As I sat in my daughter’s 9 am Saturday morning ballet class, I quietly listened to a fellow mom complain about her 20 minute commute to work and her husband not being able to help out around the house due to an injury. I kept my head down as I thought to myself about how I travel 3 states for work and bear both parenting roles and the household solo. I wanted to tell her, she was lucky. After a few minutes of playing the victim in my head I remembered, someone out there is struggling more than I am, with a tougher situation and less means. As a woman in today’s work force, we represent 47% of the total U.S. labor force. It is expected by 2018, that we will represent 51%. However the roles of mother, caretaker and wife/significant other has not dispersed in place of the working mother and I wonder, can we really do it all?
I’m here to tell you, we can. Your definition of ‘having it all’ may not align with your newly formed title of superwoman, however. Wether you want it or not, that’s your new role, superwoman. You must defy the unexpected as a mother. Giving up, simply isn’t an option but rather carving out new paths and thinking outside the box – how on earth will you raise children and work a full-time job?
I am certainly not an expert and I will never sit here and say that I am. I can only share with you what’s worked for me. I’ve got a list of mistakes and learnings but as my daughter just turned four, I’m finally feeling the rewards of this non-stop 24-7 gig we have called motherhood.
Return to Work or Stay at Home?
The million dollar question that has no right answer. If anyone has looked at child care cost lately many of you will work simply to pay for day care. The average cost of day care is $5-18k per a year. Living in the Northeast, expect to pay the higher end. However if you don’t work, who will pay the bills? How will you survive? How will rent be paid? How about healthcare? What about your Netflix subscription?
I did not have a choice. I had to work. Navigating the ‘but how’s?’ was the challenge I took. Being a stay at home mom is by far the hardest job in the world. By far. I know there are some of you out there rolling your eyes and you can keep rolling them all the way off this blog. You don’t know, what you don’t know and my god, when it’s just you and a baby or maybe even a few kids…I bow down to stay at home mothers.
I swallow back a full-time day care tuition of $11,700 a year. Not the highest, not the lowest but one filled with quality care. There are certainly financial sacrifices made in order to pay full-time day care on one income but at the end of the day, this is what works for me to provide the best care I can for my daughter while keeping a career that I love and provides for her.
Check out Forbes Cost Analysis here:
Find Your Village
Whether that support is the other parent, your best friend or a hired nanny, you can not be a working mother and do it 100% by yourself. You must find your village. Day care centers close when they close. You must be there to pick up your child on time otherwise there are hefty fees or sometimes even other penalties. Once you get to school aged children, who will pick them up at 2:30 when the bell rings in the afternoon?
My daughter is enrolled in a wonderful day care with operating hours from 7:30 – 5:30 pm with a preschool and pre-k program. I am blessed to be able to work from home or near by 2 days a week. The remainder of the week I count on my parents to pick my daughter up from daycare. I could not do it without them. There have been times I’ve asked my girlfriends for help when needed. You may need to seek out others for help and that’s okay. Those who care will be there when you need them. It takes a village.
Work for a Leader Who Cares
You can not put a price on my job. My job has given me things that are invaluable to me. I have had the opportunity to work for leaders who, although have a high expectation, are human and posses both kindness and understanding. A demanding job with a high level of responsibility means it’s about finding the balance. When your leader doesn’t care, you can’t find the balance.
Choose the company that you work for but more specifically who you will work for. Going back to work or choosing a new role is a great time to talk about the culture of the company and what is the expectation now that you are a parent. Job performance shouldn’t change but your life priorities have which warrants a conversation. There are nights I get home very late putting in 14 hour days with travel and then there are times when I run into a jam and need to get my daughter from school early because she’s running a fever of 102. When she needs me, I am always there and my job supports me in that. It’s about the balance; putting in the time, getting the result and being upfront and communicative to what you need in order to be successful in your current role and family life. A little openness and honesty go a long way.
If that doesn’t work for you or you’re dreaming of a ‘work from home’ scenario, go to work for yourself. Check out these 10 Kick Ass Mom Entrepreneurs for inspiration.
Let Go of the Guilt
Lastly, something I have really struggled with has been the guilt of being away from my daughter while at work. Anyone who’s dropped off a toddler going through separation anxiety with their face smushed up against the glass window crying as you walk away knows the feeling. Leaving your mommy-clinging toddler, is the worst. As you drive away you wonder, is it all worth it? The first three weeks of being back to work, I cried every day leaving my daughter all the way up the Mass Pike. Into the office and you’ve swallowed back tears, reapplied mascara and you think…maybe I should call to check up on them? You call and they are fine. Better than fine. They are playing with their new-found toddler friends enjoying snacks and stories and having the time of their life. 5 o’clock comes around and the guilt starts again.
Motherhood brings on the pursuit of perfection when really the best we can do is give our children a childhood they don’t have to recover from. The perfect mom doesn’t exist. You can only do what you feel is right for your child and try your best. My daughter does not have a perfect mom, far from it. But what she does have is unconditional, all sacrificing love that teaches her strength and kindness every day. I have no plans to give her an ordinary life, only an extraordinary one. I will continue to raise the bar to my kick ass career, and be proud of it. I And if any mom out there can teach me now how to also have a social life, I’m all ears…
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Photo by Julie Turner of Jewel Photo.