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The Stupidest Mistake I Made as a Working Mom

Photograph by Twenty20

The stupidest mistake a working mom can make? Beware, ladies! This innocent oversight can happen before you even realize it's happening and then screw you more than you ever thought possible. It happened to me, and now I'm having a hard time reversing the pattern. I'm hoping that documenting its truth here can speed up the recovery process.

To get to how it all went down, I must take us back several months.

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February 2016: A dream job was miraculously offered to me smack in the middle of 'werking' my blog and writing my first book. I took this dream job (while jumping up and down in my head) and continued on with the business of life, mom-ing, working, wife-ing, werking, cooking, cleaning, coordinating, carting to kids activities and so on. A few weeks in, I found myself physically and emotionally spent and had a challenging time adjusting to my new responsibilities. "It'll pass," I reassured myself. "It always takes moms time to acclimate to changes for work, life and kids. Totally normal, hang in there ... "

In an effort to prove to myself how powerful and capable I was, I failed to realize that taking away responsibilities before accepting new ones is a logical must-do requirement for working moms.

I hung in there, loving my job, loving the rush of working again, loving the fact that the original intention and purpose for starting my blog back in 2011 actually came true. Except, months later, I was still feeling spent and disjointed with work life and home life. I was flailing—not at work, but at home.

"I should've adjusted by now. I should feel more in control and settled. Why do I not feel in control and settled?!"

Photograph by Jill Simonian

By this time it was summer and the movie "Bad Moms" was taking over the digital vernacular of mothers everywhere. I was lucky to cover the press junket (for work) and saw the movie before it hit theaters. Something I saw smacked me into my own reality and solved my struggle: Near the beginning of the film, Mila Kunis' character is revealed as a busy working mother (who had an especially crazy day involving a dip of a boss, spilled hot coffee and a near misdemeanor) who then finally returns home at the end of the day to roast a chicken and serve it on a platter complete with all the side dish fixings to her family gathered around the table. "Thanks for being so patient, guys ... " her character says onscreen as she presents a beautiful, golden bird on a platter.

"Why the hell did she make dinner like that after she worked all day?!?!" I almost shouted at the screen.

Then I gasped out loud. That's what I do.

The light bulb snapped on. Dinner—the thought of what to cook for dinner, when to actually cook dinner and how to get dinner on the table in a timely fashion (so that my two girls under the age of 5 could get to bed at an early hour) was the biggest mistake I was committing as a working mom. Sure, cooking a meal has always been satisfying for me (I do like to cook), but not when I work full days. (Don't even get me started about the cleanup.)

I started paying attention and picking apart my actions. (To think how much I used to judge working moms...) The dinner-making was only a snip of my problems. Wednesday nights (the nights I worked the 5 p.m. news) were an issue. After my on air segment finished (around 6 p.m.) I'd rush home to immediately bathe my daughters and do our bed time routine to get my girls tucked in before 8 p.m. while my husband was at home doing his own thing.

Then there was the Friday morning school drop off. I'd go into the morning news at 5 a.m. then try to rush home (after the show ended at 7 a.m.) to try and take my kindergarten daughter to school at 8 a.m. while my husband was still at home and didn't need to go into work until an hour later.

Without realizing it, I was trying to be a full-time stay-at-home mom and an almost full-time (30 hours) working mom AT THE SAME TIME. What idiot does that? This one. Why? Well, in the past I've handled a lot and gotten away with it. This was no different, right? Oh, but it was. I'm older now. I'm more tired now. I've got children now.

In an effort to prove to myself how powerful and capable I was, I failed to realize that taking away responsibilities before accepting new ones is a logical must-do requirement for working moms.

One cannot be a full-time working mom and a stay-at-home mom at the same time, so WHY was I falling into a trap of trying to do so? Part of me blames my traditional Armenian heritage and the gender roles of husband and wife that are ingrained into my upbringing ... and the other part of me just blames my own lazy oversight. I didn't realize I needed to take some things away as I accepted more.

The day I set boundaries on what I was and wasn't doing was the day I felt my sense of balance and control return.

It was time to make changes: No cooking on the nights I worked full days. My husband would do bedtime routine on Wednesday nights (and Thursday nights too, since I needed to wake up at 4 a.m. Friday mornings now). My husband would take our kindergartner to school on Fridays. I hired back my housekeeper to come every other week. I reminded myself to not feel guilty about anything I was now harmlessly opting out of. Families help each other. It was a start.

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A part of me felt I was acting like an entitled brat and a part of me felt like I solved the universe's problems. (I made a choice to mostly listen to the latter feeling.) The art of relinquishing and taking away is powerful and necessary if we work. The day I set boundaries on what I was and wasn't doing was the day I felt my sense of balance and control return. And here I thought I was so drastic with the sandwich thing...

Don't make the mistakes I did. Thou must take a bit away if thou receives. Because, working moms, you can only pile on so much chicken and rice and green beans and salad and bread on a single dinner plate before it gets too heavy and the whole thing crashes to the floor. And who has time to clean that up?

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