The Short End of The Stick

Oh, my dear stay at home moms. I’m glad society finally sees the value of the stay at home mom. You are an awesome bunch of ladies who sacrifice so much to make sure your children get what they need. I’ve seen a lot of writings about stay at home moms as of late and as a working mom I find them often a little disheartening. I feel a flicker of a connection in some areas but I also feel wildly disconnected. . . I feel a bit left out.

I didn’t realize until I became a working mother how considerable the differences are between stay at home moms and working mothers, and while I don’t believe that either choice is superior to the other I often feel like us working moms get the short end of the stick.

Just like you, as a working Mom I am the primary care giver to my child. The biggest difference is that I don’t stay at home during the day with my child. My child goes to school during the day while I work which means I am only allowed a small allotment of time to spend with my child in the mornings and evening during the week. Just like you stay at home moms I want to make the most out of my time with my child. Unfortunately I also have to squeeze in the same things you do laundry, cleaning, grocery shopping, time with my husband, other family and friends and do you know what? It’s hard. It is so incredibly hard.

I love being a mom. I like working outside the home, but I have found that I often feel like a plate spinner. Just as it takes dedication and skill to keep those plates spinning,  I feel like my life is constantly spent trying to keep all the different areas of my life spinning so my world doesn’t come crashing down on me in an obliteration of glass and debris. I feel I am constantly being pulled in twenty different directions and when I finally get an unexpected moment to breathe I don’t know what to do with myself.

When I look for things to do with my child in the evenings and on the weekends I find that my choices are extremely limited. No story time at the library. No mommy and me yoga. No mommy and me anything. All the classes I can find are during the day. . . while I’m at work. Ok. Fine. I did manage to find a swim class we could take together, and it seems now my child is getting older my choices are finally increasing some.

Now, let’s talk playdates. Let’s try to get together with some of the wonderful moms from my online moms group. Every time I find someone posting for a playdate I take one look at the date and time and my heart sinks. It’s always during the day. . . when I’m at work. I’ve tried posting listings for weekend playdates a few times with not much luck. I did have one and it was awesome and I need to get together with her again, I just wish she lived closer. . .

Which brings me to one of the big complaints I see of stay at home moms. . . that they need friends.  Um, hello, us, working moms need friends too. We may get to leave the house on a daily basis and have adult interactions with people we work with, but in my line of work I work with mostly men, and the handful of women in my office are all a decade older than me so I don’t have much in common with them.  I want to be surrounded by other mothers who can tell me all the things my child does are normal. Friends who can make me laugh and remind me how to not get so wrapped up in caring for my child that I neglect myself.

I am jealous of you, sometimes, stay at home moms. I wish I had more time to spend with my child. I wish I didn’t feel guilty turning on a show for my child to watch while I whip up dinner, feeling like I’m neglecting him, but we have to eat. I wish I had a kitchen fairy so I could get a good night’s sleep instead of doing dishes in the late hours of the evening while the child sleeps. I wish I didn’t fall asleep with my child 2-3 times a week and feel like my husband gets neglected. I wish so many things, but then I come back to reality and just suck it up and keep going. I will continue to use my lunch break at work to run errands, plan meals, get my oil changed, anything I can squeeze in so I can spend more time being with my family while I’m with my family. And going forward I’m going to stop comparing my life as a working mom to life as a stay at home mom, because in the grander scheme of things we are just busy mothers trying to make the best of the hand we were dealt with.

Sometimes the Guilt just keeps Coming

When you’re a working mom you are doused almost daily with guilt.  Guilt that you leave your child with someone so you can go to work.  Guilt that you don’t spend enough time with your child.  Guilt that you leave your child with a babysitter so you can have some adult time.  Guilt that you set you child in front of the television for 30 minutes so you can make dinner.  It pummels you from all corners and some days are so much worse than others. . .

The other day I had a heavy workload day and towards the end of the day I look up only to have an “oh shit” moment.  It was 4:11, I need to shut down and haul butt out of the building.  I usually leave work at 4 so I can pick up my child no later than 5pm.  I leave hurriedly only to be reminded by the gauges on my car that I’m going to have to stop and get gas on my way between work and daycare.  The whole way driving to pick my child up I am riddled with feelings of guilt.  I don’t like leaving him at school any longer than I have to.  I should have been paying better attention to the clock.  Traffic just plain sucks the whole way and I finally wind up at his daycare about 5:15.

Already riddled with guilt I step into his classroom only to see his crying face through the glass door leading to the playground.  My heart crumbles and I pick him up as soon as I make my way outside.  I take inventory of the situation.  Not even a handful of kids are outside and the teacher is not one of his normal teachers.  She leaves her post talking to the other teacher from across playground gate separating the older kids from the younger to make sure I know he has been “fussy” for about the last 20 minutes or so (The time I normally would have picked him up by.) as she lets me back in the building.  Another teacher is inside cleaning and lets me know she had been sitting outside with him holding him while he fussed until she was summoned away to begin her cleaning duties.  This does not bring me any comfort.

My heart is heavy.  I hug my child and carry him out to the car.  We take our time getting in the car while.  When I slide into the drivers seat I fight back tears and clear my throat to get rid of any sadness.  I am angry that the teacher was just standing around chatting and not making an effort to comfort my child.  I am so angry I wonder if this situation warrants an email to the director. . . I am also feeling guilty I left work late and picked him up late.  I hate the barrage of feelings that are bombarding me from all directions.

We get home and cuddle and play and do a lot of his favorite crazy rambunctious things to take our mind off the roughness of the afternoon.  My husband assures me that things like this will happen on occasion and I cannot let the feelings control me.  Just enjoy the time we do have together instead.  So we do.  We squash away those feelings of guilt and flood our hearts instead with joy and togetherness.

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What Working Mom’s do during their “Lunch Break”

If you ever wonder what us working moms do during our lunch break I can tell you we are sometimes lucky to actually squeeze food into the lunch break. . . it’s all about getting as many tasks completed that we can do sans child so that we can spend more quality time with the kiddos.

This is what we do. . .

We run errands.  We buy dry goods from the grocery store, anything we can leave in the car without fear of spoiling or melting or becoming toxic while it sits there in our car from lunch until we make it home.  We pick up pet food from Petsmart or Petco. We get gifts for birthdays and holidays.  We get our oil changed.  We go to the bank.  We renew our registrations.

We stay in the office and catch up on household business.  We make phone calls. We schedule appointments.  We research classes and things to do with the kiddos when we are with them.  We make sure the bills are paid.  We budget.  We make meal plans and grocery lists.  We catch up on emails that are long overdue for an answer.  We write on our blogs. We read parenting articles. We finish making costumes or crafts for upcoming holiday parties for the kiddo.  We try to figure out other jobs where we could work from home.  Sometimes we even try to read a few chapters in the never- ending stack of books telling us “the correct” way to parent while sitting in front of our desks eating a salad, a sandwich, or last night’s leftovers.

If we are lucky we quietly eat an actual lunch at our desk quickly in about 15 minutes so we can leave early to pick up the kids because there’s always a little bit of guilt tugging our heart strings that we are working moms.

If we are super stressed we call in the big guns and schedule an overdue lunch date with one of our closest friends, because meeting them at the park with the kiddos Saturday mornings only allows for about 10 minutes of actual adult conversation while a lunch date allows 45+ minutes of actual adult conversation plus some much-needed stress relief.

So, in case you’ve ever wondered what we do. . . that is what we do.

Working Mom Guilt

Nothing tugs on your heart strings more than when you have to drop your child off so you can go to work and they shed real little tears as you head for the door.  It’s one of those things that sticks with you all day long.

Being a working mom comes with a plethora of challenges.  You have to learn to trust the person(s) you leave your child with every day (and not cry when you drop them off).  You have to learn how to make as many seconds of your awake time count each day, which I am learning requires mad skill in the time management department (of which I find some days I am sorely lacking.) You have to figure out a way to keep the house reasonably clean (at least clean enough that if god forbid CPS came knocking it wouldn’t gross them out). You have to make sure there is healthy food in the house to prepare meals. You have to find time for your husband, the critters, the babe and maybe even eck out a little me time (I’m still not sure how that’s possible) all after working a 40 hour work week outside the home. . . Sometimes, I struggle with all this on a weekly basis, sometimes a daily basis (heck sometimes I have those days where it’s all I can do to just take it an hour at a time.)

It’s hard.  

Sometimes I shed a few tears when I get in the car to drive to work.  I think about what things would be like if I could stay home with my child all day instead of going to work and then I remind myself of what  I know deep in my heart, that me working and him going to school, is probably the best for both of us.  I like working.  I get stir crazy if I’m in the house too long.  The babe has similar tendencies, he is go, go, go and at school they do a wonderful job engaging him in all sorts of activities I don’t know if I’d be creative enough to figure out on my own if I was at home.

But I still miss him.

I get jealous when I see other mom’s posting pictures of fun activities on facebook during the day.  I get annoyed by “school” holidays that working people don’t get off, and summer, what the heck is that?  I get frustrated when I look for Mommy and Me type activities and I cannot find any during the weekend or evening hours (because you know us working mom’s don’t want to do fun things with our children. . .).  I have to remind myself that I am lucky to have the job that I do.  My boss is wonderfully flexible when it comes to me needing time off (or to work from home) to take care of a sick little one or attend one of his school activities.

I am so incredibly grateful for this.

I try my hardest to be away from him as little as possible and I try my very hardest to be engaged with him when I am with him.  We read daily, I try to have a craft activities for him a few days a week, I physically play with him daily,  I bounce with him in his trampoline, I dig in the dirt and pick up worms and frogs with him, I try to take him to the park every Sunday and  have a fun visit or trip somewhere every week.  I think because my time with him is limited I work my butt off to make sure the time I do have with him is quality time and I think we are both okay with this arrangement.

I’ve also learned that when guilty feelings do roar their ugly little heads, I pull out the big guns, (maybe play hooky?) and plan something extra fun for the both of us.