Being a working mom came from less of a place of “I am woman, hear me roar” and more from a place of “We need to pay our electric bill.” My paycheck makes our life – close to public transportation with excellent schools and a vibrant, safe community – work.
It doesn’t mean that it’s always easy, or that I started off loving it. But I CAN say with confidence that I’m a better parent because I have time to write, think, and create…and I’m a MUCH better employee now that I’m a mom (hello, multi-tasking!).
Here’s what I’ve learned so far about being a full-time working parent:
I thought that my end goal was to be a stay-at-home or at best, a work-at-home parent. I chose a family-friendly, flexible company that I thought would set me on this trajectory.
This was all until our childcare fell through for two weeks.
Fell through/planned vacation…call it what you want. My husband and I were cobbling together working from home on opposite days, taking paid time off where we could and trying to juggle a VERY active toddler with our regular workloads.
It was when I had an unexpected conference call pop up at the end of the day that I realized work in an office, at least while James was in the house, was the most productive for me in this season of life. I was needed to be present on this call, but James desperately wanted to play. I found myself bribing him with anything and everything in our pantry to play quietly. My best bet was a jar of Fluff, and you can imagine how that went…
These two weeks helped me to realize that I like getting dressed up for work. I like diving in to a project without a toddler pulling on my shirt. And I love closing my laptop and rushing home to my boy.
Last night, I got back from a long-planned business trip. It was the first time I had left James for work, and I stared at those four days on my calendar for months. The idea of leaving him made my stomach flip and I was dreading every second of being away. The night before I left, I sobbed as I sang him to sleep.
But while I was away, he had the ULTIMATE weekend with his dad. They went to the zoo, scarfed down ice cream cones, ate pancakes, broke all of Mom’s rules and even let the dog sleep in the bed. They got dressed up for a fancy Daddy/James dinner and had a BALL.
James missed me, of course, but this time was so good for them. Knowing James was in excellent hands allowed me to focus on my work, because when I went back I made myself a promise: I wasn’t just going to punch a clock. If I was going to go to work every day, I was going to absolutely kill it.
The second you go back to work after having your baby, you’ll notice it: there’s an unofficial club of working moms who just get it and are there to support you. Whether they are there with extra bags for pumped milk (been there), rescheduling a 5 pm meeting without judgment, or asking how your child is sleeping as you pass them in the hall…the working moms club is full of women who know exactly how hard it is to juggle Powerpoints and sippy cups – but there they are, doing it every day with a smile on their face.
When I struggle with leaving James for a few days or staying late for a meeting – which inevitably happens – I think of my own childhood, with a mom who worked 80 hour weeks running her own company. Were there nights that dinner was late? Of course. But my memories are full of watching my mom confidently walk in the door after a long day of work, scooping up my sisters and I, and making us feel undeniably and unconditionally loved. When everything is said and done, that’s all I want for my sons.
It’s not always easy. It feels like every day we’re thrown a new curveball (103-degree fever! Sales meeting! Need to go to Florida to meet with a client tomorrow!) and we’re still figuring it out. This winter will bring so many new challenges as we tackle two (very) under two. But just like you, I know we’ll find a way to survive and thrive during this whole working while parenting thing. Good luck, mamas – you’ve got this!
Danielle Dall’au is a mom to one and a half little boys (#2 due in December!) in Fairfield, Connecticut. She has a master’s degree in a field she never pursued and a job she loves in a field she never knew existed. She’s married to the same guy she started dating in high school and is looking into this term called “balance.”