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Sunday, March 18, 2018

she works hard for the money: surviving the hard work days

Sometimes it's the hardest thing in the world to be a mother who works outside the home. In fact, it's always hard. There are no easy days when you are balancing a career and raising humans. It's a constant balancing act. It's like walking while holding a spoon with an egg on it, hoping you don't misstep and the egg doesn't come cracking to the floor. It's walking a tightrope, focusing so hard that you don't fall off the line, all the while people are screeching your name below you making it hard to concentrate. It's your heart being torn in two directions, both equally important but not on the same playing field it seems.

It's impossible some days. It's exhilarating other days, those days when you get it "right."

It's damn hard leaving your kids in the morning- and don't get me started on drop offs and leaving the house slightly on time. There's the guilt you feel of what you will miss from their days. Then there is guilt when you have a big project at work that you really need to attend to and you get mad at yourself for feeling annoyed that your child is sick yet again and you need to stay home from work.

It's a constant tug of war with your emotions and your heart, as well as your concentration and what's left of your Mom Brain. Everyone needs you, at the same time, it feels like. It's not easy to be in such high demand. 

Sometimes you just want a break. But breaks are not afforded to busy working out of the home moms. A break is when you get to pee by yourself at work, or when you shut the car off in the garage and just breathe for a second after working a very long day and then considering what on earth you will create for dinner tonight. A break for a working out of the house mom is going to Target Friday night after work to get diapers, nylons and vitamins, along with the birthday gift for tomorrow's party you forgot about until now. A break is falling into bed at night and drooling on your pillow, and then realizing it's like 7:30 p.m. and you had hoped you could at least start a movie with your husband.

There are many days where we get it right, where it works and things fall into place. It's never easy, but there are days where we smile and think, "Yes, I did that, I accomplished something today." On those days when we get to work only a minute or two late, there was minimal screaming or whining on the way out the door, your meetings went well, no daycare called to pick someone up sick or early, and then you got out the door on time, after making all the work calls, and your partner says not to worry he's picked up the kids and you can just meet them at soccer practice before you all can head out to eat for take out, aka no cooking fiasco. That's a great day. Those days do come. They happen often in fact, if you really stop to think of it. You've got this working mom thing, you really do.

But then there are days... or weeks... like I just had that make you want to cry, curl up for a sick day for yourself for once and just toss in the towel (that's probably dirty because you are always behind on laundry as a working out of the home mom).

Days where you completely forgot that it was pajama day at school for the big kids. Days where you forgot to do the book order or send in the permission slip because last night you were out late at some basketball game and it just slipped your mind. Days where you are half an hour late getting to that meeting at work, and when you do get there you realize you have a stain of some type of food on your shoulder from the baby hugging you this morning. Days where you yell too much and feel so bad as your kids glare at you in the back seat of the car, and you pray they won't hate you too long into their school day. Days where you buy takeout lunch instead of taking the salad you meant to make. Days where you misspeak at work and sound stupid in front of your boss because you didn't get enough sleep last night with that teething baby clinging to only you, not Dada.

There are these hard days, where you are late picking up your kid at soccer and she thinks you're the worst mom ever for not seeing ANY of her kicks toward the goal. Days where you FEEL like the worst mom ever for questioning if he is sick when he says his head hurts and you send him to school anyway because you have a big thing at work... only to get a call from the nurse an hour later. There are days you are up late at night responding to work emails to prep for tomorrow's big event, instead of hanging out with your husband or cleaning up the kitchen.

It's the hardest thing I've ever done, balancing work and family life. It's hard to remember everything. It's difficult to pay attention, stay awake and get enough rest to manage so many people's lives. It's difficult being responsible- for babies, for job requirements. It's hard to get dressed up every freaking day, when all you want is to stay in your yoga pants. It's demanding in so many ways. 

Last week I had to call in to stay with a sick baby. It was one of the biggest work days all year for me. I was responsible for training my entire staff for them to run testing for our students. I had four presentations planned. I also had 3 other sessions where I was supposed to assist some other staff from another school with helping our students sign up for courses. I had SO much going on during this day. Really big day. And yet the baby was sick and my husband had already stayed home earlier in the week with a sick child and he equally had a big day at work. So I stayed home. I cried, stormed around frustrated, cried more, and then spent my son's morning nap time rearranging my day, delegating to other people, asking for help, begging for forgiveness at work, and praying I wouldn't lose my job even though I knew that was ridiculous.

I was angry I had to stay home. I was frustrated that it seems like I cannot balance both worlds effectively on some days. I was mad at the universe that there is so much sickness. I was upset my husband left for work, even though I knew it was all he could do. I was angry with myself for feeling upset about staying with a baby who needed me. I felt guilty that I could not do what was expected of me at work, and then guilty that I felt like I should be there and not at home. I was so sad that we women have to feel this type of split down the middle divide of our attention, hearts and energy.

My baby did something to snap me out of my guilt about not being at work that day. He literally said Mama Mama over and over, no joke, every 30 seconds, I swear. ALL DAY. He needed me. And I was there, despite my confusing and frustrating feelings, I was there. I stayed. And you know what happened at work? Life went on. Nothing fell apart. It was not horrible. They did not need me. I put a bit more on my co-workers, and for that I felt bad, but they understood. My boss did not care. It was OK. My worst day to miss, my biggest event of the year... and I missed it and life was all good. My baby snuggled on me and played ball with me, laughing despite how sick he was. I keep track of the Tylenol dose and how high his fever was. I fed him his favorite foods and rocked him to sleep. Instead of training the staff, I helped my baby take a bath in the middle of the morning because I knew it would help him feel better. All ended up just fine.

The very next day I was at work about to present at a conference, something I'd prepped for over a month before. I got a phone call from the school nurse that my oldest was sick and needed to be picked up immediately. I couldn't get ahold of my husband. I was about to get in the car to pick him up when my husband called and said he'd take care of it. I felt guilty, again, that I couldn't be the one there, I had to work. Sometimes these are the choices we have to make. Sometimes they don't feel like choices at all in those moments.

But I stayed at the conference. I rocked the presentation, despite feeling unfocused and thinking of my son. I had people thank me, appreciate the work I had done. I helped kids in that presentation. I moved my career forward, stepped up that proverbial ladder. I furthered my passions, my work energies and made a difference. I felt filled up professionally. I felt like this job I so very much am in love with was worth it that day. I felt proud of myself career wise. And yet it came at the cost of not being there for my son exactly when he needed me. It's not that work was more important or ever is more important, it's just that moment to moment we have to choose where we need to be. And sometimes we need to be at work. And that's OK! It's good that it's not always on the Mom's shoulders.

I left the conference as soon as I could and got home in the afternoon to see my big kid, who had enjoyed the day with Dad.

That's the thing about being a working out of the home mom, we have to balance everything, including our guilt about where we are and where we are not, what we are and are not doing in each day or moment. When we are at work, we have to be at work. When we are at home, we have to be at home. And when our worlds collide- such as when you're working and get a call for a sick kid - it's OK to choose work sometimes as long as it's not always and as long as it's made up later on the family side. 

Working out of the home is the hardest thing some parents do. It's harder sometimes when you really love your job, because you feel guilty about that. But I still encourage women to follow their passions and strive to do whatever it is that is in the career side of your heart. You CAN work and be a great mother. It may not always line up exactly at the same moment, but I swear you CAN work on it. Your work will be fine when you're at home. Your home will be fine when you're at work.

Just remember when you're in the midst of one of those really terrible, horrible, no good, very very bad days of working and parenting... that you are human. You will make mistakes. You won't get it all right in one day or one moment. You can't always be a great mom and a great worker at the same time. Remind yourself this is normal, and that it will ALWAYS get better.

Just breathe, moms.
Remember what your priorities are, at work and at home.
Somehow find a way to create balance, and on the days when the scale tips a bit farther to the work side, accept that you are doing the best you can with what you have. Your children will learn that you are a kickass mother who works hard and is determined to be a great mom, too. You are teaching them incredible lessons for their own futures, showing them anything is possible.
Breathe again...
And then take yourself to Target solo or to Starbucks. You deserve it.

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