I’ve seen you around. I see the weariness that wraps your shoulders and slumps your back. I see you trudging through the grocery store in the late afternoon, in your suit or scrubs, or sneakers and jeans. It doesn’t matter what uniform you wear to work, what matters is that you are working and mothering. A working mom.
I have generally done well at everything I work hard at. This has not prepared me for how often I feel like a failure as a parent.
When my first child was born I was Vice President of a small but notable advertising agency. I worked hard, I was confident in my knowledge and skills, and I knew what I was doing. Then I became a parent, and I didn’t know what I was doing anymore.
For several months, my sole source of self-confidence stemmed from the quantity of breast milk I was able to store away at the end of the day. From high heels, briefcases, and boardroom negotiations to the small victory of squirreling away an extra 14 ounces…
It was a long way to fall. And I felt entirely alone. So many of my friends elected to stay home with their kids, rather than returning to work. I didn’t have that choice, and quite honestly, I loved both roles. I enjoyed my career, and I loved being a mom. But, the stress, the time, the intensity of this choice left me feeling incredibly isolated.
It’s so stressful to try to juggle it all and feel like you are doing any of it well. I live in constant fear of losing my job for trying to make my family a priority. This part of being a parent is much more challenging than I was prepared for.
It didn’t matter that my working was not optional, that it paid for things like groceries and mortgages. The guilt was inherent and fed daily with the “Mama Drama” that so often comes with dropping off a child at daycare.
It was a daily juggle, watching the clock, eating lunch at my desk so I could run errands on my break. A non-stop juggling act of time and resources. Slipping out the side door of the office at 5 o’clock to make it back to daycare on time, worrying about traffic, and the penalties I’d incur if I picked my child up late.
I was convinced that every other mom on the planet was doing this better than me.
Once, a sweet, good-natured, kindly friend of the family who, upon meeting me in the parking lot of my son’s daycare, mentioned that she used to work in a daycare herself. “I always felt so sorry for those poor, motherless children.”
I walked away from the conversation in a daze, to pick up my poor, motherless child. The scars from that Mommy Drive-By still sting, even today.
It’s sometimes very hard feeling like you are being judged for your choices when maybe you are the one judging yourself. Sometimes I can be my own harshest critic!
In the last 13 years, I’ve discovered one infallible truth about being a working mom.
We all feel like we aren’t enough. Every working mom who tries to juggle a paying job while parenting tiny humans struggles with the same thing.
For me, part-time means failing at everything some days…with the pay cut.
Let me tell you something. Lean in close, this is really important.
You are enough.
There is no way to be a perfect parent, but there a million ways to be a good one.
~ Mary Engelbreit
It’s not about being perfect, or whether or not your kids are eating gluten-free, non-GMO, homemade baby food or whatever jar you grabbed out of the pantry. It’s not about whether you bathe them every night, or occasionally just swab them down with baby wipes. You are the parent your child needs. You are the right mom, the superhero mom, the most beautiful, smartest and greatest mom in the world for YOUR kids.
As a working mom, you are daily modeling leadership, integrity, organization, and flexibility skills for your kids.
These are life skills our society desperately needs! You may not feel organized or flexible, but trust me, you are. You are setting your kids up for success. And guess what? Having outside sources for childcare, or daycare, can actually be GOOD for your kids.
My career used to define who I was, and now it is just a means of money so I can provide a good life for the thing that now and will forever define my life – my son.
I read an analogy to parenting once that described the responsibilities of a working mom as glass balls. There is one for work, one for our kids, another for our extended family, our health, etc. We juggle these glass balls on a daily basis, our goal being to keep all of them in the air and not let anything shatter. It can be a terrifying prospect! But there’s a secret to this juggling act. Those glass balls aren’t actually glass. They’re rubber, and when you drop them, they bounce. They don’t break. You can get them back, and recover, and keep on going. As working moms, our kids don’t need us to be perfect. They need us to not give up – on ourselves or on them.
I have been fired, twice, for being a mom and for my #1 priority (above career) being to care for my family when they need me the most. I finally decided that whatever the outcome, I AM WHO I AM and that is a MOM first!
You may not make it to all the class parties or all the field trips. Your kids may eat more processed food than other kids (but who are we kidding? You and I both know we grew up on Hostess Twinkies and we are just fine!) You may, occasionally, drop the ball. But whatever ball it is, it’s not the end of the world. Pick it up on the rebound, take a deep breath, and keep on juggling.
You’ve got this.