It’s 12:00 p.m and I finally stop and sit down at my desk to eat lunch. I scroll through Facebook on my phone to see what’s going on with the rest of the world. It’s the first time I’ve thought about anything besides the papers on my desk since I got here. A lot of my friends are stay-at-home moms or work from home moms and I scroll past bright and cheery photographs of them enjoying a morning walk on the beach with their little one or playing and laughing at this morning’s library storytime. I see pictures of their little ones doing crafts at the dinner table or silly videos of them chasing the dog around the yard. I wonder what my daughter is up to right now and wish we could be enjoying this sunny day outside.
I’m not entirely fooled by the photos I see though, I know being home with kids is extremely exhausting, mentally and physically. I know they demand your attention all waking hours of that day and when they are sleeping there’s so much other stuff to catch up on, like cleaning and cooking and showering and your own basic needs that there’s barely a minute to get any time of your own. I know because sometimes I’m more than ready to go back to work after a hectic weekend at home with my 3-year old.
But little is written about the working mom and the struggles she faces balancing work and home life. While some praise the stay-at-home mom as a martyr, some shame the working mom for “putting her career first,” or “palming her child off on others to care for.” I made the conscious choice to be a working mom, sure, there were other options, options some do not have. We could have downsized and found a way to get by with only one working parent, but working in a competitive field in a location that’s oversaturated with other lawyers, I worry that taking time away would cause major setbacks later on. I enjoy my job immensely and enjoy being able to provide financially for my daughter. But even though I’m happy with my choice, with that choice comes a lot of sacrifices and a lot of guilt.
I missed my daughter’s first steps. She took them in daycare, moments before I arrived to pick her up for the day. I’m not always able to be there for her when she’s sick and needs me the most. Some mornings she begs me through tears to stay home with her, but I have to calm her down and take her to school all the same. Sometimes I’m the first parent at drop-off and the last at pickup and I wonder if she thinks I’m not coming back. Some mornings I’m just plain exhausted from being up all night, but I still have to get it together, caffeinate, show up, and do the job that’s expected of me.
I worry too about my role as a mother impacting my career. I feel guilty when I have to leave right at 5:00 p.m. to make it to pick up. I feel guilty when drop off makes me late in the mornings. I feel guilty when daycare calls and I unexpectedly have to leave and pick up my daughter who’s come down with a fever. I feel guilty about all the extra associations and committees I should be getting involved in to help further my career. I worry that one day motherhood will interfere just “too much” with my work and I’ll be out of a job.
Dinner times are always a struggle. Every evening is a decision between making a proper meal for my family or using that time to actually engage with them. I have a house that will never be fully cleaned and laundry I’ll never get to the bottom of. As a perfectionist by nature that’s always difficult to accept. I feel immense guilt about taking what precious time I have on the weekends to myself and I feel judged when I do. Sometimes I (and my husband) overcompensate for missing out on time with our daughter by giving her too many things, or letting her get away with too much because we don’t want to ruin the moments we do have together.
I’ve heard from my stay-at-home mom friends about the guilt they feel for not contributing an income. I know what it’s like to feel that guilt and shame, I feel that same guilt and shame not being there enough for my child. I know the stay-at-home moms sometimes long for a real adult conversation, but sometimes amidst all the hustle and bustle of the workday, I long for conversations about princesses and pirates and make-believe with my daughter. I know stay-at-home moms sometimes feel like they’ve wasted their education of thrown away their career, but I too sometimes feel like I’m missing out on the best years of my daughter’s life to hold onto that career.
I know the grass will always be greener on the other side of the fence. I’ve made a choice that I’m happy with and thankful for, but there will always be difficulties and scarifies no matter what a mother chooses to do. To all the working moms out there, I know you question your choices, I know you feel like you’re missing out on important moments. I know you feel under-appreciated and exhausted sometimes. But whether you choose to stay home or work, there will always be a mental struggle over what the right decision is. Your kids know you’re working hard for them and they love and appreciate you (whether you know it or not). Working moms, you are amazing, you are loved, and you got this!