn between your career and your littlest loves. I know what it’s like to secretly and not-so secretly enjoy the workday because it means a break! But, I also remember all too well what it feels like when…
- your mom friends have a standing weekly playdate, on Tuesdays at 10:00 AM.
- the library has a special music class, on Wednesday afternoons.
- you want to put your little girl in dance class but the class is only offered on Thursdays at 9 AM or 2 PM.
- your coworkers ask you to join them for happy hour from 5-6 PM, and you desperately want to go and be social, but that’s one more hour you’re away from your kids.
- someone asks your husband what he does, then they look at you and say, “and you stay home?”
- your mom-friends carpool to a women’s only Bible class on Tuesday morning.
- the local Chick-Fil-A has a special Mommy + Me craft event planned, on Friday at 10:00 AM.
- a co-worker jokes about “not coming back from maternity leave” and just waiting to see “how they feel.”
- it’s summer and your mom friends all meet up at the splash pad on Monday because school’s out, but it’s just business as usual for you.
- the best deals at the local museums are during the work week and Saturdays are way too crowded.
- church plans a potluck on Wednesday night at 5:30 PM but you know with rush hour there’s just no way.
- swim lessons are only offered 9 – 9:30 AM M-F.
- you want to check out a Stroller Strides class to meet other active moms in your area but they only meet in the mornings during the work-week.
- all your “sick time” or “vacation time” actually gets used for your kid’s sick days and doctor’s appointments.
- you’d love to send your toddler to a local V.B.S. but it’s M-W from 9 AM – Noon.
- your mom friends take amazing family vacations what feels like all the time, but you either can’t afford a vacation because your income is tied up in daycare costs, or you simply don’t have the vacation time to take off in the first place.
- you want your toddler to play soccer but practice is every Tuesday at 4 PM.
- when everyone you know sends their toddler to a 2/day a week preschool but yours goes to a 5/day and you feel all the mixed emotions.
- you’ve been dying to try the fun, new community play space but it’s only open during business hours M-F.
- when your toddler’s makeup gymnastics class times are only offered during the work-week.
And I get it, to some extent. That a lot of these activities are meant to help SAHM’s “entertain” their kids during the week. But like, when are working moms supposed to do these fun things? There is only so much wiggle room between 5 PM and bedtime. So, I get it, working mom friends! I truly get it and pay mad respect to anyone who has ever done this working mom gig thing. But you know what else I remember feeling all too well? The insane love I have for my children – and no matter how much I work, or whichever career I’m a part of, my love for them never changes. I wouldn’t change a thing so far, because our story is our story, and there’s no sense in dwelling on what you cannot change.
I think what it comes down to is this: being a working mom is just hard. (So is being a SAHM – that is not my point, so please keep those comments out of this.) But, we are strong, and capable of doing so much, and our mom-tuition isn’t any less because of the time spent “away” from our babies. As a working mom, we’re all just doing the best we can, and there are going to be hard days, and easy days. And yes, in the future, it’s just.going.to.get.harder. And if you’re feeling nervous about the future and unsure of how you’re going to handle it all and make it work, and get everything done and be at everything you want to be at – I am too, sister! I have no idea how people do it, but I guess we’ll figure it out along the way. There’s really no way around it – it just comes with the territory. It’s like being a parent – you kind of signed up for it, right? But, you got this! And I just wanted you to know that I’ve been there too, and those feelings are normal, and warranted, and you deserve to feel however you want to feel! Regardless of if working for you is a choice, or a necessity – go you!