Being a working mom is like being a rocket on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral. Every morning you prepare and prepare and prepare, but at any given point, you may have to abort the entire mission.
Case in point:
I’m running late and, instead of making breakfast at home, I decide to whiz through the McDonalds’ Drive-Thru and grab the kids’ breakfast on my way to dropping them off at preschool. I pull into the driveway and pull-up behind the last car in line. As we are inching our way up to the drive-thru window, several cars pull up behind me. I have just enough time to get breakfast, drop the kids off, and be at work by 8:30.
From the back seat, my three-year-old says, “Mummy! I have go potty!” With three cars ahead of me and three cars behind, a bathroom trip is out of the question.
“Hold on, Sweety,” I tell him. “I’ll take you as soon as we are out of this line.” We go back and forth with the potty dialogue until we finally reach the window and pick up our order.
As I am speeding away from the drive-thru and panning the lot for a parking space, my son says, “It’s okay Mummy. I don’t have to go potty anymore!”
“Because I wet my pants!”
This was only one of a myriad of hair-raising experiences that were mine five days a week, twelve months out of the year when I was a working mother. The day I accidentally took the babysitter’s cat to work is another that is particularly memorable, as is the time that the same three-year-old informed my boss that I’d been sick with “stress” throat. (From the mouths of babes…)
Every working mother wears many different hats. She is a mom, a spouse (sometimes), a chauffeur, a cook, a cleaning lady, soccer coach, team mom, room mom, Weeblo Mom and that crazy mom, PTA historian, mediator, nurse, counselor, Girl Scout Leader, and disciplinarian. It’s not an easy row to hoe!
When I worked 27 years ago, there were great wars between the working moms and the stay-at-home moms. This did nothing for us except split the country’s women right down the middle and render both sides of the dispute ineffective. I always felt isolated from other women. The stay-at-homes didn’t like me because I worked, and the other working mothers I knew were always too tired to do anything socially after work or on the week-ends. I’ve noticed, though, that the mommy wars have either mellowed or are nonexistent. At least I hope not.
Here is a list of working mother realities:
- If we can’t microwave it, we don’t serve it to our family.
- We are always tired.
- Working mothers have almost no “down” time. In their off-work hours, they are cleaning, cooking, helping with homework, folding laundry, driving their kids somewhere, helping their kids with science projects (I remember one night driving all over town looking for a U-Magnet and Delta Decorative Snow for my daughter’s science project that was due the next day), doing dishes, reading bedtime stories, or dealing with some kind of kid crisis.
- When a working mother gets sick, her routine (and week) go to Hell in a basket.
- A working mother sometimes wakes up to a grumpy husband and grumpy kids and then drives to work with grumpy co-workers at a job where there is a grumpy boss.
- We always feel guilty about having to work – no matter how much we like our jobs.
- We think about our kids three-quarters of the time we are at work.
Here are working mother myths:
- Working mothers have jobs because their kids drive them crazy.
- It’s not the quantity of time with your kids that’s important; it’s the quality.
- Mothers work outside of the home because they need intellectual stimulation.
- Most working mothers could get by with not working. They are selfish and want to spend money on boats, kitchen remodeling, Baby Gap, and liposuction.
- Every working mother should have a “back-up” babysitter who will watch their kids when they get sick. It’s been 27 years, and I still haven’t found one.
- Working mothers bribe their kids with more toys and designer clothing.
- When mom works, everyone in the house joyfully does their share of the housework.
- The husbands of working mothers jump right in and help with dinner, homework, kids’ baths, and bedtime stories. (Maybe in FANTASY LAND.)
We live in an economy that doesn’t lend itself to living on one income. If you want to buy a house, pay for medical and dental care, pay for your children’s college educations, afford car insurance when your teens start driving, have a nest egg, serve something other than Spam for dinner, afford school uniforms, and pay all your bills, it usually takes two incomes. That’s not the ideal, but it is reality.
More power to the people that can live on one income. We tried and tried and could never make it work. To all the working mothers out there, doing their best to be a good employee while they’re being good moms:
Just do what you can, and can what you can’t. The rest will take care of itself.