Dedicated to all of my mommy friends trying to keep it together day after day—we’re in it together!
While walking around with a big old bump in your midsection, people seem a little too comfortable commenting on how you look (lopsided, front-heavy, too big, too small, having twins?). They also offer tons of advice on how to care for that little bundle of joy. You’re told how to feed, burp, and rock your baby to sleep, but who’s looking out for mama? What advice does anyone offer a new mama when confronting this new image of herself? What advice do we offer to help her cope with her demanding new job, and the elite new title that comes with it? And once she’s an official “mom,” how does she cope with the loss of her previous life?
As women, motherhood may be the ultimate gift, but it sure comes tied up with a lot of wrapping paper and tape and ribbon. These days, it’s harder and harder for moms to stay at home until that little one can go off to school. And so we walk the tightrope, balancing home life and a career.
In my tenure as a mommy (3 whopping years now), I realize that my personality often mirrors that of my toddler’s, and let me tell you. The struggle is real! At any given moment of any given day, I find myself wondering if I’m going to make it through the next test, or whether I should throw my hands up and concede now. To whom? I don’t know. To him I guess. That little tyrant.
Even more, I find myself looking at my professional life, comparing myself to my counterparts that have not yet accepted the title of mommy and contemplating how much more easily I could handle things if I wasn’t a mom. But pressures in the office are only a fraction of the stress I’ll face in a day. Sometimes it’s hard to bring your A game when you’ve used it all on successfully getting your toddler to put his pants on.
I’m not ashamed to say it out loud. I think too many of us moms paint on a happy face and hide the many emotions that we face on a daily basis. But make no mistake, juggling a family and a career is hard.
Us mommies need to lean on each other for support and for that reason, I’ve outlined the following personalities of the many women I see in the mirror on a daily basis, each with her own struggles and accomplishments.
Molly’s alarm goes off and the madness begins. Weekdays are especially fun because her better half has either left for work or is on the way out the door before their little guy gets up. Then without warning, little man is wide awake and running into her room with a handful of poop, or surprise! Bursting through the shower door to demand she get out then and there. He fights her over brushing his teeth each morning, which devolves into bargaining over which bathroom is best to brush in, which results in water and spit all over the floor. Molly may not get invited to the ball, and yet she’s having her own Cinderella moment, wiping the floor clean on all fours.
Finally downstairs, and Poor Dolly becomes waitress to her tiny indecisive customer. Now it’s time for breakfast… Of course this selection is tricky because you have to select something that you can conveniently shove in a bag, but what about nutrition? Sure, a Pop Tart is highly portable, but what we really need is more variety and less sugar. Enter tantrum number three or four (if you’re lucky) for the morning.
Yes, Dolly’s little guy will likely throw himself on the floor, ruin his freshly combed hair, and act as if life just ended. She’ll pack his lunch, grab their coats, and attempt to lure him out the door with the Pop Tart. Yes, she caved, but what other option did she have? She can’t carry him, his backpack, her purse, and her laptop to the car in one trip! Besides, she is already 15 minutes behind! Dolly is already a stressed out mess with boogers and icing on her coat and pants, just trying to keep it together long enough to strap this tyke in his carseat so he can’t get into any additional trouble before getting to daycare.
The superheroes of daycare have these kids working on pleases and thank yous. They help with potty training and wiping runny noses. And in exchange for their angelic servitude, they also get the hugs and kisses and experience all of the new achievements that Gabby and other working moms miss on a daily basis. Gabby can’t survive without these women, but she has the guilt of leaving her kids with them for more hours than she gets to see them in a day. It’s a decision she makes, thinking she’s doing the best for them, providing a future, saving for college, but it doesn’t make it hurt any less.
Polly gets back in the car and finally makes her way to the office. Unlike the days when she could take her sweet time getting ready—reading a book or the news before heading out to work—Polly has to turn into a full-blown adult before she gets to her desk. Fortunately, those baby wipes that she stashed in her car will help with the icing and boogers. But after a quick glance at the calendar, she realizes she will probably going to be late for her first meeting. As she rushes to the meeting, she talks to herself, repeating mantras and trying to remove the stress of the last two hours. That’s when the real questions start. Did Polly remember deodorant today? Did she finish her makeup? What color are her tights?
An hour or so into her day, and Tammy’s back to the strong, confident professional woman she once was. She’s on her game, enjoying adult conversations, and blowing through emails that piled up the night before.
This, ladies, is the confidence booster she needed to remind herself that she has a purpose! Not only is she running the mom game, she’s also running it at the office. And she’s doing it all for her little guy. He has to be clothed and fed and go to college. And there’s comfort in knowing that she’s not only taking care of him now, but securing herself a position in the workforce when it’s time to send him off to school.
Back at home, this is when Darcy effing loses her mind. Dinner time, a battle of wills between Darcy and her toddler, who will go on a week long hunger strike to avoid trying something new. She is a step away from dropping on the floor and throwing a tantrum of her own.
That’s it. The wall is hit. She’ll walk into a room and sock will be on the floor and she’ll completely lose her mind, because that one thing that’s out of place is the breaking point. But perhaps there is something to be said about toddler tantrums; Darcy sure feels better once she lets it out!
The final push for the day is getting that little guy to bed. At this point, Nancy is exhausted, but the little guy is more exhausted. It’s time for Nancy to put on the game face again. Time to lead the negotiation to get little guy up the stairs. Some nights, not so tough, other nights, she has to all but drag him upstairs in tears. But when she climbs into bed with him to read that one last story, he snuggles into her, and she forget all of the struggles of the day. That little guy melts her heart with his final “Goodnight Mommy” and smooch to send her on her way.
So how do we working moms portray ourselves? Personally, I feel like a hot mess on a daily basis, but these are the years to treasure. To those little ones, the beings that are responsible for the majority of our emotional fluctuations in a 24-hour period, we are everything that’s right in their world. We can kiss their boo-boos and make them better. We comfort them when they’re sad and laugh when they do something funny and clap when they tell us “I did it!” to whatever little thing that’s so big in their world.
At the end of the day, we should be proud to portray ourselves as mothers—strong and fragile, happy and sad, confident and anxious, and everything in between. We do a hell of a job ladies.