The Working Mom: Tonight I can’t ‘do it all, be it all’

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Let’s be honest. As working moms, there is SO much pressure on us to perform the impossible: be a dedicated employee staying late, but be the dedicated mom that leaves work early to not miss one ballet performance. And you know what? I’m not buying it. There is no such thing as balance. As working moms, we manage, and do our best as an employee, a parent, a student, a wife, a friend, an athlete, a volunteer, and the countless other things we are and do. But, even knowing there’s no such thing as balance doesn’t relieve us of the guilt we feel to do it all and be it all.

I wake up. See my daughter for about 15 minutes. Commute to work. Stay at work late. Get home late. See my daughter a couple hours. Get my daughter to bed late. Eat late. Clean up late. Pay bills late. And fall asleep sitting on the couch trying to make time for my husband.

Let me just tell you how my “balance” has gone these last few weeks:

– Most nights I go to bed late late because I get home at 7pm after picking my daughter up, and I still need to cook, feed her, spend time with her, and get her in the bath and off to bed. Then, after bedtime, begins the “adult” stuff like bills, cleaning, organizing, etc.

– Last night I was up a lot because my child wanted milk, and my husband was sick.

– This morning I got up early to check my work email, try to remember to put stamps on the bills, water the garden, and get ready before my daughter woke up.

– This morning I struggled to stay awake on my drive to work.

– The last few weeks I’ve been working overtime about three nights a week.

– The last few weeks I’ve forgotten bills, car oil replacements, lunch dates, doctor appts. and more because the overwhelmingly long checklist in my head and the few hours I have to fulfill them.

– The last few weeks I couldn’t sleep because I had a cold and my hips hurt when I lay down due to pregnancy and being in the third trimester.

Y’all, I’m exhausted.

They say…

“They” say I need to cook healthy and meal plan (that’s how to love my family and stay on a budget). They say I should go to bed early and get rest (if I want to take care of myself). They say I need to exercise every day (that’s to stay fit). They say I need to practice a hobby every day (that’s for future growth). They say I should be there for my family, but I should also stay late to meet a deadline (to be both a good mom and employee). They say I should limit my kid’s technology time (as a responsible adult). They say I should have her potty trained (if I’m any kind of parent…). They say I should move into a good home in a good neighborhood, but I should also not spend too much on a house loan and be saving money (for the future of my family).

Tonight, I can’t “be it all, do it all.”

Tonight I’ll eat pizza or mac and cheese because I stayed at work late and hadn’t had time this week to meal plan.

Tonight I’ll add water to the soap to make it last a few more days because I can’t seem to remember to buy any when I DO finally make it to buy groceries.

Tonight I’ll let my daughter play on the iPad past her bedtime because emotionally I need a little quiet time before trying to get her to bed.

Tonight I’ll sit in my chair and cry once she goes to bed, because I was too stern with her the third time she wanted her diaper changed in 15 minutes, but yet I hadn’t seen her all day and should have spent time loving on her.

Tonight, I’ll know that it’s okay, this is normal, and “this too shall pass.” That the hard mixes in with all the good, and the good memories and sweet moments remain as our strength.

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Stay-At-Home Mama, Your Job is Invaluable

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Imagine with me a certain work environment:

You work seven days a week. Your boss, Boss B, calls you every morning at unpredictably early hours to wake you up with an urgent task. Once at work, Boss B stands over your desk as you type out his report, but as soon as you are about to finish what took an hour, he slams your computer shut and laughs. Then, he demands he needs it within the next 5 minutes. When you need to use the bathroom, Boss B follows you, listing off all the things he needs from you and recapping what you haven’t done yet. If you don’t pee fast enough, he starts counting, knocking on the door to the loud, demanding cadence of his voice. Oh and your colleagues? They critique you throughout the day, telling you what you could have done better and that they themselves can easily pull it all off. The day comes to a close, and you must drive him home. You must listen to his music on the way home, not yours. And, he never leaves your side. Also, did I mention you have zero sick leave? Notta. Zilch. Sorry my friend.

Sound like an exhausting job? Maybe now you understand the energy it takes to be a stay-at-home mom. It’s a 24/7 job that never ends and goes without breaks. You’re a cook, a psychologist, a maid, a recreational specialist, a teacher, a coach, a cheerleader, a motivational speaker, a nutritionist, a nurse, and at times a pirate or perhaps a firefighter, or even Elsa. Even vacations are with this tiny Boss B, and so is your lunch break. When nap time arrives, you only relax with part of your mind, the other part in expectation of when your child will awake.

In our society, the significance and energy of being stay-at-home mom often gets downplayed. In society that emphasizes name suffixes, awards, resumes, concrete accomplishments with a start and end date, academic and career achievements, we sweep under the rug the abstract: raising a generation how to be compassionate, how to love, how to think, how to serve. Unfortunately, sometimes stay-at-home moms begin to fall for this lie too, to feel they themselves are less valuable than the suit wearing woman, exchanging their computer of honor for a wipe to clean little red bottoms. 

From working mom to stay-at-home mom (or shall I just say from mom to mom), let me tell you, I SEE YOUR VALUE. And your value is unimaginable, and your job is one of the most physically, emotionally, and mentally demanding careers there are – and one of the most rewarding and beautiful.

You are raising generations. And, you are on the clock constantly: You are teaching a child to love unconditionally. You are teaching a child to think deeply. You are teaching a child compassion. You are teaching a child beauty in a world full of hate. And mama, you are raising GENERATIONS – your love will not only affect this little one, but your little one’s teachings will create ripples in the people he or she comes into contact with, and with the children they someday raise. And when you shut yourself in a closet to cry so no one sees, or when you hide in the bathroom to eat that last cookie, I want you to remember this: Your job has immense value, and I see it.

Your career may go unnoticed. Your achievements unrecognized and unnamed. Your paper resume may sit empty. You may be critiqued for every tiny decision you make. You may feel insignificant when you say “I’m a stay at home mom” – but NEVER feel the need to make an excuse as to why you chose this path. And NEVER accept the lie that you don’t contribute to this society simply because you don’t have some official title and business card.

Mama, you are immensely valuable, an unstoppable force of love, selflessness, steadfastness, and compassion. You are the spark that will someday ignite a flame. You are planting the seed that grows and matures into a forest. Never see yourself as less than this. Never.

Daughter, I won’t tell you “You can be anything you set your mind to” without one clarification

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I want you to believe in yourself. I want you to be confident in who you are. I want you to try new things, and try again when you fail. But there’s something about this motto I want you to fight against and resist– and a new meaning I want you to focus on.

When you hear the phrase “You can be anything you set your mind to” or “You can be anything you want to be” most people are using it in reference to careers. And, this is somewhat true. But, I can’t promise that grief won’t overtake you, that illness won’t steal your talent, that injury won’t cripple your career. I can’t promise you that you’ll have the resources to be a stay at home mom. I can’t promise you that a loved one’s illness won’t make you have to quit your job to take care of them. Perhaps you weren’t born with a voice to be singer, with an IQ to topple tests to be special intelligence, with the eyesight to be a pilot, the grace to be a dancer, or the stature to play basketball. I can’t promise that you won’t have to take on a job with long hours while studying for classes. And, baby, mommy won’t always have the money to send you to practice the hobby of your dreams. We may not always be in the best school district. I can’t promise either that all of your teachers will believe in you – or push you to thrive.

See this motto has a false facade of failure built in to it, as if when you see people with a lower paycheck or without a “desirable” job – that they’ve somehow failed. That they are lazy. That they quit too early. They didn’t give it EVERYTHING. That they didn’t prioritize. That they didn’t want it bad enough. And, we dismiss them. We dismiss their journey. We dismiss their humanity. We discount and dismiss the profound effect that where we grow up, our community, our opportunities, our income, our resources, our health, who we knew, our parents, ABUSE, DISEASE, ILLNESS, GRIEF, education, etc. have on our journey. Heck, perhaps they gave up a career for something more important to them — like having time with family. We forget that perhaps a woman isn’t “moving up the ladder” because moving up means less time with her newborn baby. It’s as if a job description defines how much we “tried” or the depth of our character – and we forget about the journey we’ve all individually and uniquely walked.

If success is only measured by a career, you may miss a more important aspect of life – and you may miss the opportunity to meet someone amazing. We forget in this phrase that THESE people without titles and distinctions and accolades of awards deserve respect and love too for their journey. That these people are role models with profound wisdom for us. And, we forget that sometimes stepping away from a dream can be an open door to love more vibrantly, to have more time with a loved one, to fight for a cause, to rest easier, to pursue ‘dead-end’ but enjoyable, fulfilling hobbies, and more. 

Sweetie, I’ve seen the most miserable, lonely CEOs, and the most vibrant, joyful, lively janitors.

So, let me tell you what you CAN and SHOULD choose. Of far greater worth than your career is your CHARACTER. This is what makes you “who” you are – the small choices you make everyday that define your journey and mark your path. You may not make a sports team – but how do you react to failure? People may be cruel to you, but do you still choose love? People may disrespect someone in front of you; do you stand up for them even if it’s unpopular? Do you choose patience? Kindness? Self-control? Do you get back up when you fail? Are you an encourager? What do you think upon when you have free time? What do you do when no one is looking? Are you continually learning and growing? But, do you also rest when you need it and take time to mourn? Do you know when to close a door and open another?

Baby, accept who you are. Embrace who you are. And, pursue your dreams – and push through even when no one believes in you. Give it your best shot, and anything that happens is a success story. But, remember along the way, it’s not your job title that defines your journey or your worth or how hard you tried — and not making it into a career doesn’t equate to failure. Success has many faces, the most important being your character. Pursue character first. Then, whatever career you have, you will be a success.

I love you.

– Mommmy