Thank you for reading my mini-series on the working balance in motherhood. So far we’ve chatted about staying at home and working from home. Today is Part Three: Working Full-Time. The point of this series isn’t to determine who works harder and fuel the stay-at-home vs working mom Mommy Wars. Actually, just the opposite! It’s important to shed light on all of the different paths mothers can take and recognize each path is filled with unique challenges and triumphs. I’ve never met a mother who didn’t have an exciting, intentional life prior to having children who wants to continue that through motherhood. We are all seeking an ever-evolving balancing act based on what is best for our families.
I was afraid of getting off the working train again out of fear I would never have the opportunity to get back on…
As I emerged from staying at home to working from home + working part-time out of the home, the little voice in my head that had been quiet for so long, dormant as I became a Professional Mama, started to squeak: “Hey, remember how ambitious you used to be? Remember how you always planned to get your PhD? You should say yes to that opportunity. That one, too. Yes! Say yes to everything you’re asked because you’re back, Mama!” And then I became a:
Full-Time Working Mama
Then I had another baby and everything changed. Again. I spent my maternity leave after Magnolia was born giving everything I had in my arsenal to caring for a newborn, taking care of a toddler, and working so hard at growing pearls on a string— even making my debut on the local morning talkshow. I was clearly under the influence of postpartum hormones that allowed me to run on fumes, charged only by complete newborn euphoria and copious amounts of coffee. (Gosh, this time was seriously so magical though; I think it will always be a highlight of my life.) But what goes up must come down and I crashed haaaaard, conveniently just in time for my maternity leave to end. During my final pregnancy days and early newborn euphoria days I said “YES!” to a few professional opportunities I perhaps should not have. I was back to my old professional self (the one who did not have children) who said yes to every opportunity. I was also deathly afraid of getting off the working train again out of fear I would never have the opportunity to get back on.
Mom guilt is real and so fierce. Why don’t men have it?
Working outside of the home full-time with a baby and a toddler is more difficult than I ever imagined. Leaving Magnolia at four months old was daily torture. Now, the memory of leaving her that young and knowing I will never get that time back is daily torture. Those early months were physically and emotionally draining; I was beyond exhausted. Magnolia continued to wake up 2-3 times per night to nurse, then I’d go to work, and then sprint home to see her and Waverley. Every day I got home Magnolia seemed bigger and more grown up. I lost the privilege of picking Waverley up from school and being the first person who asked how her day was. My “me time” was spent pumping and grading or charting. After the girls went to bed there is always more work to do! Nate and I use that time to clean the kitchen, fold laundry, and finish the unfinished from the day (grading, signing notes, writing).
I was giving up one of the most precious gifts (child-rearing) yet felt so much more encouragement and support from everyone than when I gave up my entire identity to stay at home. It seems so backwards.
My postpartum weight loss plans quickly disintegrated as mom guilt overtook my every thought; I felt guilty exercising after work because I felt I needed to hurry home to the girls. I felt guilty exercising before work because that is when Magnolia would come into bed for early morning nursing and snuggles. I felt guilty exercising on the weekends because that was our precious family time and my only full days with the girls to be a mother. You guys, mom guilt is real and so fierce and do you ever wonder why men don’t have it? I digress. There were some fabulous aspects to working outside of the home full-time: A paradigm shift occurred in which I was present. When I was home with the girls, I was really with them. I wasn’t on my phone, on the computer, or trying to vacuum. I was there. I played. I was present. It was quality over quantity. I was exhausted, sure, but I was also fulfilled and purposeful. I felt able and capable. I felt proud to contribute financially to my family. I once again felt I possessed worthy conversation from my long, hard day at work.
Now it’s time for a pro/con list of being a full-time working mother. You know by now that I love pro/con lists!
Pros of Working Full-Time as a Mother
- Research shows that kids benefit from having a working mom
- Financial independence
- Preventing the continuation of gender inequality/stereotypical gender roles
- More external validation for efforts and purpose
- Leaving the chaos of tiny humans every day and letting someone else deal with it
- More emphasis on spending smaller, very valuable bits of time with the kids
- Getting dressed in something other than jeans/yoga pants
- Gratefulness for time spent with the kids
- Day does not revolve around cooking and cleaning
- Professional stimulation
- Security in knowing if anything happened to Nate’s job, I could continue working to support the family
- Spousal respect; I felt like we were more on a team
- Professional growth
- Coworker camaraderie
- Deeper empathy of everyone (e.g., patients, their families, my students) than when I worked before having children
- Increased efficiency at work since there is a big goal to get home at a reasonable time
- Solo lunch breaks!
- Easier to stay up-to-date with current events when talking about it at work uninterrupted by children
- Sense of self identity returned!
- Personal enjoyment
- Ease with scheduling appointments when childcare is already arranged
- Demonstrating the importance of hard work and determination to the littles
- Statistics show that a stay-at-home mom is more likely to suffer from depression
- Someone else is spending more time with your children than you and therefore has a huge impact on how they are raised
Cons of Working Full-Time as a Mother
- Someone else is spending more time with your children than you and therefore has a huge impact on how they are raised (see what I did there?)
- Feeling like there is never enough time
- Childcare: Finding it, keeping it, paying for it, coordinating it, scheduling around it
- Missing out on so. much. childhood.
- Going to work when the baby is sick = soul crushing
- Exhaustion. The depths of this tiredness can be unbearable.
- Weekends are overtaken by laundry, chores, grocery shopping, etc., rather than fun
- Mom guilt
- Missing out on playdates and mom friends
- Difficulty scheduling exercise
- Stressful mornings getting everyone ready on time
- The anxiety-inducing cycle of needing to work to pay for childcare and needing childcare to work
- Missing the littles so hard
- Packing a lunch on top of everything else
- Annoying students and/or patients make one question every decision in life (i.e., “I’d rather be at home with my children but I have to deal with you…”)
- So much pumping
- Disconnect at work between those who have children and those who do not
How to Make The Most Out of Working Full-Time
- Make time with children really count. Focus on quality over quantity.
- Create clear boundaries of when you need to leave work everyday.
- Schedule in down time, date nights, and girls’ nights so life is not one big run-on week of work and child rearing. It’s important for sanity!
- Let go of household perfection.
- Be grateful for the opportunity to work.
- Perform constant reminders of the example being set for the kids: goals –> hard work –> accomplishment.
- Work efficiently to avoid wasting time, which means unnecessary time away from the kids.
- Take breaks whenever possible. Squeeze in a day to yourself or a day with the kids to break up monotony. DON’T FEEL BADLY ABOUT IT!
- Tape up reminders of the reasons you are doing this, whether it is to pay bills, finish a degree, pay off students loans, cultivate a better life for your children, have a job when the kids are older, etc.
- Hire out as much as financially possible: house cleaning, lawn maintenance, grocery delivery. Everything.
- Let go of all the other stuff; there is no time or energy left for toxic relationships, unnecessary burdens, etc, when every fiber of being is going towards working full-time and parenting. This really helps one triage life, actually!
Are you a full-time working mother? How do you like it and what do you do for work? Make sure to read Part One and Part Two, staying at home and working from home. Next week’s Mom Seeks Work Balance will be on working part-time. See you then!