As I write this, we have been in a state of emergency for 185 days. I know that because it started the day my second child was born. In those past 185 days, I have learned something very important about myself: I am not cut out to be a stay-at-home mom. At least not like this.
This time in which I am stuck between my career and parenting two young children while my spouse works outside of the home has turned me into a mother I don’t recognize. I yell. I lose my temper. I have a far shorter fuse than is typical for me. I take a lot of breaks hiding in the hall closet with a bag of chocolate chips.
Everyone keeps telling me it’s to be expected, but I don’t want to be that mom. I want to be the mom with infinite patience.
People have also told me that my ability to balance parenthood and a full-time career simultaneously is “empowering” and/or “inspiring.” I hope it doesn’t empower or inspire anyone to try to do the same because I’m barely managing. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.
Back in July, a friend sent me an article from The Atlantic titled “This Isn’t Sustainable for Working Parents,” in which the author describes an all-too-relatable scenario right now: Both parents are trying to work, but with no childcare, find it hard to complete even the simplest of tasks. They ask, “Are any working parents not having a hard time?”
Nope. At least not among my friend group.
That article was comforting, but it didn’t have a solution. I am beginning to think that’s because there isn’t one.
“Leave your job,” is the solution that some family and friends have suggested. My answer to that is no. Absolutely not.
Not only are we not in the financial situation for me to be able to leave my position (I’m looking at you, student loans), but I worked hard for my career and I am not about to give it up. I went through six years of schooling and worked my way up to get to my dream job. When we aren’t in a pandemic and experiencing economic fallout, I find it extremely rewarding. I am part of an organization that brings about positive change and that feels good, especially during these times.
You see, it’s not that I can’t leave my job, as much as I don’t want to. Also, assuming that the woman in a heteronormative relationship would leave her job and the husband shouldn’t/won’t is its own kettle of problematic fish that I’ll not fry here, though I’m sure you know where I would go with it.
The short version is this: I can’t and won’t simply leave my job to care for my children full-time. I am not cut out to be a stay-at-home mom.
Having my career, up until pandemic times, has always been part of what makes me my best mom self. By spending part of most days solely focused on my challenging and fulfilling job of directing Inclusive Arts Vermont, I am able to show up better as a parent. By leaving the house and leaving my children in the very capable hands of our wonderful childcare providers and teachers who we have come to love and trust, I can use my brain in an undivided way on work. For me, the ultimate balance is a split schedule where I work from the office part-time, and from home with the kids part-time. I do my “hard” work on office days, and the more mindless tasks on home days. It’s been 185 days since I was able to be in my sweet spot.
Early on during the stay-at-home orders, I said I have a new respect for my friends that are stay-at-home moms. I’m now realizing, though, that this juggling of work and parenting simultaneously isn’t the same thing as being a stay-at-home mom.
I truly love my children. I often refer to them as the great loves of my life. But spending 24/7 with them while also attempting to hold down a full-time career isn’t good for anyone in our home.
My big kid notices this. She’s three and has a recent interest in naming emotions. Do you know what her default is for Mommy right now? Frustrated.
I don’t want to be a frustrated mom. I don’t want to be the yeller with no patience. I want to go back to being the mom who is happy both in her fulfilling career and the time she spends with her children. But I’m not sure what the solution is. No one I talk to sees a solution either.
Being a full-time stay-at-home mom while also managing a full-time career, with little to no childcare support, makes me feel like I am constantly sprinting, but as I’ve said before, I am no runner. I feel stuck in between trying to be the best employee and the best parent to my children, balancing even more precariously than ever before. Before I was using a log to bridge a stream, now I am up on a tightrope 50 feet above the crowd, while riding a unicycle and attempting to benchpress an elephant. I don’t know how long my family or I can sustain this.
I used to be embarrassed to say this, but now I’m owning it. Time to focus on my work and my career brings me balance. I believe that it is possible to love my children passionately while also loving my job.
There is some relief in sight for me. With schools opening and me admitting to myself that I’m not cut out to be a stay-at-home mom, our family opted for in-person learning for our big kid. It was an impossible solution, but I need the time to work. Additionally, she needs time to socialize with a small group of peers. She also needs the various supports and therapies that come with her IEP, and telehealth/telelearning just doesn’t cut it. I am drowning trying to manage parenting and working, and there is no way in the world that I can add being her occupational, visual, developmental, and speech therapists to my new list of daily responsibilities. I am hopeful that the small amount of time apart will provide space for all of the members of our family to learn and grow.