Work/life balance? A 50/50 split? Nope. Sorry, but it’s the truth. Having been a working mom for almost four years, there are some things that have become very clear to me. Rather than skirt the issue, pretend everything is roses, I figured it was time for the raw truth…no, this isn’t a blog post about how awful work is. It’s just self reflection on the working mom experience. I believe this is a shared experience, not unique to me – you tell me. Here we go:
- When you are at work, you will think of home. When you are at home, you will think of work.
- When you have two big client presentations and a pitch on your plate, one of your kids WILL get sick. And you WILL, as the mom, feel the need to stay home with them
- When you are home with them, you will feel the need to pretend that you are not missing any obligations – you WILL meet your work obligations, and you WILL take care of your kid. And frankly, you will accomplish both. Who needs sleep anyway?
- Just when you have a handle on it and think “I can do it”, your world will turn upside down. Your clients will change over, your most productive employee will leave or be reassigned, or one of your kids will get sick. And you will wonder, “am I really cut out for this?” Then you will pick yourself up as though nothing had happened. After all, you have a sick kid/new client to take care of. There’s no time for self pity.
- Your house will fall apart. If you are lucky enough who has a husband who cleans, this may not be evident to those that walk through your house, but YOU will have crap tucked into drawers, piled in your sewing bench, and in piles waiting to be dealt with. You will promise yourself that you will get to this. But you won’t. And it won’t matter.
- You will overcompensate for being a working mom. You will add extra pressure on yourself to throw the best birthday party, be the mom who always takes their kid to the playground, and delay your errands for after the kids go to bed. They are in daycare all week, so you will make sure their weekends are spent playing with the kids. You will recognize you are overcompensating and wonder if it’s healthy. But you will do it anyway. It feels right, and wrong, but more right…
- You will question whether or not putting your kids in daycare is the right thing. You will think back to your wonderful childhood days. You will remember the freedom, the hours spent playing, the days spent outdoors. And your heart will break thinking of your kids being in a structured classroom for years before they get to school. You will attempt to balance that with the life and future you are (supposedly) giving them by working. Then you will look at your 529 statements, be reminded of the economy, and question again. For relieving this guilt, please see the previous bullet. Now recognize that this is a never-ending cycle.
- You will lose sight of yourself a bit – especially in those early years. You will find yourself during brief moments of time – a night out with the girls, a pedicure, or a ten minute shower with no interruptions. Those moments are restorative, but fleeting. You will wait too long in between these moments, and use up all your “good vibe” reserves. Finally when they are totally depleted, and you are a bit down in the dumps, you will find the motivation to get on the horn and set up a girls’ night out.
- You will have to set aside time to spend as a couple. If the kids don’t deplete your energy, your work will. You will realize time with your husband is restorative, just like the time with your girls and time spent on yourself. This too, you will forget periodically, and have to be reminded of. Especially during sick kid/multi-pitch/too much work to do weeks.
- You will come to appreciate 10 minutes of peace and quiet like never before. Sometimes you won’t recognize it until it’s over. After all, those quiet times are the only times during the day that you can process your thoughts – which usually revolve around the daycare supply needs (sippies, diapers), work, the kids’ health, the state of the house, and your husband. Notice that those thoughts don’t include you? Yep. Precisely why we lose balance.
You will realize, that in some form or fashion, you are extraordinary – all mothers are, really. You may not be balanced, but you are doing it. Sometimes perfectly, sometimes successfully, and sometimes asking for forgiveness when you fall short. And when people ask how, you will simply reply “I just do”. Because honestly, you don’t know how you do it. You stop looking for balance, you accept your obligations, and you keep going. And you come to peace with it. I have.