Being a mom is hard. That’s the simplest response I’ve come up with when people ask how life has changed since the baby. I love my baby more than it seems humanly possible, but being responsible for a person, being responsible for how they fit into the world and who they become, is beyond me. It was very clear after she was born that our culture often doesn’t support the challenges of motherhood. New parents live far from their families and baby-sitting grandparents, the cost of living and the cost of help is limiting and frequently requires two incomes, maternity leave is too short, and we’re expected to reach this new, unattainable standard of Pinterest worthy parenthood where every moment is a sparkling activity to gram. It doesn’t matter if you’re a full time working (out of the house) parent, a stay at home mom (also a full time job)–or somewhere in between–there are unique challenges to each and each seems equally as difficult.
Being pregnant for the first 7 months of my new job in Charleston was comical. I work in a highly technical and detail oriented field. Pregnancy brain completely erased all of the above. There were days when I had to pull over on my way home because I was so exhausted. I couldn’t focus because I couldn’t sleep at night because of a giant basketball on my stomach. My feet were so swollen by lunchtime that I sat at my desk with a bucket of ice.
I had a nurse tell me God makes the baby kick at night so you get used to being awake. Well, God put me in a challenging job when I was pregnant so I would get used to life as a working mom.
This past week has been crazy with her school off for winter break and having to find and pay people to watch her while John and I juggle our schedules. And I’ve been reflecting on the reality of our life as parents, what’s been hard and what I’m grateful for.
Challenges (I’ve found) from of being a working mom: I’m always ON. The baby wakes up around 5 am, and I have to get us both ready, pack lunches and bottles, commute way too far to day care, transition to work mode, pick her up, commute way too far home, make dinner, entertain, feed and bathe her, put her to sleep, and it’s 10pm. It’s hard to switch gears. My job is extremely analytical, so no matter how tough our mornings are or how late/early she kept me up, I have to focus, especially because it’s hard to take work home. When I do, I usually end up starting after she’s asleep, perpetrating the cycle of exhaustion. Which leads me to nap schedule. There isn’t one because she’s at daycare 5 days a week. So weekends are a dance around when she will nap. And after a long day, it’s really hard to schedule time with friends. There are a lot of moms I know that can make time for date nights and girlfriends, and I’m totally in awe of them, because I usually feel like I have nothing left to give. It’s hard to explain to people without kids why it’s not worth having more than one glass of wine or that you’re 3 seasons behind on a show and you will never catch up or you just need a sick day to make a list of all the things you don’t have time to do and maybe get a haircut. And the hardest part, I hate dropping her off. I get FOMO, and I always feel guilty that she’s at day care. And I miss her, even though I know she’s benefiting from being social and independent.
Positive things from my experience as a working mom: The reality is, we couldn’t afford our lifestyle, all our organic food and traveling, if I didn’t work. I feel good knowing I’m contributing to her college fund and getting to do things like go to London for my childhood best friends wedding or Chicago for my birthday. It’s also nice knowing that, if I continue to work, I will have something to occupy my time when our kids are in school and eventually out of the house. And enough can’t be said for adult time. Seriously. I look forward to drinking my coffee, reading the news and my emails, problem solving and talking to my coworkers who are, for the most part, girls my age (which is unusual in our field and coming from a male dominated workplace, is so awesome). I get an hour a day to run or go shopping at lunch (or blog!!) or visit and play with the baby (my favorite). I also like having some freedom to take her shopping or buy special alkaline water because that’s my current obsession and it’s the best dang thing ever (sorry, not sorry, John).
But the grass is always greener. I think a lot about what it would be like if I had been able to stay home (sleep in??? Haha, doubtful, according to my amazing stay at home mama friends). I wonder if we would have more play dates, I would have more friends here that are also moms or my life would be more in order. Or if I would resent it, be lonely and she wouldn’t have the relationships she’s created in daycare (which are very real and extremely adorable). I wish there was a middle ground, I could work a few days a week and be home with her a few days. But I’m grateful I have an understanding and interesting job, an amazing day care, a husband who, when we’re on the same schedule, lets me workout and of course a tiny little baby whose giant smile when I pick her up keeps me from being one bad nights sleep away from losing it.
I would love to hear, if you’re a mom (or thinking about becoming one) what’s your work situation? Will you stay home? How do you juggle everything? Is the grass greener for you too? Or have you found your sweet spot of motherhood?