Working moms have two jobs — the one that pays them, and the one they love more than life. And there are so many times these two jobs are at odds with each other, are pitted against each other, suck time and energy from each other, and pull a working mom in too many directions when she has no give left to give. After 17 years (minus two years at home) of working, seven of them with one kid, four of them with two kids, and almost two years with four kids, I like to think I’ve figured out the whole office mom thing. The truth is, until all organizations and companies are truly compassionate and understanding of working mothers (and of those caring for aging parents, or managing a major health crisis) being a working mom is always going to be really, really hard. So here’s a little secret I’ve learned:
You can’t. You can’t do it all, have it all, be it all, all at the same time, for everything and everyone, all of the time. You can’t. There aren’t enough hours in the day or shots of espresso in the world. Some days you’ll be a rock-star employee. Some days you’ll be a rock-star mama. Some days you’ll be mediocre at parenting and knock a big meeting out of the park. Some days you’ll kill it on the Pinterest holiday craft with your kids, and some days you’ll not quite get that presentation done to the absolute best of your ability. Some days, you’ll want a do over — at work and at home. Sometimes, peanut-butter sandwiches are an acceptable dinner. Dirty clothes get worn again. Baths don’t happen. But happy, well rested and fed kids are all that matters, and sometimes shortcuts have to be taken. Give yourself a break. And some grace. Grace is my third child’s name for a reason — I always need a reminder.
Right now. Maybe, right now, you don’t want to travel to three cities in one week and nurse a 6-month-old. Maybe, right now, you’re going to have to (eeeek!) “mommy track” yourself for a bit, as much as every professional bone in your body screams against it. Maybe, right now, you’re okay with flexibility instead of a bigger paycheck. Maybe, right now, you’re just going to have to ride on all that good will you built up before the kids came — those days when you had no problem staying late, taking on the big projects, working during that crisis or tackling an issue in an office in another city. Maybe, right now, all you can handle is your family and your job, and no extras. Maybe, right now, that good friend just doesn’t get a home-cooked meal from you (but you can order her a pizza). I say this a lot to myself, and it is really hard for me to do. But maybe, right now, isn’t a good time to lead that group for church, because my 8-year-old started a new school and needs me home at night. Maybe, right now, isn’t a good idea to join that committee, because work is going to be really busy this fall, and that is the priority. Sometimes, I know we don’t have a choice, especially when it comes to work. But where you can, let right now go. Giving this or that up or saying, “No,” for right now is okay — because “right now” is, after all, temporary.
You can’t. Right now.
And that’s okay. This was and is the absolutely hardest one for me to come to accept. Can’t go to the splash park with my friends and our kids on a beautiful Friday morning, and that’s okay. Working means we have health insurance. Can’t force self to get to the gym before work, and that’s okay. Sleep is more vital than a beach body. Can’t help on that committee that really needs parent volunteers, and that’s okay. There will always be committees, and there will always be a need for parent volunteers. Can’t stay late at work again without kids getting kicked out of daycare, and that’s okay. I’ll work at home after they go to sleep and skip the Netflix, and it will all still get done in time. Can’t have friends over on a week night, and that’s okay (a bummer, but still okay). Sometimes, something’s just gotta give for the greater good of your family. This is a lesson I fail at over and over until I have four screaming kids at 7 p.m. and I think, Fine! Next time, we won’t do XYZ, and that’s okay.
You can’t, right now, and that’s okay. Some days you can, but not all the time, for all the things, or for everyone. Maybe not right now, but one day you will be able to, because right now is not forever. And that’s okay, because in the end, only the big things matter. And remember — always give yourself some grace!