One thing I’ve found in the working world to be particularly difficult as a mother is the idea of marrying my two worlds together. On one hand, I’m Mama. I cook, I clean, I wipe butts. I love it. And it’s my favorite role. On the other hand, I’m a full-time employee. I shuffle paperwork, I think critically, I work hard. And I thrive in it. I am accountable to both, responsible for both, and an integral part of both teams—relied on and needed. I am required to show up whether it’s at 1PM or 1AM—on a daily basis, both. I am called upon to be nurturing but also tough as nails. I am expected to be alert, attentive, and aware whether at my desk or in my home.
The fact is, that’s difficult to juggle. To be always present…physically, mentally, emotionally…in two very different worlds.
Now this post isn’t about the balance myth or to advocate for SAHM vs. working moms. We’re all making the best choices that we can at the time and besides, you can read more specifically about that in other posts. No, this post is written to voice the struggle that so many of us working mom’s wrestle with daily.
The fact is, as new mothers our lives have drastically changed and in addition to this new role and set of new expectations, are all of the old expectations originally tasked to us (granted this can be said of all new parents but for the sake of my sanity—I’m a mother speaking to mothers).
I’ve found that, generally speaking, most co-workers are understanding (even sympathetic, at times) to the plight of the new mother. The first few days back, when baby is sick, even the need to pump religiously are all things that most make an effort to not only understand, but help you with.
However, all the other days, normalcy is expected. Obviously, I want to provide the same standard of effort, care, and detail that I normally infuse into my work. I understand that expectations are necessary for my role. And that by returning to work, I am effectively saying that I am responsible for delivering on that promise.
The problem is, nothing is normal for me.
One hour, I’m wiping down a poop smothered baby in the tub. The next hour, I’m typing at my desk and problem solving. It’s such a stark contrast from one world to the next. I think that with time, a new normal sets in. But the fact remains that I am a new person entirely. I am reborn. And as I evolve into this new, supermom persona there is a lot of room for error.
I cannot perform as quickly or efficiently as I used to. I struggle to remember one day to the next. And I mess up infinitely more. In many ways, I feel as though I am set up to fail because you cannot be 100% for both things at all times. It’s just science. Or something.
It’s those moments, these in between days, that most co-workers are not quite as understanding. Even if they’ve been there, many have forgotten the details of the struggle or perhaps their dynamic is entirely different. Then there I am, pulled between two worlds to perform exceptionally yet unable to deliver.
I struggled with this for a while before being able to put it into words. Feeling the weight of blame for my inabilities. Pressuring myself all the harder to keep up. Inevitably, parts of me have crumbled underneath that weight. Self-doubt and frustration free to enter in.
Then one day, I was in a meeting to discuss a genuine mistake that I had made (truthfully, only because I was doing exactly as I had been told by our software provider), and I got a little peeved.
Just the night before, I was up with my infant 5 or 6 times. He’s been extra fussy with teething and we’ve been working to get back into a routine after being sick for the past three months. I am the definition of a zombie. Honestly, I should be getting an award just for showing up on time. Which I have no idea how that happened because a two-person blow-out had occurred 10 minutes before I HAD to embark on my 30-minute commute. For both of my scheduled breaks that day, you would’ve found me pumping and googling teething tips. And at 5pm, when everyone else is clocking out for the day, I’ll be heading home for the next shift.
To be clear, I don’t hate this. I’m not even seeking sympathy. I LOVE being a mom and I’ll juggle until I’m blue in the face if it is best for my son.
But that day, I realized something. I am a strong, capable, bad-a$$ mother. I’ve spent so much time worrying about what is believed or implied about me to not believe the truth about myself and what God has enabled me to do. I can’t make everyone understand what I’m going through nor are they required to care. But I know who I am, what I deal with, and the truth about what God says about me.
That day, I started to develop a thicker skin. Sometimes I need to advocate for myself. Other times, I need to be strong enough to let something roll off my back because it honestly doesn’t matter. Say what you will but at the end of the day, I’ll never apologize for prioritizing my son. Or for struggling through this exhausting infant stage. The best I can do sometimes is to say I’m sorry for making a mistake and doing what I can to improve or fix the issue.
That day, I also started to give myself a little more grace, understanding, and room to grow. I realized that this is a stage, an important stage…and even though it’s hard, it shouldn’t be rushed through. It’s ok to fail, it’s ok to grow, and it’s ok to need help.