I’m a working mom and I like it.
I have a good job that challenges me and gives me great flexibility. Working makes me feel well-rounded and the flexibility allows me to have a good work-life balance. I’m a manager at a Fortune 100 company and my days are spent on conference calls, working with vendors/consultants, creating reports, identifying issues, putting together processes, meeting with my staff, and more. I have no desire to become CEO and am not very interested in climbing that corporate ladder, but my career and professional reputation are important to me.
Most of the time I don’t feel a pull between work and personal stuff. Sometimes I leave work extra early; sometimes I work after Wiggles goes to bed. I try to give my best at the office and my best at home, and figure that while each day might not be balanced, overall it evens out.
But this week was tough. We’ve been lucky with Wiggle’s health; at 17 months he has never really been sick for more than a day or two (knock on wood). This week he just has a bad cold, but it has really knocked him out. His only symptoms are an on-and-off fever, a slightly wheezy cough, and a very runny nose, but the kid is not happy. He is fussy and needy and just looks sad. Normally the husband and I would alternate baby duties, but it just so happens to be one of the busiest weeks of the year for him. So caring for Wiggles has fallen to me. I don’t mind it. In fact I sort of love it. My little guy who usually can’t sit still for two seconds suddenly wants to cuddle and love, and I can’t get enough of it. I like wiping away his tears, giving him hugs, and helping him feel better.
But it comes at a price. I’ve missed a lot of work this week and I feel like I’ve morphed from “young professional with lots of potential” to “typical mom whose work suffers for kids.” People are understanding- I feel this way because that’s just how I am, not because of any snide comments- but I know the realities of what too many missed meetings can do to a reputation. And with a sick kid this young, you can’t work while they’re awake (though he did take a 4 hour nap today!) One day I tried to listen to a conference call with one ear while a baby was screaming in the other ear, and ended up crying myself because I knew I was trying to do too much. I was trying to be a good worker and a good mom and was failing at both. And if I feel this way with one sick kid, how am I going to feel with four?!
Sometimes I wish I didn’t have such a good job. I wish I made less money or had less flexibility or just plain hated it so that I could justify walking away. But I have it too good! And I know that while there might be weeks I wished I stayed home, that’s not what I really want to do. I have been very blessed professionally and I would be a fool to walk away from the opportunities I’ve been given over the few times it’s tough. So during weeks like this, when I’m feeling guilty about not being as engaged with work, I remind myself of the value I bring to my team. I have unique experience, am good at working with various types of people, and am able to summarize data in a helpful way. There have been weeks when I’ve missed stuff at home because I’ve had to stay late at work. And most importantly I remind myself that when I look back at my life, I know I won’t regret missing a conference call…but I would regret not being there for my sick child. Working and mom are both important pieces to who I am- pieces I hope to always keep active- but mom definitely won this week…and I’m trying to learn that’s okay.