I am a work outside the home mom. Notice I do not say “working mom” because ever since spending twelve weeks at home caring for a high needs infant on my maternity leave, the point was driven home to me that all parents, regardless of whether they are stay at home moms, work outside the home moms, work at home moms, work outside the home dads, or stay at home dads, with one kid or five, are “working parents.” Raising a kid is WORK, from sun up to sun down, no matter how you look at it.
But as a work outside the home mom, I have found that the dual role brings its own set of ups and downs and challenges, some of which I rise to better than others. I work at my “day job” an average of 34 hours per week spread over four days, which means I have at least one full weekday day and all weekends at home with my kiddo. Most of those days I cherish, but then there are “those days…” where I spend most of my waking day counting the minutes until I can return to the relative sanctuary of the office.
There are the great days where we wake up happy and rested and spend the morning at the park or playing in the backyard, or building blanket forts or doing a craft project at the kitchen table, followed by a picnic lunch, a great nap, and maybe an afternoon trip to the cupcake store or a bike ride. On these days I can get the entire house cleaned during nap time and still have time to fold the laundry and relax with a cup of tea and a book. On these days I go to bed and feel the pangs of guilt that tomorrow I will need to rouse him out of bed and take him to daycare while I make the fifty mile round-trip to my other, less important job. I will count the minutes (all 600 of them) until the day ends and I can rush out the door and back to my family, where hopefully I will get to join in on at least a little bit of playing matchbox cars or catching lightning bugs after dinner and before bed.
On other days….well, on those days crying and whining (sometimes from both sides) starts early and continues through a good part of the day. Maybe we’ve had too many late nights or too much running, or maybe Venus and Mars are just aligned in a way to shorten everyone’s patience to a thread. The iPad comes out before ten in the morning and I count the minutes until naptime. Naptime is a battle that culminates with the munchkin being told to sit in his bed with a book and be quiet for thirty minutes. I barely have time to do the dishes from the morning when I am called back to up to the bedroom to strip another pee stained bed and remind the toddler than he can, in fact, go to the potty even if it is rest time. See, in fact there is a potty chair in your room….right there. The afternoon stretches out longer than anyone is prepared for, and by the time daddy walks in the door both of us are very happy that I will be headed to work the next morning.
And on those days, as my head hits the pillow and I realize how excited I am for the next day at the office, that’s when the guilt sets in. Guilt that I am missing my kid’s childhood. Guilt that I wasn’t as patient, energetic, attention giving, and loving as I should have been. Wondering if I will scar him for life or if he loves his daycare teachers more than me. Mommy guilt is a crazy thing, and it hits you when you least expect it. I’m told it hits my full time stay at home mom friends just as strongly, which tells you how universal the feelings are.
I’ve found that the best way for me to deal with the guilt that comes from motherhood is to name it, own it, and put it away. We’re all out here trying to do the best for our kiddos, whatever that family dynamic looks like. With that in mind, here are my “confessions” as a work outside the home mom:
- There are days at home that I spend too much time on Facebook and not enough time with crayons.
- There are days at work that my mind is 40% on my job and 60% lamenting that I am missing my kid’s Christmas party at daycare.
- Some days I take out a calculator and try to see if I can make the numbers work for me to cut my hours or leave the workforce.
- Some days I feel I would be cheating myself and the time I spent on my degree to give up doing something that I do (usually) love.
- My kid will never have the most creative Valentines or May Day baskets to hand out to his class. Even though I know he couldn’t care less, sometimes it bothers me.
- I forget important things sometimes. I forgot to sign him up for swimming lessons this summer, and by the time I realized it all the after-work spots had been taken. He cried when I told him he couldn’t have lessons until fall.
- I have gone into work on my day off because there was a kid who needed me at a specific meeting that could only occur on a Wednesday, even though it cut into my time with my own kiddo.
- I have checked my work email on my phone while at the park, just to make sure nothing urgent had come in that day.
- I love my kiddo, and I can’t imagine having any more time apart.
- I love my job, and can’t imagine leaving it.
So there you have it…confessions of a work outside the home mom. One thing I have learned so far in this journey is that life really is about balance. I love the job that I get paid for, and (most of the time) I cherish the job of motherhood. I am learning to understand that although motherhood is the far more important of the two positions, working outside the home makes me a better mother, just as being a mother makes me a better physical therapist. I might not be able to be the top performer in either realm all the time, but at the end of the day I have to forgive myself my mistakes and shortcomings, and resolve to wake up and try again the next day.
Have you had similar thoughts and experiences? What else would you add to this list?