I’ve been working in some capacity for the last 10 of my 10 ½ years of motherhood. Up until 18 months ago, it was always in a part time capacity. For many of those years, I had more than one job, but all were part time and all afforded me to be home with my children when they were out of school. That schedule felt manageable. I would drop them off at school, head into work for a few hours, pick them up and head home for homework, dinner, activities, etc. During the summer I worked from home some, went into the office a few days and still had plenty of free time with them for summer fun. It was the best of both worlds. I got out a little, but still had the opportunities to chaperone fieldtrips, volunteer in the school library and be a mystery reader. Several people had told me over the years that they envied my schedule and wished they had something similar. I had it made.
Then, about 2 years ago, my office structure changed and my position would require more hours. It was also at this time that my son’s anxiety spiked and spectrum issues heightened. We increased his existing therapy and added several new alternative therapies, most of which are not covered by insurance and are very costly. So, my situation quickly changed from wanting to work to absolutely having to work, and then some. My enviable schedule had been thrown to the wayside. I was now working until 5 or later. I had to find a nanny and step down from long standing volunteer positions at the school. No more class parties, no more fieldtrips.
The first year felt like a disaster. Losing that 2 hours after school to get organized for the next day and get dinner going was so hard. Thankfully, my husband works from home several days a week, so his help was invaluable with drop-offs and pick-ups as we transitioned to this new schedule. But, being totally type A with self-imposed, unrealistic perfectionism, I was setting myself up for failure. We had a hard time finding a nanny right away, so for the first few months, the kids would be at home with my husband while he was finishing up his work day. I would get home after 5 to kids who were tired and hangry. Homework was scattered, papers went missing and my house looked like a bomb went off. Every.single.day. My husband was on conference calls or working in his office – it’s not like he could end his day at 3:30 either – it was just our new reality. I would get home and we would immediately shuffle kids off to appointments, activities or practices. I would make dinner, try to get reorganized, prep lunches for the next day, help with homework, showers, bed and then get back online and work for a few more hours. Every.single.night. I forgot about pajama day and paper bag lunch for field trips. I completely missed therapy appointments and deadlines for dance class registrations. It was a shit show.
The kids had a hard time adjusting too. “Why don’t you ever pick us up anymore?” “Why can’t I have playdates” “You are always working. You never come to school anymore. You are never on the fieldtrips anymore. When will you be my mystery reader?” Cue knife in heart. We muddled along for the rest of the school year and then came summer. I was miserable. Working all day every day during the summer was the worst. The kids were in camps most of the time – some they loved, others they didn’t. So many of my friends don’t work and are home with their kids during the summer. Many days, they want to rip their hair out – I get it – I used to be there. Summers can be long and tortuous. But I just wanted to be home with my kids. They grow up so fast and this time when they are young is so fleeting. Soon they will be older, have summer jobs of their own and wanting only to be with friends. But now they still want to be with me, and I can’t be with them.
We are all slowly getting acclimated, and yes, it has taken nearly 2 years to get into a rhythm. Our house is a 50-50 split of parenting and domestic responsibilities; I could never do it all without my husband’s help and willingness to step into new and different roles himself. I still get the guilt-laden comments every once in a while, but we’ve all come to accept our new reality. I feel more organized (thanks to a lot of help from friends and amazing iPhone apps) and I am working on trying to forgive myself more often when mistakes happen…like the time last year when I didn’t realize I hadn’t been receiving room mother emails until the end of May and missed every single class event sign-up for the entire year. Oops. Or when a friend asked me about a school event and I had no idea what it was until someone else reminded me that I was on the committee. Wait, what? My bad.
I guess this is a case of the grass is always greener. Are there days in the summer when my kids are total assholes and I skip out the door? Yes. Am I actually happy that we have some great nannies who can do homework with them agreeably instead of fighting me tooth and nail over every problem? Hell yes! But I know I’m missing out. I’m missing those little moments with my quiet middle child that happen before the chaos of the dinner rush. I’m missing the discoveries and memories of lazy summer days. I’m not the one who greeted my youngest at pick up after she lost her first tooth ever during school. I’m not the one who can pick up my oldest from school when he’s feeling sick and snuggle with him at home. I’m a full time working mom. This wasn’t how I envisioned motherhood to be for me and my family, but then again, there are a lot of things I hadn’t anticipated.
I hope as they get older they will understand why I had to work full time and that I might impart the values of integrity, perseverance and dedication. Or maybe they will end up on a therapist’s couch with Mommy issues. Either way, this is our ride and we’re all in it…together.
I am ten minutes late for pretty much everything. I never wake up on time and I am always rushing in the morning to get my kids looking presentable, fed, and out the door for school. I skid into my parking lot at work and run into my office while slurping coffee and hoping that someone left some snacks in the breakroom. On a good day I bring myself a healthy lunch, but I keep snacks in my desk just in case. I hustle all day at work so that I can leave, slog through evening traffic, and get home to my family. Some days I end work early so I can pick up my kids from school, and it’s a GD miracle that I haven’t gotten a speeding ticket or run someone over in the crosswalk on my way to pick them up. Like I said, 10 minutes late for everything. My afternoon and evening is like one of those books where there are multiple endings you can pick. Let’s see, today will I be carpooling to soccer? Or will I be cooking dinner? Bringing kids to swimming? Helping with homework and school projects? Or going to an evening meeting? Once the evening’s festivities have died down, I manage to get my kids showered, and into bed. Most nights I sit at my computer for at least an hour to finish up work that I could not complete during the day. If I’m lucky, I get to sit with a glass of wine and watch some TV or talk to my husband before I go to bed and start the whole thing over again. The oh-so-glamorous life of a working mom. Can I get an “AMEN” from all my other compatriots out there??
I can’t even really complain because technically I work part-time, which means that I do get some mornings off, and can sneak in an exercise class or cup of coffee with a friend. I have mom-friends who are working 40-50 hours per week, and that’s rough. I also have an amazing husband, who truly shares our household and childcare responsibilities 50/50. But the routine above does get old sometimes. Especially when my mom-friends who stay at home are chatting about their trips to the mall, lunches together, mid-afternoon play dates, and meeting for coffee. Sometimes I just want to scream. But I don’t, and I just plug along, putting one foot in front of the other, and thinking about the glorious time when my children will be off to college and my husband and I have some time to ourselves again.
The thing is, I truly enjoy my career. I am a physician, and I love my practice and my patients. Sure there are bad days, but generally speaking it’s a pretty rewarding profession. I get to help people, and I get to make them feel better, even if it’s just with a hug and support when they have been diagnosed with a difficult disease. Healthcare is a very changeable field to be in right now, but it’s also very interesting and very intellectually stimulating. I am lucky enough to be working for a company that is actively involved in making positive changes in our healthcare system and that feels good at the end of the day. I have the great fortune to work with some amazing and brilliant people. I have also been blessed with opportunities to advance my career and become a leader in my organization.
But I also enjoy being home. I enjoy being a mom. I love my kids and I am proud of their accomplishments and activities. They are both great students. I hate it when I can’t attend a school activity or be the chaperone on a field trip. I love to cook and bake. I’m crafty. I love home decorating and gardening. I’m an overachiever so of course I volunteer at my kid’s elementary school. If I did not have my career and were independently wealthy, I would give Martha Stewart a run for her money. It’s a real quandry, and I think makes my sense of being pulled in multiple directions even worse.
The bottom line, is that it is what it is. I love my career and I love my family. I’ll continue to be 10 minutes late for everything, and at times feel like I’ve over-committed and am not succeeding at anything. But I’ll also hold onto those happy moments, the achievements in my career, and the Pinterest worthy kid’s Birthday party. I’ll relish the snippets of time that I have to myself, and the odd morning that I can meet up with a friend and do some shopping. I’ll put one foot in front of the other. But the next time you see a frantic woman driving an SUV blowing through a crosswalk and spilling coffee on her blouse, don’t judge! Get her a gift card for a baby sitter, a massage, and a bottle of wine!