The Mommy Pull

May 6, 2009 at 5:54 am Leave a comment

Taffy Pulling
Image by renny67 via Flickr

I always knew there would be some sort of challenge that came along with being a working mother. I am a pretty smart girl who pays attention to the world around me and it doesn’t take super powers of observation to see that mothers who work full time jobs have logistical and emotional challenges to come to terms with.

Even without my amazing powers of observation, I had personal experience to go by. My mother worked as a professor at a college and helped my father run the grocery store that we owned. She always said that she didn’t work full time when we were growing up, and it was true that she didn’t have a traditional Monday – Friday 8-5 schedule, but looking back I feel confident that when you take those two jobs and add to them the responsibilities that came along with being a preacher’s wife, she worked far more than 40 hours a week.

So when my husband and I were expecting our first child, I had what I thought was a pretty good grasp on what it would be like to be a working mom. We were blessed that the school district I work for was in the process of constructing a day care center for the exclusive use of our employees. The center was only about a mile away from my office and would be complete by the time our daughter was a year old. For her first year, we were blessed to find a retired couple who watched her during the day. They were like surrogate grandparents and loved and spoiled her as such. Although I missed her, I never had to worry about her care and therefore, my work (although somewhat disrupted by having to pump breastmilk several times a day), resumed a mostly normal schedule.

Once she entered daycare, we were quickly introduced to the challenges that arise when your beautiful and intelligent little child is introduced into a room with several other, slightly less beautiful and much more snotty children who seem to live to cough, sneeze, and yes, even vomit on your little prince or princess. And while your angel would never be responsible for bringing a virus into the center, he or she is certainly sent home at the first sign of fever, three bumps lined up together that might look like a rash, or two diapers that seem too loose to be safe.

And so a frantic phone call from the day care sends you out of your office to pick up your angel and take the baby home (or to the doctor’s office) until he is symptom free for at least 24 hours. If your children are like mine, it seems that that immune systems can sense when you have important meetings, tests, or pitches that you can’t reschedule. I can’t remember a time that our little darlings got sick where Richie and I didn’t have a thing on our calendar. That would be too easy.

As the children get older and stop chewing on each other’s toys, you seem to finally start catching a break, except that, in one crazy moment, usually after your child has gone to bed and your husband had given you two glasses of wine, you decide it’s time to start trying to have another baby. And alas, it begins again. And now, you have two small bundles of germs just tempting you to bring them outside of the house so that they can catch the latest virus and then immediately pass it along to their sibling. What used to keep you out of work for 2 days now keeps you out for an entire week in a sequence that goes something like this. Child one is sick on Monday and Tuesday. You take both children to school on Wednesday, but get a call at 10:14 a.m. telling you that child 2 has a fever and you will need to pick her up. You are now home with child two all day Wednesday and Thursday. By Friday, both children are feeling better and can go to school, but you have the fever, cough, and are vomiting, just for good measure.

Friday is the day you are supposed to have the client meeting that was originally scheduled for Tuesday, but that you changed because your baby was sick and your husband could cover Monday and Wednesday, but not Tuesday. So now you have the choice of taking two times the recommended dosage of Dayquil and pressing through the meeting with your client and hoping they don’t get close enough to smell the “sick” on you. Or you can trust your assistant with the meeting even though she has only been working for you for six months, and during that time, you have been out of the office with sick children at least seven times. Or, you can call the client, explain that you have caught the bug from your child, hoping that they have children and will understand and reschedule for next week instead of calling your competitor.

This is the part of being a working mom I did not anticipate. I didn’t anticipate the guilt I would feel for my children because I wasn’t spending enough time with them, especially if they are sick, and the guilt I would feel if I did spend time with my children because then I wasn’t spending enough time in the office.

I also didn’t anticipate being so tired at the end of the day that I would give in and let my kids watch a movie (okay two movies) because I was just too wiped out to get on the floor and play with My Little Ponies. I wasn’t going to be one of those moms, until I found out what it was like to actually be a mom.

When my four (and a half) year old hugs me at the end of the day and tells me that I’m the best mommy she’s ever had, I consider myself lucky that I am the only mommy she has ever had. I sometimes wonder if she had a mommy who could give her more undivided attention if she would love that mommy more.

But mostly, I consider myself lucky. I am pulled in many directions, but right now, it is still working. I attribute our families success to incredible family support, starting most importantly with my husband. We also have support from my in-laws and my brother and his family. Without this support structure, I don’t know how I could stand as a working mom. Sometimes I wonder how I stand even with the support.

Being a working mom must be kind of like salt water taffy. Although you start out as something small, you are pulled and stretched in every direction. It doesn’t look possible that you could stretch so far without breaking, but you do. And the end result is something very sweet and full of flavor and because it’s been stretched, there is a lot to go around.

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Entry filed under: Ramblings of a Sleep Deprived Mom. Tags: .

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