I love my job, and I have to work. Not only for myself but for our family and our future. I choose to work outside our home because it makes more financial sense, I love the people I work with, and I love what I do.
Still, every morning I drop my kids off and think… see you in eight hours. Or so. I know I don’t have the hours some moms have, and I may have much longer hours than other moms. I also may have more or less flexibility than other moms. And I don’t have to travel much, for which I am really thankful. But regardless of what our job is, how long it lasts, or what kind of work we do, for the most part, full-time-working-outside-the-home moms spend about 40 hours away from their kids every week. Of a child’s waking hours, say, ballpark, 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., I see them 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. and then 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. So about 20 waking hours during a workweek.
Some evenings are really rough and I want them to go to bed at 5 p.m. But for the most part, I see them four hours a day, and the people I work with, eight. How odd this seems when they’re the most precious thing I’ve ever been given. I know my babies are well cared for, loved, fed, and learning all the things they should. But when I stop and pause the daily hamster wheel run of breakfast, work, dinner, bed, breakfast, work, dinner, bed, and think of how long I am away from them, something in my mommy brain goes, something is wrong in the cosmos that this is the human norm.
But we don’t always have a choice to not work, or work from home, or work part-time. Health insurance is important. So are retirement accounts and college savings. And I love their schools and their teachers, the opportunities they have for chorus and chess, reading, and art. They sure as heck are learning things I wouldn’t even know how to do, let alone teach. And the older kids wouldn’t even be home with me even if I didn’t work, because I long ago ruled out homeschooling. (I can’t even get them to brush their teeth… how would I be able to teach them math?!) So they’re learning great things with people who love them, and I’m working at a job I love with great people… and those are all good things to be thankful for.
Still, I have such a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that I love them so much, but see them so little. And soon, as my 11-year-old likes to point out — they’ll be out of the house. I’d like to tell you this means I make the most of every single second I have with them, but we all know that isn’t true. There’s still frustration and tantrums, snot to wipe, mac and cheese to scrape off the floor, twin toddlers to pry off the bookshelves and kitchen counters, homework to do and lunches to make, and never-ever-ending laundry.
At night, when I finally get them to sleep, I look at their beautiful faces and have a thankful heart. It — almost — makes me want to wake them up. Just so I can have one more minute with them.