Being a Mom and Having a Career is Really F#*$@$ing Hard-What I’ve Learned Along the Way
Why hello there. It’s been a LONG TIME since I’ve written anything on this blog. I have many drafts and blog post ideas but this blog hasn’t gotten any love in almost a year.
Last night a mom asked me a question. She said “How do you do this? I’m so drowning.” She was referring to being a mom and having a career.
And that message is what made me actually sit down and take time to write this. (So, if you’re reading this THANK YOU FOR THAT).
I could give a lot of encouraging words but I want to start with some hard truths. BEING A PARENT — and BEING A MOM who works outside the home is REALLY FUCKING HARD. It is hard everywhere in the world, and ESPECIALLY HARD here because our society is not set up to support working parents, MUCH LESS WORKING MOTHERS who are just supposed to FIGURE IT OUT (as COVID taught us).
So dear mom who has a job outside the home… If you feel like you’re drowning— you’re normal. All of us feel like we are drowning at some point or another.
This was the case even before a global pandemic forced us to stay in crowded apartments with the people we love the most in the world for close to two years — parenting was hard enough before the pandemic and that *ish just made it that much worse– and actually has affected the mental health of so many of us. If your mental health suffered, you’re not alone. If you think you need professional help because you have felt deep sadness or couldn’t get out of bed – YOU’RE CERTAINLY NOT ALONE and I URGE YOU to seek professional help if you think you need it. There is NO SHAME IN THAT.
Back to this question —
So, How do I DO THIS? Parenting and career thing?
Well first, It isn’t all perfect.
Whoever tells you they are not struggling with some part of parenting and being a working mom (parent) isn’t being honest — that is 100 percent my opinion.
The thing is, you may feel like you’re not doing the best you could be with your kid— or with your job.
As a working parent, there will ALWAYS be something to do— and SOMETHING that isn’t getting done. There will always be choices to make: “Do I take the day to do the laundry OR, do I take time to enjoy this beautiful fall day because we need nature and DAMN IT… making memories > chores.” AM I RITE??
(Now, this example I just gave— COULD have been an example of a conversation I would have had with myself this weekend… but truthfully I didn’t even HAVE this conversation with myself. I simply FORGOT that laundry needed to be done (My kids wear uniforms) and so last night I realized my kid didn’t have any clean uniform shirts. See, FAR FROM PERFECT.
I’m going to humbly share what I’ve learned in the over 11 years that I’ve been a parent… I share this because, it is one of my goals in life, to make life easier for the moms/parents that come after me— In big things (like advocating for FEDERAL PAID LEAVE) and little things (like telling other moms that it’s OK to give your baby cereal for dinner — which – true story— I got mad at my husband for doing when my firstborn was a baby— which I would like to take the time to publicly apologize to him for— experience in parenting has taught me that cereal for dinner is perfectly acceptable).
Let’s remember, like my friend Lina Acosta Sandaal says “parenting is messy.” Lina (shares her parenting tips on Instagram @parentingexpert finish reading this and go follow her!) is a childhood development expert and through the years she’s offered plenty of advice on handling the mess.
Which leads me to POINT NUMBER ONE: SOMETIMES WE JUST HAVE TO EMBRACE THE MESS
(and GO WITH THE FLOW)
Sometimes, it’s cereal for dinner and letting the kids wear mismatched socks. Sometimes it’s crying in the bathroom because it will make you feel better. Sometimes it’s eating a Snickers bar. Sometimes, it’s realizing that the thing you really wanted to get done tonight isn’t going to get done, (SORRY DIRTY DISHES IN THE SINK!) because YOU NEED SLEEP. Sometimes, it is realizing that your energy level isn’t what it used to be in your 20s/30s/40s (enter whatever age here).
SECOND, DON’T COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHERS.
Someone’s Instagram feed may show you that they have a picture perfect life, but remember that’s only the highlight reel — most of us don’t post the tantrum that occurred before that picture perfect moment happened. We won’t share that it took us 25 tries before our kids agreed to taste the most delicious lasagna that I MADE FROM SCRATCH. (true story, this week!) You’ll only see the pic of a happy kid eating the meal. — you won’t see the pic of the mom that is crying while she is doing the dishes because her kid told her some mean thing or she feels her efforts weren’t appreciated.
THIRD, SOMETHING’S GOTTA GIVE.
Earlier I shared a very concrete example of something that happened to me THIS WEEK with the laundry… it didn’t get done. (I should also share that I often do laundry and it stays folded in some pile in some room of the house and never gets put away as it should, because who has time?).
So yes, you read that correctly: something’s gotta give. This week for me, it was laundry— on any given day, it is clutter. It is piles of unopened mail.
It can be – a home cooked meal because you had to work late and therefore it’s PIZZA FOR DINNER (the kids love that) OR— one of our personal favorites— Breakfast for dinner (another big success, and relatively easy to prepare!)
Something’s gotta give can also look using paper plates because you simply cannot spend time on dishes (there are only so many hours in the day!) It can also mean to finally installing a dishwasher because you’re tired of doing the dishes. (Me, true story).
As a mom who has a house, a spouse, two kids and a career– a full time job that I dedicate 40 hours of the week to— something’s gotta give. I believe the faster we accept this, the easier it will be to not be so hard on ourselves when something isn’t done.
This leads me to another BIG point:
FOURTH: IT’S OK TO ASK FOR HELP (AND OUTSOURCE IF YOU CAN)
If you’re a woman, you may have been taught that you need to keep a clean house… That it is your responsibility and in some cultures (mine, or rather my mother says….) people link your ability to do it all— keep a clean house and cook meals from scratch and make sure your kids’ are 100 percent ready for all the things and make sure they’re doing well in school — etc etc. as the woman’s responsibility. Well, that is utter BULLSHIT and if you’ve been conditioned to think that too — Please don’t do that to yourself.
It’s OK to want to have a career and for that to take precedent over a perfect house. Unless you have a clone, or a robot like Rosie in the Jetsons (did I just date myself?) you simply can’t. Taking care of a house and managing a home could be a full time job — but if you’re a mom that works outside the home, that means you have a FT job and you don’t need a second one.
So, ask for help — you’ll be surprised by the kindness of the people around you. I will never forget one day when I was alone with my daughter who had woken up with a fever. I had t get my son to school, but I didn’t want to take my daughter out of the house — so I called another mom who happened to have a son at the same school, and happened to be my neighbor, and asked her if she could possibly pick up my son and take him to school — and she did, and that happened five years ago, but I will never forget her kindness.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO IT ALL ALONE: OUTSOURCE! What WE do when we need to and can, is OUTSOURCE. I had my laundry picked up and washed today, because between work and a community board meeting and school pick ups and doctor appt I didn’t have time to do laundry. We also do take out sometimes because after a full day of work, and picking up/ dropping off kids at activities — sometimes you just need to pick up a Costco rotisserie chicken or some ready made dish or order your favorite takeout. (Ps. This isn’t a sponsored post, I just literally sometimes pick up a rotisserie chicken or ribs from Costco).
**Don’t feel badly about outsourcing (again, if budget permits) and/ or about asking for help.
Which leads me to my next point….
NUMERO CINCO… WE NEED OUR PEOPLE.
You need mom friends — you need mom friends who have older kids and will walk you through whatever issue you have as a first time parent.. you need their wisdom that this too shall pass…
You need to see them thriving as moms of teens and know that you too will survive the preteen years (yes im talking about myself) you need to commiserate about kindergarten application processes or talk about what the best programs are, which schools have after school care and how expensive after school care is (oh, if your child doesn’t yet need after school care and you’e only freaking out about child care costs… the time will come when they go to Kindergarten and you realize that five year olds can’t walk themselves home… and that you have to figure out the “casse tête “(puzzle – literally meaning breaking head) of after school care/ versus work/ versus school calendar… it’s oh so joyful.
You need the mom friends who you can rant about middle school math, or the terrible twos, or how your baby is sleep regressing, and a mom you can text in the middle of the night because you have insomnia and she is probably breastfeeding. You need moms who will make you laugh so much you just peed a little (Thank you vaginal birth, lol). You’ll find your people– they may be the moms you met through PTA who became your friends (like the lovely ladies below) or they may be the moms in your breastfeeding support group or moms that life brought together somehow. Find them, lean on them, support them, let them support you, be their cheerleader and you be theirs — no drama, no competition just real support… we all need people– especially working moms because… Being a Mom and Having a Career is Really F#*$@$ing Hard.
Seriously, if you were a parent before the pandemic, you know how cool those mom groups were , the mom meetups in the park for all types of moms -breastfeeding moms, moms of kids with special needs, moms raising bilingual kids— there were meetups for everything! Then COVID hit and we weren’t allowed to meet in person anymore, and many of those moments disappeared— but if COVID proved anything, it’s how much we need connection and support from others– COVID was just proof– we need our mom tribe, or hive, or whatever cool name you want to give it. My COVID mom support group continues to help me to this day — almost three years in, we’re going strong and share everything from music and book recommendations to lunch ideas to local outings to petitions to job and career advice and — the point is — WE ALL NEED PEOPLE, and when you’re a working mom — you need your people too… the moms that will explain to you how to navigate HR and requests for flexible work schedules, or what paid sick leave means in your company… etc etc.
BE PROUD OF YOUR CAREER/ACCOMPLISHMENTS
When you cannot be there for your kids, know that they’re also seeing what you’re doing– that you have a career, that you do (INSERT WHAT YOUR PROFESSION IS HERE) for others, etc… talk to them about what your work is and how you’re contributing to society. What you do is teaching them a lot about what it means to be professional, to have drive, to live out your dreams, to support your family.
TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF…
If you’re a mom you’ve probably heard the oxygen mask metaphor before… if not, let me share it: when you’re on the plane– they tell you that in case of an emergency, you need to put your oxygen mask on first before helping others. If you don’t take care of yourself– you cannot be there for your kids! So, take care of yourself.
Ask yourself, what does that look like for you? If that means a time out for yourself, a walk in nature, a good cry, a long shower (or, a good cry in the shower!), seeking a therapist or starting to exercise (I started running when covid hit, at 38 years young!), saying affirmations, practicing gratitude or meditating in the morning before the craziness of your day begins (I do these things as well) can make a HUGE difference — something that helps your emotional/physical/ mental well being (it also might be, your career!) will have huge benefits for you and those around you!
Here’s another one… you can’t pour from an empty cup! So, keep your cup full, what fills you up? Make sure you’re filled up with love, joy, peace, support– so you can pour and support others.
WHAT AM I MISSING?
I’m sure I’m missing something, but I hope what I’ve written has helped you feel a bit better about this… I guarantee you at one point or another every mom who has a career has felt like she is drowning, YOU’RE NOT ALONE.
The last thing I will say is, pay attention to what your organizational culture is like for supporting moms / working parents. I’ve been able to do a lot of what I’ve done because I’ve had great bosses and supervisors who supported me being a mom, and work environments that allowed flexibility. At one previous job where flexibility was taken away — that was my cue that it was time to go. If an employer values your work and wants to keep you around, they should be accommodating.
I will leave you with the points below: (and thank you if you’ve read all of this, I hope it helped and share with a friend!)
- Nothing is perfect.
- Sometimes, we need a good cry. Crying releases toxins.
- Sometimes, we need to close the computer and go for a walk.
- Sometimes, we need to phone a friend.
- Sometimes we need to order take out. Sometimes our kids will need us and tell us to put our phones down.
- Listen to your gut. Your gut will tell you that you need to go to see your kids’ recital instead of going to your meeting.
- When in doubt, go with your gut.
- As long as your kids are safe, fed and happy, you’re good (even if they’re wearing mismatched socks).
- YOU GOT THIS!
*Last words: Your kid will not remember how many times you washed the dishes, but they will remember how you sat down to build a castle with them. Memories > chores all the time.