Labor Day: A working mother’s question, a plea, and a pledge

08/Sep/2009

My family did what most other Seattle families did this Labor Day: We hunkered down and went out in the rain. As Seattle dwellers, we’re accustom to venturing out in the rain in our gear and rain boots. It’s what we do.

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And so we did.

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Shortly after these photos were taken, Toddler Boy started puking. The fever from two days ago apparently turned in to the flu and we spent most of the night cuddling, cleaning, and holding while his body rejected the virus.

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I’ve never been one of those mothers who liked to fight about what was harder: staying home or working. I’m not one of those mothers that enjoys competing at that level (a nice healthy game of scattegories, though, is fair game) so I’m not interested in saying that because I am keeping my son home from preschool/daycare today I need sympathy for me and him. And, alternatively, I’m not looking for a lecture about being a working mom.

No. What I need is a tall red beer. And ear plugs.

It’s a fine line to walk, the working mother. On the one hand, there is the guilt, the pull, the tug of the family. On the other hand, there are bills, a housing market that failed miserably, and an education your children deserve. Toss in self-fulfillment and the fact that I love my job and you have one complex equation.

Some days are obvious: Today is a work day. Tomorrow is a holiday.

But most days are gray, overcast, misty with confusion and the lack of differentiation.

Especially the days one of the kids stay home sick.

I have not found the balance between working, focusing, and caring for the demanding, ill, little person. I haven’t been successful at holding my son, rocking him to sleep without thinking of the list I need to accomplish.

I do not seperate well.

I don’t have the answer. I don’t know how to be present in the thing I’m doing. I’m always in a million places focusing on how to get those million things to completion.

Except yesterday.

Yesterday for an hour and a half I was walking with my family on a path in the rain watching the ducks and the children. I wasn’t in my computer, I wasn’t in my to do list, I wasn’t in our finances. I was walking with my family. Purely. Simply.

Maybe I’m not great at separating my rolls yet. But I know I can have them work together. At least some of the times.

Right?

Or maybe just by asking the questions I’m admitting failure.

Either way. I don’t know how you do it.

How. Do. You. Do. It?

Hi

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Comments

  1. Funny, I’m reading this while home with a sick kid.

    By Busy Mom on 2009 09 08

  2. Easy.  I’m SuperMom.

    (wait…aren’t we all?)

    By Procrastamom on 2009 09 08

  3. Uh, yeah. Went to coffee (on work time - hee!) with an ex-co-worker-friend a few weeks ago. Hadn’t seen her since she had her son a year ago. She looked right at me and asked the same question.

    “How DO you do it all?”

    I? Simply said: “I don’t.”

    I? Do everything half-assed and panic about what I’m missing, creating angst in my head and stress in my gut, all the while my kids notice NOTHING and simply think I’m great.

    I’d love to have the chance to be an at-home Mom, if for no other reason that I can prove to myself that I hate that, too, and need something different. I dunno…

    By Colleen - Mommy Always Wins on 2009 09 08

  4. Weird, but my kid had a migraine (at 10 that just sucks wet poodle) which he slept off for 5 hours and then he was up for most of the night, because he couldn’t sleep, anymore.  But, I sent him to school today, anyway.  How about a nice game of Scrabble, instead?

    By Liz@thisfullhouse on 2009 09 08

  5. Yo. It’s me.
    Guilt? Are you kidding me? No guilt. It is life. You do the best “you” can which isn’t the same for someone else—they live a different life, eh? heheh

    From what I gather, most of the world have both parents work if possible. It is survival. Do we want to be dependent on our kids when we’re old and grey? Do we want our kids to go to school? Do we want to save up money for our kids’ therapy one day? (oops, ahem, not that I am) [Yup, that’s right kids. I’m working to save up for your future psycho-therapy.)

    Who tweeted this comment > something about > it isn’t a balance of one or the other. it is a combination, both. Intertwined. Blah, can’t remember.

    Does it mean something that I don’t feel guilty? heheh raspberry

    Anyways, I think it is great to see moms work.

    By J. Me. on 2009 09 08

  6. I’ve been self-employed for six years now and STILL haven’t found the balance. I have been making great strides, but there are many more to make.

    By Angella on 2009 09 08

  7. I’ve done both the working all the time mom and now, the stay at home mom. Neither was easy, nor do I really regret either. I guess I have no answers. We just do the best we can on any given day.

    Love the pictures. smile

    By Issa on 2009 09 08

  8. I’m not a mom, but so so many of my friends are, and I don’t think there is such a thing as balance.  A very wise man once told me that there is no such thing as balance because life is a pendulum where you swing back and forth and right when you’re in the middle it all makes sense and you achieve some kind of zen, and then you swing back the other way.  So…just keep swinging, and enjoy those brief moments where it all comes together.  And know that there’s no working mother alive who has ever “had it all together” without having a little paid help.  My friends who don’t work and stay home talk about how they just want to work and make a little money, even if it’s just working part-time at Starbucks or something.  And most of my friends who have kids and intend to come back to work are all usually very excited to work because it means a bit of a break from the kids.  But who knows…I just think it depends on your family and what works for you.  It has nothing to do with what your friends do or what your mom did or anything.  Even if you don’t have it all together, it seems to me that you get to do what you love for a living, and just the satisfaction you get from that makes you a better mother.

    By Liz on 2009 09 08

  9. Illness is a toughie.  Generally I can’t do much for my son but stick some Curious George on the tv and surround him with snacks and juice.  He has no energy for anything else when sick, so I am usually able to work from home on those days without a whole lot of difficulty.

    I don’t think you necessarily have to compartmentalize your life, though.  Your work is part of you, your kids are part of you - work should be aware of your family responsibilities and your kids should be aware of your work responsibilities.  Everyone has parts of their lives that they are thinking about at work - not just us moms.  It’s part of being human and a social being.

    By Ewokmama on 2009 09 08

  10. I still have hypothetical children - they live in my imaginary home where everything is perfect all the time.  And since I work in reality, I don’t see them much. grin

    Everyone finds their own balance or something resembling it.  I’ve seen working mums wracked with guilt that are phenomenal parents and some that don’t know their children at all. I’ve seen stay at homes that devote so much effort to their families that they disappear as a separate entity all together or that resent their children and the constant loop of “wheels on the bus” violating their senses.  My mum stayed home until I was ten - I turned out fine.  My cousin’s mum worked and she turned out fine.  Both our mums were awesome.

    If something becomes a problem, fix it.  But NOBODY can do EVERYTHING.

    By Carly on 2009 09 08

  11. I would tell you just keep being yourself and doing what you are doing cause that’s obviously working.

    I’ll tell you something else.  No one can do alone. Hire yourself some help. That’s what I did. It’s amazing what a clean floor and some doing my laundry did for me separating my roles.

    By Amanda on 2009 09 09

  12. LOVE you, love, love, love the pictures!!!  Such a precious family!!!  You’re a fantastic mother!!!

    XOXO

    By AmazingGreis on 2009 09 09

  13. Until recently when our son was diagnosed with a critical illness, when I was at home, I felt guilty for not working and when I was at work I felt guilty for not being at home.  Now, I’m trying like hell to get my priorities straight and when I’m at home… NO WORK.  It’s sometimes still hard but the thing to remember is that at the end of the day you’re going to care how much time you spent with your family, not how much time you spent at work.

    By April on 2009 09 09

  14. How do I do it, homeschooling four children with giant age gaps?  I drink.  In the morning I drink coffee, lots.  The rest of the day, water, lots.  Evening?  Wine, also lots.  Wake, rinse, repeat.

    By Deb on 2009 09 09

  15. LOL @Deb. Drink: Coffee, water, Wine. Done Done andnnnddd Done. smile

    April, wow, hon. I’m sorry about your son. OMG. I’m so sorry. I have zero to complain about yaknow? And sometimes there’s a good refresher.

    Amanda, Carly, Ewokmama, I love your encouragement. And I agree. Most day. smile I hit those bumps in the road and wonder “HOW THE HELL” but I know.. we all just do what we can.

    Liz, yea, exactly. See, I LOVE my job. LOVELOVE. I look forward to it. I can’t wait, honestly. But those days I miss my kids and the days I’m home I miss my job. Maybe it’s just a “i love too much” issue. raspberry

    Thank you, Issa! I think they’re cute but I’m biased. LOL.

    Busymom and Liz god I love you beeshes. You fantastic blogging-forever beeshes that are always there for support. Even with sick kids. (Dude, like we’re married!)

    Procrastimom your name gives it away. raspberry But I want whatever you’re on!

    Colleen, I agree completely. “I don’t” Right. some days I’m ok with that. Others? Blergh. I don’t even get past the PJs.

    By Mrs. Flinger on 2009 09 10

  16. Fabulous post! You are not alone at the “separating roles” part. I don’t work, I have in the past and may in the future, but not right now.I still have many things I am responsible for inside and outside the home. It is very hard to live in the now when we have so many things expected or due. This part: “I haven’t been successful at holding my son, rocking him to sleep without thinking of the list I need to accomplish.” really got me. I think we as mothers have more on our plates than men do. You have all the tasks and responsibilities and then you add in that little thing called emotions. Some call it hormones, I prefer “compassion”.
    It’s tough being mothers! No matter what your job title is…b/c there is no doubt you have at least a dozen, just like me.
    But I sure as heck wouldn’t opt to be a man. I’ll keep my full plate and my hormones. HA!

    By Amber on 2009 09 10

  17. How do I do it? Hell, I just pretend. Seems to have everyone fooled.

    By Heather, Queen of Shake Shake on 2009 09 10

  18. You are certainly not a failure, you’re a mother. None of us are perfect, although some like to act that way. wink I’m a working mother as well, and it is hard to balance everything. So you just do your best and forget the rest. Everyone will make it through just fine. smile

    By Suzy Voices on 2009 09 10

  19. I couldn’t do the working mom thing.  It just sucked for how little I was bringing home from the non-profit I worked at - I probably made enough to barely cover your yearly utility bills - it was *not* much. 
    I’m not made up to be able to do it all.  I can either do a few things well (good wife, good mom) or several things rather mediocre or half-assed (wife, mom, employee, etc.).  I’m not superwoman.  At least we’re able to have me be a sahm and it’s something I [usually] enjoy doing so it works out (we decided one of our priorities was that family is very, very important to us, and that we wanted to have a stay-at-home parent which works out well for homeschooling), but yeah.  Life sure ain’t easy.

    Just do the best that you can, love your kids, and once something’s done, it’s done and there’s no need to dwell on it.  Move on to the next challenge.  wink

    By Lanna on 2009 09 11

  20. Speak to any mother, they all think they are failures.

    And if they don’t.  Then they are in denial.

    By Kelley @ magnetoboldtoo on 2009 09 14