Immediately after returning home from a business trip, I remembered my son doctor’s appointment the next morning. I checked the calendar to discover there was just no way I could make it happen. Not with meetings every hour, on the hour.
I reschedule the appointment, and must now wait 6 weeks until the next availability.
I feel guilty for letting my son down, but I straighten my shoulders and move to my next meeting.
Only a few minutes later, my phone rings. Day care. I send it to voicemail, but it rings again. Soon enough, a text from my three-year-old’s teacher: asthma attack.
It’s terrible timing, but I straighten my shoulders and tell my boss I have to leave.
I gather my things, hoping I can make it home in time for my next meeting. Soon, my phone rings again.
This time it’s the vet. They’re grooming my dog, and noticed he has some kind of infection on his skin.
Because, of course.
I’m overwhelmed, but I straighten my shoulders and tell myself everything will work out.
And, it’s only 9 a.m.
By 6 p.m., I’ll have given four breathing treatments, cleaned up three vomiting incidents, administered two baths, called in to three meetings, finished two big projects, and hit “next” on four episodes of PJ Masks.
The truth is—being a mom who works outside the home is so, so hard.
It’s a constant juggle of career and motherhood. It means driving to work while praying your kid(s) won’t get sick. Not today. Not during this meeting.
It means that sinking feeling when day care’s number appears on your phone in the middle of a big project.
It means watching from the sidelines when your co-workers use their days off to do something for themselves.
It means sacrificing rest when you’re sick, and canceling your own doctor’s appointments because you can’t risk wasting time.
It means missing out.
Missing out on your children. And at the same time, missing out on career opportunities.
After all, you leave without notice to pick up your kids. You take the day off when they’re sick. You have parent meetings, doctor’s appointments, and school functions. Your kid-less co-workers don’t have those problems. They can stay late and come in early. It’s easier to give then the promotions, projects, and praise.
I’m lucky to work for a fantastic organization who prioritizes family.
But, my previous corporate job didn’t share that belief. And on days like this, I just couldn’t win.
Because for the working mom, every day is an impossible choice:
Miss out on your babies. Or, miss out on your success.
We want to shatter the glass ceiling, further our careers, and follow our passions. But in doing so, we miss out on milestones at home.
We want to be great moms, support our children, and be there when they need us. But in doing so, we miss out on big opportunities at work.
Not to mention, the constant shaming.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve been personally attacked for being a full-time working mom. But, you don’t know my story. You don’t know her story. Maybe her family can’t live off one income. Or, maybe she desperately wants to work. Maybe she wants to set a different example. Or, maybe it’s the only thing that gives her purpose… and that’s okay.
Please, next time you see a working mom… remember this struggle. And, hold the judgement.
Give her a high five. A hug. Tell her she’s doing a great job. If you’re her employer, understand. Encourage. And, take a chance.
Working moms aren’t unreliable. We’re not less passionate about our work than others. And, we’re not bad mothers who don’t love our children.
We’re moms who are just trying to find balance. And often, it means missing out.