What is the hardest thing about being a working mom?


For the past two weeks I have cursed "Time Hop". What is supposed to be a little app on my phone to remind me of what I was doing last year, or the year before, has turned into a gut wrenching look into my recent past. You see this time last year I was still a Stay At Home Mom. I still had things like free time and care free thoughts. There were still concepts like, "I'll get to it tomorrow", and "Don't worry, I'll take care of that this weekend". Those words are no longer in my vocabulary. Things have to get done today, or they don't get done at all. There are zero carefree thoughts, instead they have been replaced with stressed out, holy shit, thoughts. It's as if my Time Hop feed is someone else's life. Someone happier. Someone less stressed. Some other, better, more attentive mother. But just as I guilt myself into thinking I'm such a failure now at this life, I remember that it's not entirely the truth. 



As a working mom, I've slipped as an occasional At Home Mom. I'm a part-timer in a full-time position. Is it possible to be a part-time mom? I think so, because I'm pretty sure that's exactly what I've been doing. I've been getting by, doing the least about of work as possible so I can slide under the radar as the "Okayest Mommy". And as a joke I will call myself that, but in reality it kind of sucks. Actually it totally sucks. There have been missed notes home, I have no idea what time the Grandparent lunch is on Thursday, and I didn't even realize my second grader was sick today, until I picked up her one hundred and three degree self from school today. How is that for "Okayest Mommy"?

I can continue to lament the ways I've gone wrong on my mothering journey this year. I most likely will as the weeks go on until Christmas. Since I'm flying, literally by the seat of my jeggings this year. There are thirty six days until Christmas, I'm pretty sure I'm working thirty of them. Add in the other nine which are over scheduled and you already realize there is not enough math in the world to get me to Christmas. That's the thing about being a working mom. There is never enough time, or money, or effort, or emotions to get you through the day. There may be enough wine to knock you out, or enough chocolate to make you gain another five pounds, but hours and effort and money... They allude all of us.

I'll confess that I'm in the middle of my monthly cycle, so everything seems sharper. Everything hurts a little more. Today was one of my days off this week, and I just about lost all my footing watching my seven year old muscle through her physical, which turned into an actual doctors appointment when we showed up one hundred and three degrees hot. Her normally chipper self, lying quietly on the paper covered table, in a paper gown, just waiting with tears running into her ears. My heart just broke. Because I can't stay home with her tomorrow. And while I'm sure this is par for the course with working moms, I'm just not okay with it. I could work for the next thirty years outside the home, and I will never be fully okay with this part. Isn't that the shittiest part of working motherhood? When their world stops, yours continues to turn. 

So here I am, when I should be sleeping. Writing through the tears, because maybe it's the cycle or maybe it's the season, but for the life of me I just can't stop crying. All day today and last night too. Every single thing pulls at my heart. Makes me wish for the simpler times, which I thought were the hardest times, which is hindsight and cliche in the worst of ways. All I can think about are things like: are there enough Popsicles in the house; are there enough waffles; is there enough ibuprofen; where is the Tylenol. In the same line I'm thinking that my work pants are still waiting to be washed, and I should have showered tonight, and what the fuck am I going to take for lunch. These are the things that haunt me, and taunt me, and make me turn to Pinterest to pin things that are never going to happen if I can't even find the time to put of my own Christmas tree.

Now for the part that makes entirely no sense. I'm good at my job. I do a good job being an assistant manager, and please don't insult me and say it's not rocket science to work retail. I know that already. But I have goals there and sales targets to hit and you can only sell so many ornaments before you really have to sell a couch and pray to Jesus that no one returns it on your shift. But the mind boggling thing is that when I'm at work, I'm good. I'm good at my job. I can juggle and be organized. I can hit sales plans and conversion targets. I can supply excellent customer service and make connections with my associates that yield a level of performance that even I'm surprised that it's happening. Yet, I can't get my shit together to turn in one goddamn paper to the school for a fucking fundraiser. Explain that to me.

Saturday, as I was getting ready for work, I figured out the hardest thing about being a working mom, 

Going to work. 

Going to work is the hardest part. Leaving the house with your hair done and make up on. Remembering your lunch or your work bag. Getting out of the house on time to make it to the library for AR testing. Making sure the kids have their homework folders, lunch boxes, signed notes, and money for snack shack. Going to work is the hardest thing to do. Leaving your babies, when they are sick, when they are well, when they are acting like little monsters and hanging on your legs with Cheeto hands. That is the hardest part. When they wave to you from the door as a sign of support, and it breaks your heart to know that you are missing another Saturday. That is the hardest thing. The going. The getting there. Because once you are there, you are there. Working your ass off, trying to be the best, the elite, the one you know you can be. 

And then you come home with every intention of working your ass off, trying to be the best, the elite, the best damn mother your kids deserve. Which is the second hardest thing about being a working mother. Coming home and being the mother, mommy, mom. And like my mother always says, you can be good at one, or the other, but never at the same time. Lately, Home Mommy sucks. Work Mommy shines. And Megan has been lost all together. 

One day, my girls will be mothers. Maybe they will work. Maybe they will stay home. And I'll be able to impart some wisdom if they ask. My hope is that they will remember that mommy tried. Even when she was tired, even when she was stressed. I hope they will know that I did it all for them. That I had every intention of being great, good, and grand, but that some days all I could be was okay. This has been the hardest year of my life. Trying to create some kind of balance when there isn't any. Balance is a myth and a lie. It's something we strive for, kill ourselves to achieve. I don't think I will ever find balance between the two lives I lead now. One will always tip the scales, one will always require more, one will always win. And when that happens, I hope I can find the clarity to tip it back, get it close to even as possible. Because so many things about being a mom are hard, and so many things about being a working mother are hard, so why make them so much harder on me? On us? Balance may always allude me, but happiness doesn't have to. So I'm learning to hold on to that. To carve out some of that. Even in the middle of the mess, I may be able to dig a little peace. 

Because sometimes the hardest part about being a working mom is finding the middle place. The place where you can be comfortable and happy and thriving. The place where fast food dinners are king, and homework is done at breakfast, and sometimes we are just late to school because we are late. Maybe in my middle place all the Thanksgiving desserts are store bought, the tree gets decorated at two in the morning, and everyone gets gift cards this year. Maybe the middle place is skipping bath time, paying $5.99 for that DVR rental, and eating junk food for dinner. Maybe the middle place is right here, writing when I should be sleeping, reading when I should be writing, and letting my girls cut school so we can finally make some Pinterest worthy Christmas crafts. 

I'm pretty sure the hardest thing about being a working mom, is that at your core, you are a mom. A mom with hopes and dreams and expectations, that have nothing to do with you, and everything to do with your children. 

Sound familiar?

3 comments:

  1. I read this post with my morning coffee - doesn't that sound peaceful? Well, I read this after I had gotten everything done and was running out of the door to go to work...and sat in silence reading your post while the hubby drove. This post is so real. I remember reading your work a year ago and you know what? You had stressful times then, too. It's just that this time around you have the mommy guilt that comes with being a working mom. That's what blows.
    And, you know I love your mama, but I tend to disagree just a little. We can do both...be a work mommy and home mommy. Sometimes the house will be a mess, chicken nuggets will be served (again), but we're there. We mamas are there. We care.
    And you know what?! Good for you for feeling like crap about it all...I know it sounds bitchy but really: You feel crappy because you care about being a good mom. AND YOU ARE A GOOD MOM.
    I promise.

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  2. You write so beautifully, and with so much heart. I love this post. Thank you for sharing your deepest thoughts and emotions with us. I always love reading your posts.

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  3. The hardest thing about being a working parent is that no one else shares that they are having a tough time too. So you feel like you're the only asshole out there that can't figure out how to do it all. Newsflash...none of us can. I skipped bathtime last night so Louis and I could could watch a show on Amazon Prime past his bedtime and then follow up with a book. No shame in that.

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