Work-Life Balance

About a month ago I read a  blog post about being a working mom. Or so I thought. Being a working mom myself I got excited, because so many of the posts that tend to come my way are written by SAHMs, and I can only relate to those so much. There are challenges that SAHMs face that I do not, and challenges I face that they do not. Not to say one is more difficult that the other, but I was looking forward to a post about something more specific to my situation. Instead, work meant work-at home, and talked about the difficulties of that–which are, to be fair, immense, if my imagination and the internet are in any way accurate. But as this night I was feeling particularly stressed about working long hours and then coming home and being a mom, I thought I would just write my own post about it. Then the mom job kicked in before I could write anything and I didn’t get to it that night, and then the next day I found out about a promotional opportunity at work.

And I decided to hold off writing my post until I knew if I would get that job (I did!), since it adds an extra dimension to being a working mom. I’m now a working mom who will be working longer hours, traveling overnight 1-2 nights a week, and will take phone calls and answer emails from home. I will travel out of state for meetings periodically. I will spend a significant amount of time during the week away from home. I will miss many bedtimes, will wake up in a hotel half a state away from my family, and will no longer be able to go home and see my daughter on my lunch breaks.

In return, my husband is taking fewer hours at his job, and we will gain weekends as a family. Not all weekends, but far more than we have now (which is none, unless we request them off).

But for my original point–what is it that makes working outside the home hard?

Leaving in the morning. When she’s being cute. When she’s upset and just wants mommy. When it’s a beautiful day and we could go to the park. When it’s dreary and perfect for hanging out inside and playing with toys. When my friends are having play dates. When I pass her off to daddy, or grandma, or our family friend who babysits her once a week, and she cries because she doesn’t want me to let go.

Coming home at night. When she’s in a good mood and I missed it all day. When she’s in a bad mood and I’m exhausted and just want to sit for a few minutes but can’t even take the time to pee to try and unwind from work because she’s trying to climb into my lap, or unravel the toilet paper, or pull all of my earrings out for the drawer she got tall enough to reach since that morning. When I’m hungry and can’t make dinner because she didn’t take her afternoon nap and needs to go to bed so dinner has to wait. When I have an errand to run I can’t put off and we get home after bedtime, and the only chance I even get to cuddle with her is when she’s nursing, and I look at her and just want to cry that another day went by that she didn’t get to see her mommy.

When I see her do something new during the time I do have with her, and when I tell Billy, he already knows because he saw it happen earlier in the week.

When I have one day off and I need to buy groceries, run errands, make phone calls, catch up on paying the bills, do laundry, possibly squeeze in a visit with my friends to remind them that I exist, attempt to cook a real meal, clean up the gambit course she’s created during the week from her toys, and mow the grass, and at the end of the day I feel like I’ve spent about as much quality time with my daughter as I do on a day that I work. When I get annoyed with her for wanting my attention because this is my only day to take care of everything else, and then feel guilty for being annoyed with her because it’s also my only day to spend with her, and all those cutesy memes on the internet about how you can have a clean house when your kids are old because they’re only going to be little once flash through my mind.

When I just want time to myself.

The mix of guilt and exhaustion and yes, resentment, that comes in the time after work, after she has gone to bed, when the only thing I can do for myself is write or watch tv or sort laundry (hah!) because my craft room is a bunch of fabric shoved into a corner in the same room as her crib, and Billy is at work for another three hours so I can’t even take a walk.

So why take this new job? Why add longer hours, less time to do anything during the week, and more time away from home, when it’s already such a source of stress?

Because Billy gets to be home more. He can take on more of the household chores so I don’t have to spend every Saturday morning at the grocery store. Because, by being home more, he can have Billy time, as our babysitting needs will be reduced by necessity so we might be able to take advantage of Grandma to give him a few hours each week to take care of himself–write, get a haircut, even take a nap, which will make him a happier, healthier person.

Because I get alone time. I might spend most of it working, but I get one night in a hotel room every week completely by myself. I am not looking forward to going to sleep without my husband. Or to knowing that when Kairi wakes up wanting mommy I won’t be there. Or to have to say goodnight to her via Skype and not being able to kiss her, or see her smiling at me first thing in the morning. But I will have time to take a shower without worrying that I’m either missing her crying for me when she wakes up early from a nap, or trying to climb into the tub with me despite dad’s best efforts to entertain her. I will be able to pay bills, and make phone calls, and catch up on emails. I might even be able to write. And if nothing else, I get to spend 3 hours in the car each way listening to music, rocking out, and clearing the junk out of my head.

Because for the first time in our entire relationship, Billy and I will get to spend time together on the weekends where we don’t already have other plans. We’ll have days off that aren’t devoted to going out of town, or being social, or running errands. Kairi will get to spend time with both of her parents, instead of us taking turns the way we do now.

Because I’m trading an hour a night during the week where Kairi and I don’t get quality time anyway for weekends where we do.

I’m not fooling myself that it will be hard, or that all of the reasons I listed above that make being a working mom hard will become even harder, or that there are going to be times when I completely regret this decision and want to go back to the old way. But parents are constantly told we have to take time for ourselves. And taking this job has given me a chance to not only get a little bit of time to myself, but that will allow Billy to take time away for himself as well, and that will ultimately give the three of us more time together. And hopefully, the times when I’m not at work, and when I am Mom, I can be mom fully, and without distraction.

Published by Whimsy & Wilderness Photography

I am a photographer and writer based in Chattanooga, TN, and adventuring around the southeastern United States with my husband and two children.

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