Working It or Just Making It Work?


It’s Friday at 11am. My office phone rings and I see daycare on the Caller ID. My first thought – Oh crap, I’m going to have to leave work. My second thought – Maybe they haven’t noticed her dripping nose and the green stuff oozing out of her eyes, maybe she just fell and bumped her head. Yeah, that would be better . . . But nope, she’s sick and I already knew that. I sent her anyway, because if I kept her home every time she had a cold, I probably wouldn’t have a job. So I pack up my personal things and the work I’ll do from home once everyone is asleep, call the doctor for an appointment, alert my bosses (do one last thing they ask) and call it a day.

This is one of those situations that makes me really pissed off to be a working mom. It’s not that I’m pissed that I’m working, or pissed that I’m not home with my kid, sick or not. It makes me pissed that I don’t feel like I have a choice in the matter. And if I did, would I take it? Probably not. But that’s not the point in my irrational, bitter brain. I like my job and I like the people I work with. I have several co-workers with young kids like mine. The advice, encouragement and support I get from this great group of women is priceless. But it sure does hurt when you spend a large portion of your PTO days on school holidays and kid sick days. Or when you realize you probably spend more waking hours with your co-workers than your spouse or kids.

Being a mom is a full time job. Look at how many people out there are doing it as their full time job. So how much of that comes off of our plates when we’re employed outside of the home? How much of that first full time job am I outsourcing so I can do a second full time job?  And am I really doing a good job at either of my two full time jobs? And if I am, why don’t I feel accomplished at either?

A friend of mine just landed a dream job but with a long commute.  She’ll be employing a full time nanny for her school aged children and for help around the house. I’ve had my mom here helping us for the last six months, and I still can’t seem to feel like I’ve got my head above water. Are we working moms taking on too much by trying to have it all? But when you can’t afford to live on one income or don’t want to, what choice do you have? Don’t even get me started on maternity leave.

Am I “Working It” or just “Making It Work?”

I think for me, all these woes come down to expectations for myself. It might sound sad, but as a mom, I think I’ve had to lower recalibrate my expectations on some things. My house cannot be clean all the time (or much of the time), the laundry will sit for 3 weeks on my dresser (at least it’s clean) and dinner might be pizza a few times a week during a crazy busy week. If I want to get some good sleep, I’m going to need to forgo any time to myself after the kids go to bed and just go to bed myself because I can be sure the baby will be up by 5am. And I think when I start to get really overwhelmed, I have to remind myself of these things and that the world will not end if all the dishes aren’t done before I go to bed or if we all eat French toast for dinner again tonight.

And then I have a morning like this morning. It was my first without my mom here and without any help. I’ve implemented a new morning routine over the last few weeks that has been wildly successful. And today, I got two kids out the door by 6:40am without tears from anyone!  Not only were there no tears, it was such an enjoyable Monday morning. I know I take on a lot, but when I do accomplish it all I feel like Superwoman.  Or at least Super Mom! Next up, I’d like to be more of a Super Wife.

22 comments on “Working It or Just Making It Work?”

  1. I believe working moms should embrace their accomplishments! We’re providing for our families and making valuable contributions. I’m a guilt-free working mom and it works for me.

  2. That “recalibration” you talk about is essential, because what we see in the media, in advertising, and even what our culture SAYS motherhood OUGHT to be like is pretty much, well, a lie. Your life is the reality, and it’s damn hard, and made harder by the way we do things – denigrate family carework and overly value paid employment. Both are necessary, and one is facilitated by public policy (paid work), and the other made more difficult by public policy (carework). You are super women, in the kitchen or at the work place, striving against all odds to fill all your different roles, at the SAME TIME.

    1. Thanks Valeri – and I love the message of lifting all mommies up like this! I thought motherhood was snuggling on the couch watching movies in matching Laura Ashley dresses 🙂 Thanks for the read.

  3. Thank you. I have a 3 and 5 yr old nod commute 1 hr each way. Kids are sick all winter long. I send them unless they have a temp. Otherwise I would never work. I also go to work sick, otherwise I would never work. The constant struggle between nothing enough at work, and barely surviving at home. As they have gotten older it has gotten easier. I love my job. I love being a mom. Doing both is not so easy!

    1. I know someone whose employer didn’t have sick days – they were just to leave if they were sick so they didn’t get everyone else sick. Wouldn’t that be nice!? Also, in this day and age most of us could work from home to avoid spreading germs, but most employers just aren’t quite there yet. I enjoy the commute more than I thought I would because it’s solid quality time talking to my three year old about her day.

  4. It is such a challenge to balance and juggle and hopefully remembering to enjoy being a parent. I have to say, I don’t remember some parts of the early years with our kids. I think our record was six months of ongoing sickness. Thanks for this post, I really enjoyed it!

  5. Thank you Sharlene. It is tough. When I keep one of them home and then they turn out to be ok, I sure do try to just appreciate the day and hope it was meant to be that we needed some time together. My kids are so young that they aren’t yet even pulling the “I’m sick” when they just don’t want to go to school – more to come there, I’m sure!

  6. I am so grateful to hear that my spouse and I are not alone in the struggle with “how sick is too sick for school.” We have made mistakes to send when we shouldn’t have (and have gotten that phone call), and we’ve made mistakes and kept them home when they were fine. We all know that kids are constantly exposed to each other’s germs, but knowing that magic line is just tough. Balancing that with how much time off you get, what commitments you have at your job that day… there just aren’t any easy answers. We do the best we can. You know what Jenn… your best is enough.

  7. Reading this, as I am home with a sick child from daycare (who is fighting her nap and singing to me from her bed!) While I weigh the decision of finishing my report that is due today or getting dinner started now (so I can have true playtime when she gets up) – I must remind myself that the world will not end since the sink is full of dirty dishes and there is laundry to put away. Thank you for not letting me feel crazy – instead, supported, that I am not alone!!

  8. Are you living in my head? I’ve had these conversations with myself many times. There is a constant push/pull us mommies have between home and work life whether or not we have supportive spouses. Keep it up, you’re doing a great job. And I’m sure every one of us as moms has sent their kid to school with a cold that might have been a little bit worse than we thought.

  9. I understand your frustrations, but sending your sick kid to daycare just spreads the sickness to other people. And you don’t parent in a vacuum. Can’t our husband help your spouse stay home sometimes? Your children don’t mean to be sick.

    1. Melanie, I’m lucky to have a super supportive spouse but he works a lot so that I can work only 35 hours a week and pick my kids up when school lets out. The sick days usually fall to me since he covers in other areas that are easier for him with his work situation. We all have our individual situations to work with don’t we?

  10. I knew I was not the only one who felt like they can do neither job well and it is always hard to prioritize which gets the attention. Thanks for sharing! Nice to know I am not alone.

  11. I hear you sister! I think there is a definite lowering of the expectations when you become a mom because although we try, we can’t do it all. For me, it’s been a good challenge to reduce my perfectionist tendencies and to let go of things not in my control. How to balance everything is the ultimate question isn’t it?

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