I can’t tell you the number of amazing articles I’ve read this summer that chronicle exactly how I feel—overworked, stressed, failing at everything. Working in the corporate world and trying to be an amazing mom right now feels nearly impossible, and when I read the articles about this being the end of the working mom, I find myself nodding along, completely sure that something has to give, and it has to be the mom and wife that gives up her space in the land of W-2s.
But then I pause. I’m angry. This does NOT need to be the end of the working mom. In fact, I would argue it has merely shined a light on the impossible task we have and how we constantly rise up to the challenge.
Is it hard? Of course.
Do I get resentful that my husband gets to go into an office every day? Umm, yes. I remind him regularly how lucky he is.
But do I secretly love that I have to literally hide in my office whenever I have my babysitter here so that my one-year-old doesn’t scream and cry when he sees me because he has become that attached to me over the last six months? Goodness, yes.
My three kids light up when they see me. They always have in a sense, but now it is beyond amplified. I am their everything, and it has felt so good. And even though I feel like I’m failing them when I tell them to get out when I’m on a call (where is your shirt?!) or I need them to watch the baby for a little longer until I can wrap up my work, I know I’m not.
For the last few weeks, my daughter, who is almost 10, has been asking me endless questions about my work. She wants to know all of the jobs available to her at my company. She wants us to offer a training to kids so she can see what the moms and dads are doing all day long since she’s been seeing glimpses of it for months now.
And my heart swells. I’m not failing her. None of us are. These kids are watching how hard we’re working and all that we do as adults on a regular basis. They understand that “corona” has messed up so much, but they also love being home to bake cookies, even if it’s with their babysitter. Then they get to slide open the office door and bring them to me—piping hot and full of pride. They get extra playdates with friends and neighbors, and it feels like an endless summer of old school fun.
And my one-year-old has been home from daycare for over five months. I remember when my maternity leave ended last year thinking that I’d never have this much time with him again—to study him, to play with him, to be his favorite person in the world. And COVID-19 changed that. Even though I’ve had a babysitter for 3 months, I’m still his #1 gal. It’s just the two of us from the time he wakes up in the morning until he goes down for his first nap, so we have hours to be together. Seeing him grow and learn has been the biggest blessing. And then he and I still end up with at least another hour on our own before dad gets home at the end of the day—where I happily pass him off and try to escape for a while.
And then there’s work. While failing as a parent hurts and I feel bad for neglecting them sometimes, I know my kids will always be there loving me and knowing deep down that we love them no matter what. Our jobs don’t exactly reciprocate that.
I know everyone’s work situation is different, and maybe you have a terrible boss or a career that doesn’t have the ability to let you pivot during this incredibly strange season. But I’m thankful to say that hasn’t been my experience.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve never worked harder or put in more hours. But I’ve also never felt as respected as I do right now. My childless co-workers, and even those with older kids, are literally in awe of how I am able to be productive, and those co-workers have gone from cooing at the sweetness of me giving a bottle to my baby back in March to laughing at my kids who come and sit in my chair and try to talk to them in Zoom like they know everyone.
They see the chaos of a working parent, and it’s almost like quarantine has taken the blinders off to what life is like for working parents. Sure, my kids wouldn’t be interrupting me during the work day in an office setting, but at least once a week, some co-worker would see me cringe as I look down at my phone and see the school or daycare number on the screen.
But before this, no one knew those faces or personalities. No one saw the hours we put it at home before coming into the office.
But now, the conversation lends itself to a more human-centric approach. With cats and dogs and tiny humans making their way across the screen, the dynamic of work has changed. There’s more grace for what we’re facing, and as it relates to parenting, there’s been an awakening of others to our “first shift” of the day before we even log on to work, and the shift we have as soon as we log off too. They see the reason for our emails at 11pm and 5am. Parents get it done.
Do I have work life balance? No. I don’t think that’s really a thing. I heard someone say recently they aim for harmony in their work and life, and that feels like something to strive for.
How do I feel about the effort I’m putting into each area of my life? Is it right for right now? Dedication to areas of our life ebb and flow over time. Just look at your bathroom scale. All things can’t be top priority all the time. You have to make the choice. And if quarantine life and working from home has shown me anything these last few months, it’s that others are waking up to the prioritization calls that working mothers have to make. And I think that’s a start.
You can follow my daily attempts at finding harmony to this work and parenting thing @theothersideofmotherhood