I’m a working mom, always have been. I was once an eager young professional, just out of college and anxious to prove how valuable I could be to my company. I worked Saturdays! I went to happy hours with my coworkers! I was an up-and-comer!
A couple years later, Baby #1 arrived on the scene and my husband and I decided that it would be best if I continued to work fulltime and he stayed home with the babe. Rinse and repeat three more times in the next five years for a full-blown litter of kids. Suddenly my job didn’t seem so important anymore. Sure, I still worked hard while I was there, but I didn’t do a lot of “extras” to distinguish myself, so career progress slowed.
I was very involved with my kids’ activities while they were in grade school, and my career slowed even more. I was fine with that, but once the youngsters advanced past fifth grade and the need for Mommy to race home from the city for Brownies or Battle of the Books diminished, my focus shifted back to my career. Plus, I realized that a more “above and beyond” performance at work translated to more promotions (read: money) and better year-end bonuses, which benefitted my family in other ways.
Now all four of my kids are teenagers, and it seems like it should be easy to really focus on work, but I’m finding that the transition hasn’t been as easy as it seems like it should be. This past school year my husband was not only working fulltime but was doing so out of state, so part of my struggle has also been functioning somewhat as a single mom on a day-to-day basis for 10 of the last 11 months (hats off to single moms, btw).
Teenagers are self-sufficient, right? Sure, to a point, but they still require a tiny bit of parenting. That type of parenting seems to frequently be at odds with my work schedule, though. Some examples:
- My boss referred to “Anne leaving early”…because I wasn’t staying at work past the requisite eight hours.
- The eight hours I did manage to squeeze in were highly sporadic to accommodate driving for morning practices or after-school games.
- A subset of the last category was a number of unanticipated days off when someone was sick and I didn’t want them home by themselves. Was I a dependable go-to? Without a doubt between about 9 – 3 if no one was sick. Otherwise, all bets were off.
- I experienced perpetual guilt about the kids being on their own before and after school, often at risk of consuming unhealthy snacks and near lethal doses of crap t.v. when they didn’t have sports.
- I received nearly unlimited calls and texts with inquiries about after school activities, carpool arrangements, orthodontist appointment times that I’d put on the calendar wrong (twice!) and, like clockwork every single day, questions about dinner plans.
By the end of the school year I was high risk for daily meltdowns trying to attend to all of it. The result? I was kind of a half-assed parent and employee, which didn’t feel good at work or at home. Fortunately, just shy of being declared clinically insane, my husband swept in for the summer. After about a week of transition time, during which I continued to receive frequent calls from the kids (apparently forgetting that they had a parent in-house), things settled down at home. I would emerge from long meetings at work to find no texts or missed calls from home, a novelty!
It has been nice for the past month or so to work a little extra and not feel the pull of home life while I’m at work. But guess what? Now I don’t know what the kids are up to and feel guilty about the lack of interaction. I can’t win.
I’ve concluded that you can’t have it all, at least not all at once, as they say. I cannot stay involved at home during the day and also stay focused at work. And I cannot be focused at work without feeling detached from what’s going on at home. I’ve decided I either need one of those sweet sales jobs that doesn’t seem to require many hours of work a day (although that one will require a new personality) or find myself a sister wife like they have on t.v., which doesn’t seem like such a bad option right now.
In the meantime, I’ll continue to feel guilty either at work or at home or both. Isn’t that what being a mom is truly all about?
Filed under: Parenting