By Michelle | September 11, 2012
2,700. That's how many minutes I am away from my son each week. 9 hours a day, 5 days a week. And no, not one of those 2,700 minutes is easy.
Last weekend was the weekend from hell. It was a "Feeling-like-a-horrible-mom, Forget-your-son-turned-10-months-old, Missing-out-on-everything, Why-does-my-kid-fuss-all-weekend-when-everyone-else-gets-the-good-parts-of-him" kind of weekend. And even though I was glad to see Monday come so I could put it all behind me, those 540 minutes yesterday still were not easy.
On Saturday, I was feeling alone in my plight as a working mother and decided to text a good friend and fellow mama. I hadn't even mentioned that I was struggling yet, when she said "I'm amazed at your ability to be a working mama, wife and blogger-extraordinaire." (<3) Clearly she wasn't in my bedroom Friday night when I screamed at my husband that I was sick of everybody pointing out how I am failing as a mother, then proceeded to sleep on the floor of my son's nursery so I "wouldn't have to miss another minute of his life." Serves him right for offering to put Charlie in his car seat earlier that night, because he knew "having to manipulate the seat in his car makes me frustrated."
But reading her words, I knew there was so much more behind them. Because as a working mom herself, she was probably struggling in the same ways. And that's when I realized - we all go through this, and we all think everyone else has it more together than we do.
Mommyhood is tough in general, but being a working mom comes with a unique set of challenges. If you do a quick Google search of the phrase "working mom" you will probably see what I mean. Evidence of those challenges will stare back at you as you wade through the "Have it All's" and "Have it All-Not's" of mommy bloggers -- namely, phrases like: "neglecting your babies", "abandoning your child", "letting someone else raise your kid." I'm pretty sure these are the kinds of sentiments that begot the phrase 'mommy guilt' and they are the ignorant notions that working moms have to fight against each day. Just because I'm in a staff meeting reporting on marketing lead flow instead of watching PBS and singing "Dinosaurs A to Z" with my son doesn't mean someone else is raising him.
And then there's time. There is never any.fucking.time! As a recent study pointed out, "Women themselves report feeling stressed about balancing work and family. When asked in general how they feel about their time, 40% of working moms said they always feel rushed. This compares with 24% of the general public and 26% of stay-at-home moms. For their part working fathers don't seem to feel nearly as harried as working mothers. Only 25% of working dads said they always feel rushed." To those statistics, I say: no shit.
That same study reported that "only about one-in-ten moms (12%) say having a mother who works full time is the ideal situation for a child." Yet 7 out of 10 of us still do it. Hmmm...
But, not only do I have mom guilt and no time. No, I also have worker's guilt about having no time. Meaning, I'm the difficult employee. The one that gets in at 8:15 and leaves at 4:30 (on the nose) so I can do daycare drop off and pick-up -- "Can't be late! It's a dollar a minute!" is usually how I bid my adieu's as I rush out the door. I'm also the one that has to leave early because C peed through all of his spare clothes or ran out of formula. Not to mention, I will use every last sick day because not only will my child acquire foreign illnesses from daycare, but so will I. Don't worry, I will probably also bring these pathogens into our building's recirculating airflow. (You're welcome!)
I don't intend to ignite the SAHM vs WM debate - at least not today. I'm not trying to say one is harder than the other, or that one is right and one is wrong. I'm not trying to undermine other working moms' success by saying that I'm struggling and therefore they must be to. I can only speak to being a working mom and how it makes me feel, because that's my reality.
For me, being a working mom is kind of like that 7th grade party I wasn't invited to. The one where everyone was invited but me and that weird kid that picked his nose and ate it.* Not even the best line-up of TGIF on ABC could lessen the blow of that night - I didn't know exactly what it was that I was missing out on, but I was certain whatever it was was cooler than what I was doing.
I basically haven't been a SAHM since my maternity leave, so I really have no idea what being with my mobile, teething toddler 24/7/365 would be like. But what I do know is that every day as a working mom, I feel like I felt that Friday night. What I'm doing is alright and all, but I'm still pretty sure that I'd rather be doing whatever it is that Charlie is doing.
Unfortunately, I don't have that option. As far as working moms go, I fall into the "must work because her family likes to eat and it required 2 incomes to do so" category. (In other words, I'm not Marissa Meyer and I'm not Ann Romney.) Until we win Powerball, or you people start clicking on my Google ads, my bank account isn't just going to fill itself. So, I suspect I will continue to have rough patches like I had this weekend. Days that make me question whether or not I'm doing the right thing. Nights that make me wonder if my child hates me. Moments that make me wonder if I'm missing too much and going to regret not making more sacrifices to stay home with him.
I'm not sure if these feelings will ever get better, or if a day will come where I know I did the right thing by sending C to daycare and working full time. But at least I know that there are other moms out there facing the same internal struggle. I guess I will just have to power through the 2,700 minutes that I'm missing him, and try to enjoy the 4,020 minutes that I do get to have with him. Or, just maybe I should play all of these numbers in the lottery, and my problem will be solved!
*Editor's note: There were really a handful of us "uncool" kids not invited, and I can't really remember if any of us picked our nose/ate it. But I do know that the kids that threw the party are now fat and/or unattractive...so it all worked out in the end.