Oh, Ugh. I get so damn tired of people talking about how women can “have it all” today. In many ways, it is true. I am so grateful for the opportunity to be a mom and have a career. In my time as a mom I have been a stay-at-home Mom, a full-time working mom and a part-time working Mom(all of these titles really meant that I was, and am, working all of the time- sometimes for money and sometimes for free, right?). They have each had their joys and their struggles, and I am grateful for each period of my life.
I am currently a part-time public health nurse and, of course, full-time Mama. I feel incredibly blessed to be able to work “only” three days per week. It means that I can volunteer at the children’s school and attempt to do much of the housework, errand running, bill paying and other myriad of daily work during the time that my children are at school so that I can enjoy my time with them when they are home.
On the flip-side of this gratitude, is the fact that juggling home and work is just really, really damn hard. The truth of being a part-time employee is that there seems to be an unspoken expectation that you ONLY work part-time and therefore should be able to easily separate your outside life and work.
Working Mama truth: Your children will ALWAYS get sick on your work days.
I work three days per week, thus having four days per week off. Statistically, this means that more of my children’s sick days should fall on days off, right? WRONG. Their little bodies only get sick on my work days. I’m totally not kidding. Also, they always seem to know the days that would be the hardest to miss and pick those days(important meeting, very busy days, etc.) *sigh*
Working Mama Truth: You will feel guilt if you stay home with your child on a sick day.
This week my poor littlest has been terribly sick with pneumonia, including a frightening trip to the ER when she took a sudden turn for the worse. It was a terrible couple of days for me to have to take off. I would not be anywhere else than with my children when they are ill, but I also felt a cloying sense of guilt that I was letting down my supervisor, my coworkers and my clients. Simply sending off the message to my supervisor that I would be out sick made me feel ill. I felt like a bad employee, even that my rational mind knows how untrue this is.
Working Mama Truth: You will think about your children when you are at work and think about work when you are with your children.
I try to be present wherever I am. I love my children and I love my job. I want to be the best at both- I truly do. The sick truth is that I feel guilty nearly all of the time. I worry that I am not giving my all in either place, because I am always being pulled in another direction.
Working Mama Truth: No matter what you do, there will be people who judge you.
Now, this(and likely many of these truths) is just a Mama(and probably Daddy) truth. Oh, the Mommy wars. Gag. You will be judged no matter what you choose.
I am so exhausted by the “Oh, you work PART-TIME? How lovely. You must have SO MUCH time to yourself?” WHAT? What is this “time to yourself” that you speak of. If I could just sleep 8 hours straight and be able to use the bathroom without interruption a few times for week, I would feel SO pampered!
We are judged whether we stay at home, work outside the home, breastfeed, bottle feed, homeschool, public school, private school….gah!
We all have the snarky judgers in our lives so I’ll refrain from THOSE comments. You all know them. I’m trying to work on a Screw ‘Em mentality, but that’s a work in progress. Like many Moms, I am uber sensitive about any criticism of my mothering choices.
Okay, enough of the icky working Mama truths, even though we all know I could go on all.day.long.
Working Mama Truth: Being a Mother makes you a better employee.
This is the big truth. I likely have more sick days than non-parents. I also likely am more empathetic, likely to see the big picture than non-parents. Also, I am a bad ass multi-tasker. From the very first day I was a Mama, I learned to breastfeed my newborn while simultaneously paying the bills with my other hand, balancing a phone in the crook of my neck…you get the point. Mothers are the queen of multi-tasking and nurturing others to bring out their best. Who wouldn’t want a mother on their team?
Working Mama Truth: Working outside of the home can make you a better Mother.
I don’t always feel this way. However, if I can push aside that damn working mother guilt(it’s a bitch, isn’t it?), I know that the time I put into my job is good for my soul. I come home to my children missing them and ready to be wholly there for them. I know that I am setting an example of chasing my dreams and bettering the lives of others through my work.
(Disclaimer: I am totally not saying that stay at home Mamas should go to work. That is a hella hard job and you rock! *high five to you*)
I could go on and on and on(I kinda feel like I already have). I truly feel like the “You Can Have it All” nonsense should have a disclaimer each time.
You can have it all (but you’ll always be exhausted)
You can have it all (but it’s really, really damn hard)
You can have it all (but you’ll feel guilty most days)
I am so very grateful for the sacrifices of the women before me which mean that I can choose to stay at home with my children or work outside of the home. I hope we’ll continue to be progressive and move towards workplaces that make it easier to balance work and family.
The guilt business? I don’t know what to do about that, Mamas. We need to support each other’s choices, whatever they are. That would help so, so much. We also need to remind each other to lay the damn guilt down. We are each doing the best that we can.
So, Mamas – you kick-ass Warriors of Love, you. You rock! Every damn day. The hard days, the not so hard days – all of ’em.
You can have it all, dammit. You DO have it all. And, my God is it hard. But, look at you – you make this working Mama business look GOOD. Keep up the good work. The hard work. You’ve got this.
(This post originally appeared on The Zen RN)
About the author: Amanda Redhead is the nurse behind The Zen RN. She writes about such painful truths as surviving sexual assault and multiple suicide attempts in hopes to remind others that they are not alone in their struggles. A refugee patient once introduced her as their “Nurse Warrior” and she has adopted that title as a way of life. Her writing can be found on The Mighty, The Huffington Post, Mamalode and many other venues.