When my daughter was born and I was presented with an opportunity to go back to work, I knew there was no way I could turn it down. I was suddenly compelled to set an example for my daughter as a successful working mother in a way I had not been while I was home with my son for two years. I wanted to be “that kind of mother” who gives her the freedom to make her own choices, while continuing to break glass ceilings and forge work-life balance to make her path just a little bit easier (as previous generations have done for me).
I’ve since realized that “successful working mother” is a loaded goal. I am successful at work, yes. I am a professional, working at a reputable national law firm. I have a salary that allows me to take home six-figures even after egregious federal, state and New York City taxes. I have awesome family health insurance paid for by my employer — and it even includes dental. The “successful working” part rings true.
As does the “working mother” part. I am grateful to have a job that respects my priorities as a mother. I have not missed a phase-in session, orientation or smallest event at my children’s school and none of the partners I work for have blinked an eye. They trust that I have a handle on the work that needs to get done and they leave me to do just that (my associate co-workers are another story, but I’m ignoring them).
But “successful working mother” implies that I’ve got it all under control. That, while I wish I spent more time with my kids, I have negotiated drop-offs and pick-ups around conference calls and late night loan document distribution. But this simply isn’t the case. Every single day is a negotiation. If I have deals closing, Ian needs to do more at home. If he has an important client meeting, I offer to take the kids on the morning he’s supposed to do it. For the most part our schedule is utter chaos.
And it’s taking a toll.
I am now “that kind of mother” who misses dinnertime and bedtime at least once a week. Once a month I get home after they are asleep and leave before they are awake. On those days I have no idea what they ate during the day, or whether they brushed their teeth, had fun at school, or read any books before bed.
I am now the kind of mother who screams at their kids to put their shoes on, adding, “hurry up, Mommy has to get to work!”
I am now the kind of mother who says, “Mommy’s just got to finish this email before I come in to read you a story” more often than I’d like.
I am now the kind of mother who has trouble transitioning from the uber-productive state at the office, to the constant presence required to spend time with a two-year-old and four-year-old.
I am now the kind of mother that cries on Sunday night because the thought of doing it all over again — another Monday through Friday! — is more than I can bear.
None of this is what I had in mind when I wanted to set an example for my daughter.
I don’t know exactly what we will do about it, but something has to give. Finding an exceptional nanny/caregiver would certainly help. So would moving to Maine, or anywhere else where the cost of living wasn’t so insane. But alas, none of those is a reality for today, so I’m trying my best to keep my shit together and get through another day.
Now, after I said all that, please don’t look at me like I’m crazy when I tell you that I agreed to cover the weekend news for Mommyish yesterday. If you are interested in any of my posts, here they are:
You Definitely Didn’t See Louis C.K. Or His Kids In Line At The Apple Store Yesterday – I don’t care if you click on this or not, but if you didn’t see Louis C.K.’s recent rant on Conan, you MUST find it. Hysterical and profound, I love this man.
Why I Won’t Take My Introverted Son To Be Evaluated For Autism – an intensely personal story inspired by the Salon’s piece on confusing introverted brainy boys as showing signs of autism.
I’ve ‘Opt-ed In’ To ‘Lean In’ And Now I’m One Of Those ‘Maxed Out’ Working Moms Having It All – last night I read the first chapter of Katrina Alcorn’s book Maxed Out: American Moms On The Brink and I nodded my head with every.single.line.
After Kindergarten, Redshirting Backfires On Uber-Competitive Parents – this really just revolves around my fascination with the topic, but there’s a much more personal story of a mother willing to let her son be the youngest at Omnimom.
7 Awesome Benefits Of Being A Working Mom In An Office – you know me, always trying to stay positive!