I had a dream. I would grow up, I would meet my Prince Charming, I would get married, become a Princess and would ride off in the sunset to live happily ever after. Then I grew up to realize we live in America, a non-monarchy society, so I revamped the dream. I would grow up, meet my true love, get swept off my feet, get married, have babies and live happily ever after, in pure maternal bliss. So ok, the later happened.
However, we live in a time much different than our own parent’s time, just like our kids will live in a different time than ours. I was raised by a full time stay at home mom. And with three of us filling her days with school, play dates, after-school programs, extracurricular activities, and all of the household responsibilities, well, I am befuddled how she was able to make a home cooked dinner every night, let alone fathom how she could have squeezed in time for an additional job. There just wasn’t enough hours in the day. Plus, for the most part women if they worked, quit their jobs once they had kids to be home to raise them, there wasn’t much option.
For me, well, I was torn. As women today we were raised to be career driven, to be able to stand on our own two feet financially, and to really thrive and make a huge difference. So I have worked, and worked. My husband and I both work, and we both work hard to love the life we have. When it came to working and having a family, as much as I loved the career and work aspect of my life, I also wanted to be there for every second of my kids growing up. I didn’t want to miss a set, a word, a giggle or an owwie. I wanted to be the ‘go to’ on every level. Moving to Westchester to give our kids the room to grow, also meant, as all you property tax payers know, it wasn’t the time to throw in the towel on a career that allowed me to work from home, for the most part.
People always say how I have the best of both worlds….but do I? Is being a work at home mom advantageous, or, in many ways do you lose all sense of balance and grounding?
You know the old expression,” you don’t $#*@ where you eat”, well, what do you do when you work where you basically do everything else??
When you are a stay at home mom, your home is your domain to well, do everything, and your kids are your full time job. You’re lucky if you have nappers that may be gracious enough to give you breaks, but for the most part, your day is jam packed with the ups and downs of children, household and husband. If you have days that come up that require you to be sans kids out of the house, in the company of grown-ups to talk the grown up talk and walk the grown up walk, you get well, giddy. Even if it’s the world’s most boring group of people on earth. You are giddy about the fact that you have a day without your kids asking “why!?”, fighting, whinning, or causing chaos is well, heavenly.
When you are home the hardest part of being full time mommy is finding time to yourself, for yourself
When you are a full time working mom out of the house, you leave the house every day, and have to often silence that nagging inner feeling: “What are the kids doing?”, “What are they saying?”, and “What am I missing?”. It is a hard hard feeling to stomach, but you do, because your career and your work is important to you as well, and it makes you be a better mom that you are not home 24/7. It becomes harder to balance a social life after hours, since the time you have with your kids is limited and precious. Plans are more geared around making family plans to get in all the quality time you can. When it comes to making plans with friends, other couples, etc, you definitely have to be a bit more picky and choosy, since well, you just don’t have the time to dedicate. You rare stretched as thin as you can be without breaking, and somehow, manage to find a balance. Of course you never feel like it is balanced, but it most definitely is, just in a way that works for you.
Then, we finally stumble onto my predicament. The work at home mom. For years and years I have had people tell me how lucky I am, and I don’t realize how great I have it. My day job allows me the luxury to be able to work from home, however, where yes, I get to be a part of my kid’s everyday, it isn’t quite as luxurious or ideal as many people think. It often becomes the worst parts about staying home and working out of the house combined unfortunately. I have recently really been struggling with it and wondering if in fact it is the worst of all evils. When your ENTIRE life is based around the confines of your home, you somehow end up falling into a vicious cycle of never stopping. I am always on the computer, checking my email, checking my voicemail. At the same time I am often somehow juggling my 2 munchkins. Whether it be changing diapers, cooking, or trying to have a professional conversation over the background of toddlers dancing and yelling wildly to Jack’s Big Music Show, working from home somehow makes me wonder how I ever get anything done on any front. My head is constantly spinning and I seem to ALWAYS be multi-tasking. I am lucky enough to thrive most under these circumstances in terms of performance, however, I am starting to, on the inside at least, lose it. Really and truly lose it. The joy of working at home would be getting to be a part of my kids every day. Which truly is incredible and rewarding on so many levels, however, it also means, hysterical crying tantrums EVERY time I need to leave the house for a meeting. Tears, kicking, screaming, usually finally calm-able by use of bribery. On two folds this gets me….1-HAVING to use bribery, 2- de-valuing bribery for when I REALLY need it! It also means, hiding in the house to avoid the tantrums when I need to be working and attending to clients. And let’s not forget interfering with the Nanny. And for those of you who have full time nannies, well, you know, they pretty much end up ruling the roost. Unless of course you are working at home. Then it’s YOUR show, however, be prepared. Nannies to DO NOT like to be the opening act. They like to be the main show. When you swoop in with the special mommy time, special treats and all the things that usually don’t go on during the day, well, it can and more than likely will cause friction.
Plus, being there and hearing the goings on and NOT be able to participate can often be a bit heartbreaking. But if you break this rule, then a 5 minute break becomes an hour long explanation as to WHY you have to go back to work, and the crying, and please don’t go mommy, etc, etc, etc. On a daily basis I feel like throwing my hands up in the air and think “ARGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHH”. For those of you who work at home, you know how important it is to be disciplined and maintain that discipline. It is easy to fall into the trap of wasting time and losing efficiency.
So where is the balance? Where and when do you put down the computer, or PDA and say my day is over? I know 9-5’ers don’t just leave work at their desk, and people’s heads are always spinning with just way too much of everything these days. However, how to gain balance and sanity when you do all that you do under one roof? How long can one overstay their welcome at a café or library?
I know this is the part of the column where I often insert some fun and cool suggestions to share with you all, however, I am suggestion-less. I really and truly struggle daily with finding some sort of peaceful co-existence between work time and kid time, without finding myself working until midnight, playing catch up and not feeling guilty that I wasn’t able to take the kids to 3 different play dates because work had to come first.
As mothers and women we all work hard on so many levels, and having a full time career on top of the full time job of being wife and mommy, well, I guess it’s no wonder they say women rule the world.