When I first started my life as a mom, there was nothing I wanted more than to be home with my children full time. I worked outside of the home, pulling three or four twelve-hour shifts each week working in inpatient mental health. It didn’t seem possible that I could ever expect to quit my job—our expenses required two incomes and even if we buckled down and paid off all of our debt, that wasn’t going to change.
After I got pregnant with my second, I started writing online as a hobby. Eventually, this hobby opened doors for me to make a part-time income. I started cutting back my hours at work and freelancing more until I was finally able to quit my job and start working from home full-time. At first, I felt as if I was floating on cloud nine. I was home with my babies, contributing to our family’s income and writing was something I loved to do.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before I realized just how hard this path I chose really was.
Most days, I wake up with some level of anxiety, just trying to think through how I will accomplish everything on my to-do list, while still being a good mom. Some days, I do well. Other days, I don’t. Some days, I'm an engaged and patient mother, but many days I let everything on my list get to me and I'm impatient with my kids.
From the outside, I know it seems like I have it all. In a way, I really do. I know what a privilege it is to get to spend a lot of time with my children and to get to do something I love, but right now, my life is completely stressing me out. With three kids under five at home, I'm really struggling to keep up.
In one of many calls to my mom, in which I verbalized all of my anxiety and frustration over how hard it is to keep up with all of my work and parent at the same time, she brought up something we have talked about time and time again. She asked why I wasn’t looking for someone to help me out during the week.
Nevertheless, no matter how hard I try, I can’t do it all and do it all well.
My work is going well enough that I could afford an extra day of childcare each week or even someone to come by and help me keep up with my housework or cooking. The thing is, even though the money is there, that feels like a luxury and an unnecessary splurge. Part of the guilt comes from knowing there are other things we could spend the money on. We still have student loans to pay off and house repairs that feel like a bigger priority than a babysitter.
There's also the problem that part of me is still caught up in this ridiculous idea that women should be able to do it all. Even though it's 2016 and I’ve got a husband who's completely supportive of whatever method I choose for managing my workload as a working mom, I keep feeling like I'm failing if I need help. Honestly, I feel the inexplicable pressure to use naptime and post-bedtime to keep up with my work, always on the clock as Mom if my kids are awake, even if it takes a toll on my well-being
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And then, there's the fact that working motherhood seems to come with the ultimate case of FOMO. Every day I have a babysitter with my kids, I can’t help but worry I'm missing some important part of their childhood.
Nevertheless, no matter how hard I try, I can’t do it all and do it all well. If I continue to juggle work and home and childcare, I’m not the only one who suffers. It isn’t just that I’m tired and stretched thin, I’m also impatient and hard to be around, letting my stress turn me into an unhappy mom.
Today I was tempted to call my mom and complain again about how far behind I was on everything. Instead, I picked up the phone and called someone else—a babysitter. I shoved down my guilt and did what had to be done to give me kids the best version of myself, even if that means they get a little less time with me.
Because a little less time with a happy mom is worth way more than a little more time with a miserable one.
Photograph by: Mary Sauer