Most days striking that aspirational (but illusory) balance of “working mom” works for me. I love being a mother to my two delightful children, and I enjoy a fulfilling and meaningful career. Yes, my schedule is demanding with large chunks of nights and weekends working outside the home, but many times my schedule is flexible and my family is supportive. Thankfully, they understand the particular demands of my vocation and the reasons why I feel called to do what I do. Because I am not always around, I try to be intentional about the time we do spend together as a family – like cooking together, having family game night, going on a new adventure, or continuing a family tradition. It works for me. It works for us.
Except when it doesn’t. There are seasons when the work/motherhood balance is not just demanding; it’s, frankly, delusional. Juggling meetings, schedules, babysitters, and to-do lists can leave me feeling more like a manager than a mother. Who has which homework due tomorrow? Who has which extra-curricular activity this week? Not to mention the challenge of quality time with my spouse. Trying to stay on top of all the responsibilities and enjoyment of family life can seem impossible.
There can also be an unspoken pressure not to complain about the hardships of a working mom lest you are criticized for working in the first place. Or, you are criticized for complaining that you have the opportunity to work; it might insult the trailblazers who paved the way for women in the workplace. This is, of course, in addition to the consideration of so many hardworking women around the globe who face much more difficulty and heartache than first-world women will ever know. (By the way, do men’s blogs ask these questions?!)
Please note that these questions are about more than the dividing lines between women who work outside the home and those who don’t. (And, as a public service announcement, let’s refrain from using that unhelpful phrase “those who have to work” and “those who choose to work,” because it creates unnecessary divisions.) In fact, these are questions we as mothers hold in common as we strive towards this model (mirage?) of balance in our lives. Balance implies choices, and choices are hard.
Some days it is hard to hand your child(ren) to another caregiver when you know your child(ren) best. Some days you are exhausted from trying to meet needs in the home and at work. Some days you want some extra minutes of snuggles in the morning, or an afternoon park date in the sunshine. Some days you question your choices and imagine a different reality. I know, I’ve been there, mamas.
I wish I could give working moms a step-by-step guide to mastering balance, but everyone works at that in their own ways. My hope is simply that by naming this reality that any mom who reads this may not feel alone when the days are long and you long for time with your child(ren).
The truth is that – thankfully – for the majority of the time, I know other seasons, too. And I hope you do, too. Some days your career is personally fulfilling or at least fulfilling an economic need that benefits your family. Some days you are so grateful to match your talents and time with needs in the world. Some days the teachers and caregivers who care for your child(ren) are amazing human beings who enrich the world of your child(ren). Some days you smile when you remember that little eyes are watching you, and you wonder what future career path may be theirs as they grow and develop. Some days, because of time apart, you prioritize the time with your child(ren), squeeze them tight, hold them close, and tell your kids you love them – face to face.