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I'm a Working Mom Even When I'm Not at Work

Photograph by Getty Images

"Mommy, watch this!" cried both of my children last night in the bath. I looked up at their suds-soaked faces and made a vow. I will be present in this moment. I obliged their requests by watching them tumble and swim like dolphins in our standard-size bathtub. But even though my eyes were on them, I wasn't present. I was worrying about work.

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Having returned to work as an attorney few months ago, I am still adjusting to being back in my former field. Before I took the job, I was worried about being away from my kids for over eight hours on the days I am in the office. Would I miss them? Would we all feel deprived? It turns out that those hours away have actually been good for me and my family. I'm grateful for the opportunity to step back into my career and contribute financially to my family. And honestly, it's a relief to be around adults all day—they don't hand me their dirty tissues or leave their mess on my office floor. My kids have adjusted to the new schedule and seem no worse off than when I was around all the time.

Even though I love being back at work for the most part, but I am struggling to manage the stress.

But as I mustered my willpower to focus on and enjoy my children during last night's bath time, I realized that the worry and stress of work after hours was what I had forgotten about. As soon as I started back to work, it all came rushing back—the worry, the stress, the perfectionism. For me, just because I leave my office for the day that doesn't mean I can turn off my work brain.

Last night I was obsessing about a decision I have to make. The week before I was worried about a deadline. Next week it will be something else. Even though I love being back at work for the most part, I am struggling to manage the stress and the switch back into 100-percent mom-mode when I get home.

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I don't get paid to worry about my work; I only get paid to actually do it. If my extra time spent stressing was billable, I'd be making a fortune. But it's not a fortune that I want. What I want is work-life balance, and the time with my kids to be unadulterated by my nagging stress from my work day. I don't know how to achieve that level of serenity, but I'm going to keep trying. Because when my kids ask me to watch them, I want to be able to say, "I already am."

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