Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Working mom: is it working?


Things are really busy at work, lots of deadlines, long days, late nights. These stretches come and go, but I never seem to get past them without going through the ritual of doubting everything about how I'm living my life, raising my children. The time they spend in daycare is so much more than I prefer, our trips to the park on a sunny fall afternoon are way too infrequent, the meals I put together last minute during the week always seem to fall short. I wonder if I'm really making it work, or if I'm just cruising through most days hoping the wheels don't fall off. You don't get a second chance at this parenting thing. If you are short changing your kids during their crucial developmental and formative years, you don't get a do-over. How do you know what is right for them? For you?

Working parents have it really tough. I know I only have this one perspective, but sometimes I think it is the worst scenario of any of the parenting options (part-time work, stay at home work, stay at home full time parent). At the end of a work day, I might have 2, maybe 3 hours of time with my kids before bed. I miss them like crazy during the day and look forward to seeing them and making the most of that time. Yet that time together doesn't play out like I'd like it to most nights. In the short period of time between when I pick them up and bedtime, we have to get home, make dinner, take baths, and read books. The usual routine most parents go through. But C and Iz are usually very needy after being away from me all day, wanting to just be held (especially Izzy) and to play. This makes the never simple act of fixing dinner at the last minute almost impossible. And before I know it, I am shutting the bedroom door to get 2 minutes of time to myself to calm down and get some perspective. After just one hour with the kids I don't get to see all day! Worst Mom ever. That's how I feel.

The reality is that I am worn out from a busy and stress-filled day and my kids don't get my best self. They get a mom that is tired, irritable and short on patience. It isn't fair to them. I don't know how to do it any better and I feel so completely frustrated that one or the other - either work or my kids - always gets the short straw. I try my best to make sure my kids come first - but during these busy stretches, I really don't have much control over it. I get through the deadlines and refocus on the kids - take more pictures and more trips to the park, make earlier pick up times from school, and have an occasional stay at home day. Of course, then I am not giving my best self to my work - you get the picture. The push/pull is such that I feel like I am always doing a sub par job in some aspect of my life. I don't see it getting any easier as the kids get older and have their own events and schedules to squeeze into the day (plus homework! Oh my, I'm dreading that already).

I know that the scale will tip back the other way in a few weeks and I won't dwell on these things. I'll have less on my mind at the end of the day, we'll have time to play and relax, and our evenings will transpire more like I imagine them. But even if it's not in the forefront of my mind every day, the question is still there. Is this working mom thing working, and how do I know??

Note: the image above has nothing to do with this post. It's what Izzy and I wore on our feet today, and I just thought it might help lighten up an otherwise downer of a post.

12 comments:

  1. Oh Paige, have you been reading my thoughts, because I'm 100000% with you. The only thing saving my sanity right now is writing this grant from home. You're definitely not alone, the guilt is soul crushing, just remember the good times to get through the rough times. November will be here soon! (At least that's when this lousy stretch ends for me...)

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    1. Julie - it does help to know we're not alone. Your grant will be great. And we're having a drink in November - I'm buying.

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    2. Just one? That would be plain silly and pointless.

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  2. I think all of these stresses are just part of being mom. They just look different to each family, I stay at home but get frustrated that the house is always a mess, worry that I'm not reading/playing/teaching enough or that I'm not patient or fun enough... On the positive side, how much of your pre - school years do you remember?! So we have until they hit 5 and start remembering to figure it out. :)

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    1. Alex - good points. I often think that if I stayed home I would feel at a complete loss as to how to 'teach' my children anything. I'm grateful someone else with experience does that for me! 5...got it, I've got a few years for improvement!

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  3. For a perspective from the other end of the spectrum...being a stay-at-home mom, I deal with feeling irritable, drained, and an inadequate mom at the end of the day- and then the guilt from having those feelings since I'm finally doing what I wanted to do- stay home! I spend most of the day with them, yet it's not the magic and rainbows I'd anticipated. My daily routine is cooking meals, cleaning them up, changing diapers, wiping noses, cleaning- and...spinning in circles? Usually around 8pm the warm fuzzy feelings of parenting come flowing in from the day's review in my head- AFTER they're in bed. I literally crave being back at work- to engage my mind, to feel professionally productive, to bring home more income, and yes, to be my own person. Where is the balance? I'm still trying figure that out...!

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    1. Thanks for this perspective! It helps to know that the other side isn't perfect either. Not that there is a perfect, but is part-time then the best/better solution? I'm sure it has equally frustrating challenges (not taken seriously at work, not enough time at home). I think the answer is to drink more, and more often!

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    2. Ha ha! I do find I need at least one stiff drink by 5pm when being home with little ones all day. Part-time work is great I think- but oftentimes for me it was like cramming a full-time job into part-time hours. Working from home can be isolating and it's impossible to keep your kids at home while trying to work (from what I hear). Flex-time seems to be an answer for many moms...encouraging that in the workplace, in science (do I hear uproarious laughter yet), may be a challenge! But it's still a problem that is on the road to a solution when employers are willing to take it seriously. But back to drinking, it's almost 5pm, woohoo! ;-)

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  4. Well, you knew I would post here posthaste, right?! Unfortunately I come with no foolproof solution, but I can offer commiseration.

    First, I know you well enough to know that the parenting you're doing that some days feels sub-standard to you is likely far above average, trending toward stellar at all times. You have high standards for yourself and that's generally a good thing, but you have to remember that you're probably holding yourself to standards at home and work that aren't reasonable and you're probably, in reality, knocking it out of the park both places.

    Second, it's hard. I know of no other way to say it. Parenting is hard. Being a working mom is hard, it's all just hard. It's hard to be "on" at work all day and then turn around and do the same at home while feeling like you have to wring the life out of every available minute. (I'm putting words in your mouth here; this is how I feel!)I keep trying to remind myself that this phase - where we are now - this is what we've been waiting for and it's likely to be the phase that we'll look back on most fondly from old age. I think that's why it's so emotionally wrenching to feel like it's not all you thought it might be when you're in it.

    As you know, I'm trying the part-time thing right now because I was at the end of my rope with my situation. I was driving to work through tears most mornings and I just finally decided it wasn't worth it. I was stinking it up at home AND at work! I think that had as much to do with my work situation as it did my home situation but one definitely complicates the other. Part-time is...good, but it's not perfect, and it's still wrought with guilt. I'm spending more time with my kids but I'm earning very little money and the work I'm doing isn't exactly setting the world on fire. Enter, guilt.

    I don't know what the answer is but I think one key is to remember that at the end of the day your kids are happy, they know you love them and they love you. Somedays I also just look at my to-do list and make a conscious decision to take something off of it that can wait. It's amazing how much really isn't time-critical if you just give yourself permission once in a while to let it go. Also, that leaves more time for drinking. :-)

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    1. Susan - I love this, I'm going to print it out and read it often, reminding myself of what is important, what matters. I'm so impressed that you had the guts to go for it and make a change. That alone is worth it. Hope we can share a drink soon! (lots of drinking going on here...I see a common theme!)

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  5. Paiger and Suse-- all I can tell you is you both have witty, well-adjusted, independent, fantastic, adorable, totally normal, truly fun, super duper kids! I love to hang out with and be around them. Your kids also really, really like both of you and want to spend time with you. You must be doing something very right with the minutes you do have with them. No one is perfect---thank the Lord for that--and you don't need to be. In fact, it's probably best you are not so your kids see a few of your struggles themselves so they know they will overcome obstacles just like their strong, successful mom did. Like everything in life, it's quality, not quantity. Keep it up--you're both awesome moms...and wives--don't forget I know those guys you married too and they totally traded UP!:-)

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