I have much respect for stay at home moms. Truly, it is not something I'm programmed to do well. Even if I had the option to not work, I think I still would in some capacity because I'm not good at caring for and entertaining kids all day every day. When I was home with Drum on maternity leave, it was hard! It was exhausting and even soul sucking some days. I felt inadequate for the job, and I hardly ever found the energy to even get out of yoga pants. I started to think that going back to work would actually make life easier because at least I'm good at my job! But I had forgotten just how hard it is to be a working mom.
Now don't misunderstand me. Being a stay at home parent is a full-time job. It's meaningful, it's fulfilling, it's a great job for anyone who chooses it, and damn is it hard. But here's the thing. I think being a working mom is harder. At least for me. Apparently there are people who work and parent and do both stunningly well while also balancing everything else life requires with aplomb. That is not me.
And no, I'm not quitting my job to stay home with my kids. But I am really struggling with how to have it all. There have been a lot of articles floating around facebook lately about how having it all is not really a thing, and they couldn't be more timely for me. One piece I read (and now cannot locate) said that the feminist movement didn't intend for women to do everything without proper policies, legislation, and supports in place to allow them to do so sanely. Women wanted choices, but I don't think most women wanted to do all the things they weren't able to do while still doing all the things they already did.
The opportunity to take 12 weeks off was helpful, but it was not enough time, it was mostly unpaid, I came back to work with zero PTO, and many women don't even get those luxuries. Being lawfully able to take time to pump during the work day helps, but with no change in my workload, finding time to pump just means working harder and longer to get everything done. Daycare is a positive things for my kids, but it basically breaks the bank every single month, yet we don't make enough for one of us to stay home, save on daycare, and still pay all our other expenses. So while it's wonderful that women now have a legitimate place in the workforce, it's not great that having a family is not actually very compatible with having a job. For men or women.
Here's why I think being a working mom is harder than being a full-time mom (for me, not necessarily for everyone):
1. I give so much of myself during the day at work, and then I have to pull from the reserves to give my kids what they deserve when I get home. My job involves an interesting combination of program management, people management, and counseling. I spend a lot of time caring about other people's problems and it's exhausting. Sometimes all I want to do is veg out in front of the TV or take a nap, but here come my kids and I haven't seen them all day and I want to squeeze every ounce of quality out of the time we have before bedtime. There is not enough of me to go around. After being an employee and a mother, there is nothing left to be a wife, a sister, a daughter, a friend.
2. Relatedly, I have no time or energy for a social life. You may have heard the adage "Family, Friends, Career: Choose Two." I've chosen family and career, and I can count my friends on one hand. I've often considered getting off Facebook, but that is the only way I stay connected with people I once hung out with. It's one of few social interactions I have, so as much as I hate it sometimes, I'm still there. The truth is, I don't even want to be social. I'm stretched so thing that it usually doesn't sound appealing. I have a dear friend who stays home with her kids (and she works damn hard at it, trust me), and occasionally she's able to sneak out in the evening to get a break. I used to consider joining her, but then I realized that I'm so spent by the evening that I can't wait to watch 30 minutes of mindless TV and fall into bed. Said friend and I do hang out with our families now and then, which helps. It's easier to be friends with people when you can combine friends and family time.
3. Working all day and spending quality time with the kids all evening doesn't leave much time for everything else. Because even after all that, there is still a lot of "life" to do. Bills to pay, calls to make, doctor's appointments to schedule and attend, houses (OK house) to clean, clothes to launder, oil changes to get, leaves to rake, groceries to buy, leaky faucets to fix. You get the idea. I don't think that those who don't work have all the time in the world to do these things. I mean, who can fix a leaky faucet when your children are asking for snacks all day and then crying because they suddenly hate the grapes they asked for? But even though it was close to impossible to get anything done when I was home with Drum, I did have the ability to squeeze something in when a free moment appeared during the day. Free moments at work are hard to come by, so all those little things that keep a household functioning have to compete with my job and my kids and my sleep.
Now, despite all that I've said, I plan to continue to be a working mother. Frankly I have no choice right now, but also, I do get something out of working that I wouldn't get if I didn't work. (I'm not talking about money, but that, too.) The point is not that I wish I didn't have to work. The point is that I wish there were supports in place that would make it a little easier to simultaneously have a career and be a mother and be a functioning human being.
Working mothers (or fathers): what say you? I can't be the only one feeling this way.