Confession: I suck at being a working mom

March 25 | Guest post by Charlotte Porter
By: Sara V.CC BY 2.0

Real talk: leaving my babies to return to work felt like the most unnatural decision I could make for myself. I returned to work when my son Jack was sixteen weeks old, and again when my daughter Emily was twelve weeks old. On both occasions, I left them at daycare — stoically choking back tears as I walked to my car to commute to work.

Friends and family often wonder how I "do it all" but the truth is there isn't any magic to it. I think of how much time I spend apart from my children, and launch into panic mode. I know I'm being a responsible parent by providing the health insurance, food, and security that my job affords my family, but I can't help but feel that just as not every parent is meant to stay at home, not every parent is meant to be away.

The truth is, I kind of suck at being a working mom.

Our house is a mess. My son needs a haircut. Sometimes Jack and Emily go for more than two days without a bath because we forget or don't have the energy. There is more processed food in our house than I would prefer because I don't have the energy to cook — and this all says nothing about my pony-tailed hair and neglected relationships.

I can only juggle madly for so long until I give up and just drop all the balls — then the carpets don't get vacuumed, the crud builds up on the stove top, and I let Jack watch extra television while I catch my breath. Typically, the sight of Emily "snacking" on random crumbs on my raunchy living room floor sends me running to the vacuum, and the cycle begins anew.

We live a modest life.

My husband is an artist. His work is freelance — feast or famine. Over the past year, it has been mostly famine. We live in a small apartment and are constantly in each other's faces and on each other's nerves. That said, we also manage to have fun together.

I believe compassion is infinite and abundant, but sometimes I arrive home so drained, and it is nearly impossible to connect with the people at home who need my warmth and positive energy.

There is really nothing on which we can cut back in terms of our expenses so I could work less and be around more. Because of the nature of my job, there are no short-cuts at work to reserve energy for when I am home. My job depends on my ability to exude warmth and positivity to engage people in need. I believe compassion is infinite and abundant, but sometimes I arrive home so drained, and it is nearly impossible to connect with the people at home who need my warmth and positive energy.

We have thousands of pictures of our children. My husband has them on his computer and they function as his screen saver. The whole family often zones out as these many happy moments blend over his screen. Lately, I am stricken by the fact that Jack no longer looks like a baby, but like a real big boy in these photos. I catch photos of him as a toddler out of the corner of my eye, and can not reconcile that this surly five-year-old is the same person as the baby in the photos. Emily will follow suit, and morph from baby to child while my back is turned for but a moment.

As mindful as I try to be, these facts devastate me. As mindful as I try to be, I have still missed so many moments of my babies' lives when I was too tired, too busy, too stressed to tune in and turn up.

Getting ready in the morning is the worst. Jack's homework has been cast onto the floor because he was too tired to do it when we all got home at 6:30 the night before. Tears and snot flow down Emily's face, as she sobs, because she has been left in her pack-and-play as we rush about getting ready to go. I am struck by the full-on suckitude of my inability to balance everything the way I ought.

And here is the worst part of my confession: I don't know if I could stay home full-time with my children, even if it were an option. Some days it is honestly easier to go to work and deal with incredibly damaged people than it is to stay at home and manage my own brood.

I wish this were one of those posts where I muse a bit, make some pithy observations, blah, blah, blah mindfulness, and then decide that in the end I truly rock this party. It is not one of those posts. I am, in fact, feeling guilty for taking the time to write this post, and dwell in negativity, instead of doing an hour of yoga or mopping the kitchen floor and cleaning the toilet.

I guess for now, the best that I can do is set some little goals for myself to try to do better. So, I will check in and hug my kids three extra times every day this week, and try to smile a little more.

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  1. Secret: I think that we all kind of suck at it. And I, normally, happily go to work. No tears on leaving them at daycare. I just think that if I did any two full time jobs, I would kind of suck at them both.

    So you are seriously not alone. The thing that sometimes helps me to remember is that the same things that make life hard make it good. Would I be happy without my kids, my pets, my husband, my job? No. I want all those things. They make my life good. But they also make it hard. But I wouldn't make the trade.

    8 agree
  2. Ummm, I may be missing something here, but it sounds a lot like you feel responsible for having the job that provides income, keeping the house clean, cooking meals, and getting the kids ready…. Where is your husband in this? I'm not at all suggesting that his work as an artist isn't "real work" and so he should be the house husband – I'm saying that as someone who who also does work, he should be at least equally as responsible as you are for these things. Or if he can't do that because he isn't good at cleaning or cooking, he should be finding other ways to take pressure off of you so that BOTH of you can have a reasonable work/life balance.

    As I said, it's possible that he helps a whole lot and you already feel like you are putting equal effort into the household – but it doesn't really come across like that in the essay.

    6 agree
    • My husband is actually the primary care giver of the children 75% of the time, since he is home and I work long days. We actually share everything, and yet, I still find it hard to juggle, hence my sensation of suckitude. Thanks for reading and commenting, though!

      • Like Charity, I'm not trying to heap on your husband, but maybe household chores need a shake up.

        If you're not coping in this season of your life, can he take on more duties in the home? If not, and the way you're both managing things is the best set up, then love and optimistic thoughts in your direction πŸ™‚ xo

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        • Kathryn, I wrote this post. I actually find it a little sad and concerning that so many people are "THIS"ing the comment that he should be doing more. I wrote this post from my perspective, and from the limitations that I feel as a working mom in a society where we are all spread way too thin. Society needs to pony up some more supports for working moms; not my poor husband who is much more helpful than most. Another reader commented that even shaking things up, self care, support network, yadda yadda can not change the fact that sometimes things are just difficult. It isn't so much that I dread or am overwhelmed by housework, so much as I just wish I had more energy in general. I am fortunate to have a wonderful husband who has been willing to split everything with me 50/50. Again, this wasn't a post about my marriage being unfair, or to make people feel sorry for me, but about my limitations as a working mom and how unnatural it feels to be away from my children so much. It is about the unfair expectations of society, not about my marriage being flawed… And I actually think I am coping pretty well. Perhaps some of the tongue and cheek was missed in my post.

          6 agree
          • So this! I have only one child, but the past 6 months after returning to work have been one heck of an adjustment for me. I have frequently lamented that the systems and structure of our society are what contribute to things being so hard. But if I say something, I feel like I'm complaining and people look down on it. F that! Being out of the house 50+ hours per week is not family friendly. I don't think I could be a stay at home parent, but why aren't there more part-time options that pay a decent wage? Why aren't flexible schedules and 3 day weekends the norm? Why don't more employers have on-site childcare?
            I too work in social work, and in my experience it's definitely not the field to go to if you're looking for those things. Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful for what I do have, but that doesn't mean there's not a TON of room for improvement.
            Grr argg, I'm stepping off the soapbox now…

            5 agree
  3. I don't have much to say to this other than umm YEAH I feel this for sure. Our situation is not quite the same but I know this feeling. My friends that wonder how I pull it all together…it's simple. I don't. Things get forgotten, things get dropped, the cat's kibble isn't refreshed, the wet laundry is left in the washer for three days (thus needed a re-wash), my hair doesn't get cut, I miss that the baby has learned how to say 'potato', and texts go unanswered. But we are a 2-income household and that's that…so we manage and I try very hard to focus in on as many moments as possible. But yeah…this ain't no joke.

    22 agree
    • Thank you for relating to this struggle! I think that some people have a ton of awesome energy and can make things look nice-nice. . . for me, it is really difficult to muster that much energy, and I have to really consciously pick battles/prioritize. I'm somewhat of an introvert, and so constantly being "on" with my clients, family, friends can be really draining for me. Blogging has been a godsend for processing all of this. Thanks so much for reading and for your comment!

      7 agree
  4. Thank you. It's hard to admit when you aren't doing what you want or doing it as well as you'd like. I stay at home with my kids and I've been wrestling with a lot of similar thoughts – that maybe I wasn't meant to do this and should go back to work.

    I have had several different versions or working/not working mom during my almost 7 years as a mother. For all but the last year and a half I worked. Sometimes I was good at it, sometimes I thought it was really falling apart. My husband and I bit the financial bullet and decided for me to stay home with our 2 boys. Confession? It's hard. It's harder than when I was a single, working mom to one. It's exhausting and draining, emotionally, mentally, and physically, and I don't get half the things done that I want to most of the time. Some days I have thoughts about how I wasn't meant to do this – I wasn't made to be a stay at home mom. But, I know that I don't want to go back to work and miss so much of the little things I get to share with my boys. We also homeschool and that's working well (except for the days when I think I might go insane and BURN DOWN THE UNIVERSE).

    You are doing a good job. You're making the hard decisions and doing what you need to do, what your family needs, even if it isn't what you really want, and that is what being a mom (and an adult) really is. I don't know if it will get better or not (I certainly haven't found a magic fix-it to make everything sunshine and rainbow-pooping kittens), but as long as you can look back in a year or five, and know that you did what was best for your family and kids, then you're doing good.

    1 agrees
    • Gosh, thanks! It is so reassuring to get the votes of confidence of other moms. When I originally posted this piece on my blog, I had a mom comment that stay-at-home mamas feel much the same way. I think that it is really hard to "have it all," but that if we are mindful of what we do have when we have it, then we can be happy. That is awesome that you are able to homeschool– I give you major props for that! As much as I like the idea, I think my son and I would go insane trying to work with each other in that capacity! But I have tremendous respect for people who do homeschool– it looks like so much work. Thanks again for your wonderful comment!

      1 agrees
  5. Adding my voice to the chorus of "you are not alone." I work nights and my husband works days, so someone is always home with our year old daughter, but it can be such a drain. I get about five hours of sleep a day and run errands, clean the house, do the laundry and care for kid upkeep. Kid number two is due in July and it is a scary thought. Just remember, the only person judging you is you. You will do things to the best of your ability and there will always be something to feel guilty over. As long as your kids are fed, (mostly) dressed and happy, that is all that matters. Your kids are learning to be independent, and they will grow up too fast no matter what. It's the nature of the beast. Just hang in there and love your family when you can, as much as you can. Good luck!

    4 agree
    • It sounds like you will be doing some fancy juggling in a few months too! Congrats on number two, and best of luck. It is wonderful to hear from you. Thank you so much for reading and commenting.

  6. I feel the same way sometimes, and work in a field very similar to yours so I too spend my inflexible work days often dealing with damaged people and delicate situations. I can completely empathize with the mental stresses of balancing such a job with two small kids and home life. And I'm an organic nut so I try (but often fail) to cook fresh meals and lunches and avoid processed food as much as possible, which usually results in me ordering pizza or something out of frustration. And the irregular baths, missing key moments, laundry that bulges out from the hall hamper….all those moments too, often have me wanting to pull my hair out and wonder if other mothers have this much trouble, or am I just incompetent? Thankfully my husband is great about doing his fair share and then some, but his work hours are often more grueling than mine. Nice to read that I'm not alone in this.

    1 agrees
    • Thank you, thank you! I so admire your organic cooking! I try to cook mostly vegetarian whole foods, but we do dip into the frozen processed stuff more then I would like. . . Another reader pointed out that I didn't really give my hubs any credit in this piece, but I have to say that he is fairly helpful and that IS key, as you say. Thanks again for reading and such a thoughtful and kind comment!

      • I'm a mental health professional as well, and I got the sense reading your post that you also experience work burnout. Emotional fatigue usually shows up more in our home life first with burnout. The great part of our profession is there are many ways to renew our energy (which really helps with how we feel at home). I've been at the same agency for 4 years, but I've switched up my roles when I've felt burnout. Also, take some time off – people in our field are notorious for not taking vacation. Thanks for your post- I felt that it resonates with so many moms these days.

    • sometimes i think it's important to remember that it's not like we had all our shit together *before* we had kids either. i mean, i don't know, maybe you did, but i find it important to remind myself that, while it *is* harder, it's not like we always had the dishes and laundry done when it was just us either.

      it's just that we didn't have the invisible mother-judging monster looking over our shoulders when we were just a couple of adults. that makes it hard to keep your perspective.

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      • It makes me feel better knowing I can blame my awful housekeeping skills on the fact that we're also parents πŸ˜‰

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  7. Yeah, I've definitely felt this way. I'm not sure if I'd be a good stay at home mom, but some days all I want to do is not leave my crying baby at daycare (and why does he only cry when I drop him off??!) so that we can play and snuggle and I can watch him grow and not miss the moments I miss. Then there's the fact that our floors are always filthy, our dogs never get walked enough, I pick my clean clothes from a pile on the floor and I barely see my husband during the week because one of us has to take care of the baby while the other does household chores. We're doing OK, but I feel like we could be happier if we both worked a little less.
    I've found that my feelings around this get worse when I have to work late or when work is particularly stressful. I try really hard to keep to my regular work hours and to de-stress as much as possible on my hour-long commute home. When that doesn't work, I've also been known to hit the gym after the baby goes to sleep. Yeah, maybe that means I get take out for dinner which would defeat the healthiness of exercising, but the endorphins and stress-relieving nature is really what I'm after.

    4 agree
    • Ah, yes! The gym… good point, Jessica. Thank you for reminding me that I need to get a membership! My little one is still nursing, and so I have been waiting until she is not so dependent on me for falling asleep at night, but I do fantasize about that exercise endorphin rush. And setting boundaries around hours and schedule is very important. Thanks for your comment!

      1 agrees
      • Oh yes, the gym has only recently become an option now that my almost 1-year-old consistently stays asleep for at least three or four hours after he goes to bed. It helps that he's in bed by 7pm. I used to hate going to the gym before he was born, but now I look forward to it for the endorphins and just because it means I don't have to think about anything for an hour.

        2 agree
  8. We have two cleaning lady come every three week. My house does not get cleaned in between those visits save for a quick daily vacuum of an area rug where my son plays (and daily stuff – dishes, garbage, laundry etc.) Having those ladies come = one full day's pay for me and it's worth EVERY SINGLE PENNY.
    Could you do something like this? Even once/month just to give it a good once over?

    5 agree
    • What a great suggestion! We live in a very tight space, and so, I don't know if a professional cleaning would even show amongst all the clutter! Someday when we have bigger digs, and my husband has a little more work, I think i will definitely splurge for cleaning service! I lie in bed and fantasize about a clean bathroom every night, lol! As much as I clean it, it always seems to have grossness about it!

      • p.s. Groupon (and all the millions of off-shoots of Groupon) CONSTANTLY have home cleaning services… Girl, you'd be SURPRISED what they can do! I recommend it to ALL of my parent friends. When I walk through my door on Friday night and my house is spic and span, what a great way to start off the weekend! You just have to "break the seal" (so to speak) and work up the courage to call the first time… it's easy after that!

        8 agree
      • I am 38 weeks 6 days pregnant. I just hired a cleaning crew. It was orgasmic. To watch 4 women in 2 hours do the work that would take me days and days and days to do! It was better than going to a spa!

        I have a feeling this splurge won't be the last time. Especially once I return to work.

        1 agrees
    • My in-laws got a cleaning lady for us to come 4 hours every 2 weeks (or so, since she is somewhat sporadic). It is THE BEST gift ever.

      Do it! Even if it's a college or high school student who does it for cheap…somebody else doing it instead of you will make it feel so much better!

      1 agrees
  9. My kid enjoys eating goldfish crackers off the floor. I'm happy he's helping clean up the mess HE made by throwing them from the highchair. But I'm horrified that people will see him eating food off the floor and label me a bad mom.

    Also, tortellini with marinara sauce or pancakes is what we have for dinner every night when I have to cook. All my brain smarts go to work and by the end of the day, or the week, I can only come up with food options that resemble what a toddler might choose themself. I really need a personal chef…or a mom…to come pick up after me.

    So, you're not alone. I love working. I love being a mom (most days). But it's hard doing it all.

    6 agree
    • I LOVE this comment! We sound very similar. And yes, those sound like our recipe choices too! PS, have you ever caught your kid snacking on mac and cheese that has gotten dried out in the high chair. It is like totally crunchy again! Weird… Thank you so much for reading and commenting, it is wonderful to hear from you!

      3 agree
    • THIS, so much this. I'm a full time student while running a business and volunteering and I've mostly managed to get a system together where my place is mostly taken care of. But there are many days when my potty training two year old is running around the house naked from the waist down, hasn't had a bath in four days, eating "Oh my god, when was the last time we had chickpeas? Where did you get that?!" while surrounded by a giant mess that he's made and I can't help but think how it would look if someone came to the door!

  10. Let me just tell you that our society has created an untenable scenario in forcing our hands this way! I feel your pain. You are not alone, and you shouldn't beat yourself up for doing the best you can given your circumstances. What gets me through is remembering that the little moments with my kids (even just vegging on the couch watching a movie, or playing some ridiculous game outside in the back yard together) and QT for myself are more important than sweating the gunk on the stove top. The little moments with the kids = more connection, and QT for myself (with and without friends and/or partner) means I have renewed spirit to keep conquering each and every day. Big hugs to you!

    1 agrees
    • Big hugs to you too, Kate! Thank you so much for reading, and for your kind and thoughtful comment. I couldn't agree with you more in terms of your view of what society has done to us. My whole aim is to try to be more mindful of the joy that I DO have, and to focus less on all the stuff on which I am missing out. But man it is hard.

  11. Oh my god. I know, dude, I know. I hear you. And I've only been doing it for a month.

    2 agree
    • Empathy in abundance. I remember how hard those first days were. You'll get a rhythm going and it will all work out. Hang in there! Hugs.

      1 agrees
  12. I think this is the experience of anyone working and parenting. The hardest part is you can never give your all to one job or the other, and so you always feel like you're letting someone down in some way. And god help you if someone gets sick, then the whole delicate balance is completely upended, and NO ONE's needs are being met. And I say this as a lucky duck who had a whole year of paid mat leave with each of my babies. It will never feel like I'm giving them enough when I only get about 3.5 hours a day with them and all of it is spent rushing to get out the door, rushing to get food on the table, rushing to get baths done, and oh yes to actually enjoy each other. Housework (beyond the basic feeding/cleaning/survival requirements) is so far down the list of priorities! In fact, we made a conscious choice to play outside this winter and pause the household chores. My four year old can now skate and downhill ski, even if the house is a total gong show. I think that's worth something in the end.

    I often felt my return to work after my first was almost as a great a sea change as having him in the first place. We were totally unprepared for the magnitude of that change. I had learned how to be a parent but I had to learn all over again how to be a parent once I was working….and I'm still learning, and failing, and learning some more…

    7 agree
    • What a great, understanding comment. Thank you. That is great that you had a whole year of paid maternity leave. I got 12 weeks. Unpaid. Which is sadly the norm for new moms here in US. We are SO far behind when it comes to taking care of our families as a country. I love that your house is "a total gong show". That is a great analogy! Thank you so much for commenting. Momaste! (the mom in me bows to the mom in you).

      3 agree
  13. Oh Darling…You do NOT suck as a working mom. You are doing it! πŸ™‚ Just as millions of the rest of us are. Who is this "Un-sucking Working Mom" that you are trying to live up to? There is no perfect answer or perfect work/life schedule.
    We are all just trying to make it work.
    That Mama guilt that you feel, that means that somethings not working. And I didn't really get a sense from your post that you are able to take care of the engine that keeps this factory rockin' – YOU.
    Honey, something has got to give.
    Think outside the "9-5" box, use your support system, do some priority soul-searching.
    Give yourself a break and show yourself some love <3 <3 <3
    This telling yourself that you suck business – Stop it.

    1 agrees
  14. Wow – I really needed to read this today. This is my first day back at work full-time (I've been working half-time for about a month), and this morning I had to leave my 3.5 month old to go to a job I don't like. I was barely managing to keep it together working half-time, so I am terrified of what this will do to the balance we've struck so far. And oh, the GUILT. What precious moments will I miss being away from her 10 hours a day?

    Thanks for reminding me that no one does this perfectly, and we're all just doing the very best we can for our kiddos. Great post. Sending internet hugs your way!

    3 agree
    • Oh, hugs to you too, Jenn! It is so hard to leave the babies in those early days… actually, i don't know if it gets any better… but you will find a balance, even if it is accepting being unbalanced, lol! I have actually grown to like the fact that my kids go to daycare, because they make little friends and come home with adorable projects and stories once they get a little older. But nature has not created us to be apart from out little ones for 9-12 hours a day, and it is painful at times. You are doing awesome! I'm glad that you read and resonated with my post. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. Momaste to you! (the mom in me bows to the mom in you).

    • In the earliest days for me, I tried to remember the mantra that "it takes a village," and I needed to be okay not getting to be with my son 24/7…because it allows the village to do their magic, too.

      It's not perfect, but it's helped when I drop him off at daycare…

      5 agree
  15. This is my life, thank you! I truly try but most of the time my kid has stuff growing from her ears and her nails may not get cut until she scratches her face. That's when I feel like mom of the year… That and my hubby gets an eight HR stretch of sleep once a week πŸ™

    3 agree
    • Ah, yes, the long fingernails! My daughter is currently sporting a fierce scratch under her eye from just that thing! But you ARE mother of the year, because you love your children. Thank you so much for your comment and compassion!

    • This is MY life too!!! My poor husband. We work opposite shifts so one of us is always with the wee one, and most nights he gets about 5 hours of sleep.
      And don't get me started on those scratchy fingernails πŸ˜‰

  16. I only work part-time, and I still suck at being a working mom. So kudos to you for working full-time and doing it. It helps me to remember that there is no such thing as this fabled work-life balance. You fall off then get back on only to fall off again. There is pressure from all directions and I feel crushed half the time.

    Thank you for this post and for reminding me that it's not just me having a hard time with this.

    1 agrees
  17. Another thing to add:

    Sometimes there just is no solution. Using the supports, going to the gym, tinkering with the schedule, isn't always going to solve what is to many an impossible problem. Of course something isn't working, and that can be OK. All the pressure to make it work AND to take time to take care of ourselves just adds to the guilt. Sometimes I think we just need to relax into it NOT working for awhile. At least that's how I get through the work week.

    1 agrees
    • I love this comment. Thank you. Yes. Sometimes we have to just accept that things are what they are and not try to muscle things too much. Your comment is exactly what I was trying to et across. Thank you for "getting it!"

      1 agrees
  18. I have always wanted to be a stay-at-home-mom. And I sort of consider myself one because I "only" work 12 hours a week, over three nights. But then I feel all panicky on those nights, because Baby has to be taken care of, happy, milk has to be pumped, snacks have to be fixed, dinner has to be made/consumed/cleaned up by 4 pm and I have to be out the door and dressed up soon after that … It's so hard. And I have it so easy … I used to work daycare, and I remember thinking it was tough to get myself there by 7 am … then there would be parents there with two little ones already waiting for us to open! … with lunches and diaper bags packed. So I have enormous respect for those parents. I don't even know what happens when a kid — or parent — gets sick, on top of all that. But when people tell me, "It's so good you have something for you", I get mad. It may be that way for some people (and that's fine), but I do NOT feel that way. Work isn't something for me, aside from paying for the car insurance and groceries.

    But still … I also try to consciously STOP and remember to have fun with Baby, regardless of dinner/dishes/laundry/extra work. And be grateful for the situation we do have πŸ™‚

    3 agree
    • If this means anything, working gets a little easier. I started out working about 10 hours a week and have built up to 32. At first 10 hours seemed impossible but you adjust somewhat. And what happens when kids or parents get sick – everything falls apart – but you pick up the pieces the next week.

  19. Another voice in the chorus of "I could have written this." It is so hard to leave every day, even if she's still asleep and the husband stays home with her. It's hard to be tired from work when I do get to spend time with her. I beat myself up a lot. I try to tell myself that it will get easier, but… it hasn't yet, and she's almost 2. I try to make the most of the time I have.

  20. I feel like I wrote this post. I love my job, but I crave being at home with my daughter. My husband is a full time student right now and does a lot of his classes online at home so he is the primary caregiver. I can't wait until he graduates and we can reverse roles for a while, but in the meantime, she is almost 3 and I am missing all of her baby-ness. πŸ™

    1 agrees
  21. Oh girl, I'm sending a big hug to you. I just work part-time (only 15 hours a week) and I OFTEN catch my daughter picking up crumbs and eating them. I am always kicking myself for being such a terrible stay at home parent. It seems like I drop the ball on important shit every.single.day. I am always in awe of moms that work outside the home, feeling like I'm such utter crap at organization and balance as it is that if I had to support our family too I would spontaneously combust…or something.

    I know it feels like things are coming apart at the seams but I also am willing to bet your kids aren't going to remember the smaller things you stress over. They will have this amazing role model of a mom who worked her ass off everyday for them. That's way better than a clean kitchen floor!

    Oh, and I bathe my one year old once a week. Intentionally. Not saying its for everyone, just that you shouldn't feel guilty over infrequent bathing πŸ™‚

    2 agree
  22. Most definitely this! I am at home right now with my 11 mos old and 4 yr old twins, and will be back at work in July. But for the time I was a working mom between kids, I felt like a total failure at like, life. I felt like a subpar employee, a mediocre mom, a halfassed friend, a neglectful wife, and a woefully inadequate housekeeper. I hated it, and am seriously not looking forward to that feeling again. But I've decided to put more boundaries in place with my work so it doesn't spill into my "real" life (I was often working until midnight or later) which is difficult as I, like you, work in field that is necessary, important, and emotionally draining. Also I've already made a real effort to be sure I am fully nonjudgmental with friends about the state of their home. First, it's bullshit, because no one lives in a perfect place and second, I feel like there are undercurrents of sexism, because I feel like most people judge the female half (in a hetero relationship) when the house is a disaster, instead of the couple or the male. When given free hours in my weekend or evenings, I want to be cuddling with my kids or going for walks in the woods, not scrubbing toilets and screaming at them as they pull toys out the minute I've cleaned them up. I'll be getting housekeeping help this time. Even if it means less disposable income, it is worth it to me. We have to be kinder to ourselves, and each other. And I think it's important for our kids to a) see us as more than "just" mom – having outside work, volunteerism, friendships etc. fills us out as real people and b) recognize that it isn't realistic to have everything perfect all the time, but that the priorities in our life are to show love for one another.

    2 agree
  23. I often feel this way too…spread too thin in just about every realm. I completely feel how challenging it must be for you as the major breadwinner though. Here is what I am learning: as guilty as you feel, take a break or do something for yourself; accept help from family/friends if you can; accept a lower standard for the house as it just doesn't matter; show appreciation for your partner of the things he does and the way he contributes but also insist on equal contributions (albeit in different areas); focus on your blessings; and know that it does get easier over time. That said I still often wonder how other families are doing it. One one hand it is consoling to know others are going through the same thing and on the other hand I sometimes wonder what the hell are we all doing (And I mean everyone…women, men, families of all sorts, governments, corporations, communities, etc.) At least we aren't chipping the ice off the wash basin but modern life seems to have gotten so complex.

    1 agrees
  24. Gah, all of the things. This squeezed my heart a bit. I have a 6mo (my 1st) and have countless times over the course of the last year and a half, questioned myself and my life for various reasons-as in, am I a bad person for having that cup o' coffee today whilst preggers or how mad is boyfriend gonna be when he comes home to a "still" messy house? (He never was and I'm not, btw). I went back to work when baby was 6 weeks old. Not because I wanted to. Learning to manage all of the things was really flipping hard and it still is. Every day.
    When baby was new, boyfriend was super hurt when baby wouldn't be calmed by him or smile at him. It kind of drove him crazy and it was really painful to watch him torture himself over something that I knew-KNEW-had nothing to do with him. He thought there was some fault he had, etc…and then after a particularly rough night I had this thought that has stuck with me and has helped me deal with all the things since then. I told him "You are the world's best daddy. The best daddy ever. You know why? Because, you're HIS daddy. The only one he's got and will ever have and that makes you the most special person in his life." And since then, rough nights are not so rough. He remembers and I remember that, the only thing baby cares about is how much we love him and how we show him that. I don't remember that my mom had to work or that my dad was at school when I was little. I remember my mom playing with me and chasing me around our MESSY house. Or my dad taking my brother and I fishing and him teaching me how to ride a motorcycle. We don't remember every moment of our lives, mostly just the powerful ones. I try to let these small things remind me that when I'm hurting inside to the point of tears because I still haven't lost as much baby weight as I think I should or my house is STILL a mess or the dog is driving me nuts and the baby needs changed, etc…none of it matters. The things don't matter. Every day is different, some days you get all the laundry done in just a day(true story!). Other days, you can't leave the couch(also true). I won't remember either of those. I will remember the first time I hear baby say "mama". It may not be the first time he says it, but it'll be the first time he says it to me. And that's enough. Because as much as I like to torture myself over all the things, I'm a good mom. I love my baby more than anything and I show him that, all the time. I love my boyfriend more than anything and I show him that, every day. I am so grateful for these small things. And they makes all the things, not much of anything.
    I hope that helps, I'm definitely the kind of person that needs a perspective check every once in a while. Or every other day. Whatevs. πŸ˜‰ You rock, you're a good mom. Just remember to breathe.

    5 agree
  25. Thank you so much for this post!! While I am not yet a parent, I worry about being a working mom. It takes bravery to write this down, and I bet a lot of other moms who work outside the home feel the same way. I think almost every parent does the best the can with the rescources the have, and no one can ask any more than that.

    1 agrees
  26. Hello Beautiful Lady. I know you in "the real world", and when I see you next I cannot wait to give you a big hug.

    Sometimes it is important to remember the chorus to The Rolling Stones:

    "You can't always get what you want
    But if you try sometimes well you might find
    You get what you need"

    We all want that glossy magazine picture perfect home, with well mannered children, and a husband who remembers to take out the trash, and will buy flowers for special anniversaries…but is that what we "need"?

    I rather settle for what I need, children who laugh, a husband who loves, and a roof over our heads (even if said roof needs a good scrubbing). If that means I also have to work out of the home to get these things…well then there is the sacrifice.

    Until we all win the lottery… πŸ™‚

    Love and Hugs to all those hard working moms and dads, who work both inside and outside the home.

    4 agree
    • Well, Laura, your hugs are pretty much the best, so we will have to see each other soon!! Thank you so much for your generous and thoughtful comment (and for reading my inner cray-cray!) The lyric I always go to is "Love what you have, and you'll have more love." (Regina Spektor) The good news is that I don't suck 100% of the time. I wrote this piece on "one of those days" so it isn't everyday that I feel this… and I knew that many moms could relate, but I didn't know just how many! It is good to know that I am in good company… such good company!

      2 agree
  27. I hear ya! I'm a recent back to work mom who just started therapy because I feel like I now suck at everything. Instead of doing any one thing 100%- being a mom, wife, worker, business owner, blogger, friend I do everything half assed, and that just isn't me. But I have to be ok with it. And I guess half assed is better than not at all. It is so tough, but comforting to know I am not the only one who feels this way so thanks for sharing.

  28. I suck at being a work at home mom. But I have come to understand that most of us suck at being a mom and that the ones who look like that have it all together are usually just as sucky as the rest of us. They just hide it better. Embrace the suck. The only important thing is that we love our children and that they always know it.

    1 agrees
  29. "I believe compassion is infinite and abundant, but sometimes I arrive home so drained, and it is nearly impossible to connect with the people at home who need my warmth and positive energy."
    This quote could have been pulled directly from the book on burnout (Burnout, The Cost of Caring) I am reading right now. I just wanted to say that you don't suck at it! It's not about you; it is about the situation. The book says burnout is a risk in any helping relationship, from helping professions to parenting, and you are doing both. I won't urge you to "take care of yourself" because that is saying that if you just did things better, you would be able to do it. I hope that you can let yourself off the hook and then eventually change the situation. Anything that you can delegate, delegate (I love the comments suggesting hiring a cleaning crew). I had to actually change careers. It's not what I would have chosen to do, but my body forced the issue, and now I am glad it did :). I am much happier. I also enlisted the help of my family. "I SHOULD be able to do this" became a red flag for "I am attempting to do something that I don't actually have the capacity for, and I am trying to make it happen through guilty self-punishment, so maybe I will ask for help instead or let this thing go."

    We are infinite beings in limited bodies. πŸ™‚ I send you so many emotional hugs! Remember it's not you! You ARE truly rocking this party, as much as is humanly possible! Everything else? Not within your capacity, and not your fault.

    3 agree
    • Thank you! I do have a fairly good support network, which I didn't really address in this post, as it was more about my own limitations personally. I love "we are infinite beings in limited bodies". What a beautiful way to put it.

      1 agrees
  30. Adding another "you are not alone". I have a 2.5YR old toddler and work full time. I'm gone 12hours a day Mon-Fri and I hate myself for it. My fiance also work full time. I am lucky enough that he picks up my son (not his, my son's father and I are divorced) from daycare every day for me, takes care of him for a couple hours and makes us all dinner. But even with all of that I still feel overwhelmed at the amount of stuff that still needs to be done around the house, its a choice between cleaning/laundry or spending every waking second with my little guy while I can. I miss so much during the week, and he goes to his dad's every other weekend, so I can't bear to give up any of my time with him. As a result, the house gets cleaned every other weekend when he is away and laundry usually gets thrown in before bed, then switched before I leave for work, etc etc. Gotta find a way to make it work. My fiance and I desperately want to start trying for a baby after the wedding, I just can't handle the thought of leaving my infant at daycare ALL DAY. I love the l;adies ther and trust them completely, they were fantastic with my son, but it was hard enough the first time. I have a breakdown any time I even think of leaving my yet-to-even-be-conceived baby there too….

  31. Your story is really touching, Charlotte. If I imagine myself in your position, but working from home and raising my family instead of going to work outside of the home every day, I actually feel quite the same. When I sit with these incredible similarities, I think back to some workshops I went to, pre-baby, about men and women (understandingmen.com). I learned that men's testosterone regenerates daily, almost immediately, yet 1/2 of ours is stored in our adrenals, and when it's gone, it's gone for quite some time. Whether we are WAHMs, SAHMs, or whatever the silly acronym for work-outside-the-home-moms (WOHMs?), we are ALL doing too much and not able to recharge ourselves with the way life goes these days. I know very few women who are not burnt out on some level. I'm actually (after baby #2 is born and done nursing) considering bioidentical hormone replacement evaluations and therapy to see if I can get my energy rebalanced after years and years and years of wreaking havoc on myself, my adrenals, and my natural limits as a woman. I look forward to at least trying what seems to be the only way for me to really feel that childhood energy I've never had since joining the workforce, having a baby, joining the WAHMs, and full-time mothering. Hmmmm…hoping for all of us who are spread entirely too thin.

  32. Wow. Thank you to everyone for your reall thoughtful, kind, and compassionate comments to my post here at Offbeat mama. I am beyond humbled and touched that you all took the time to read my post and make such supportive comments. I wrote this post on "one of those days." I think that most of us feel spread way too thin, and this can be really draining and frustrating. What I failed to address in my post is what a supportive safety net I do have– husband, parents, inlaws, and friends– who all love and care for me and my family. One reader commented that "it takes a village" is a good mentality to adopt and I totally agree with that. Another reader very aptly said that even with all the supports, the village, "ME" time, good nutrition, exercise, and a cleaning lady, etc., it can still just feel plain hard. I couldn't agree more with that statement, and if I went back and edited this post, I would probably add those two items. Again, thank you so much for reading and commenting– all you Mamas rock!

  33. I am your suckitude twin apparently. Except… my "husband" feels that simply going to is full time job should be all he needa to so because he makes the most money, so every night he gets to come home and hide in the basement on his computer getting drunk and passing out around eleven, but not before he spreads his dirty work clothes around, makes a can full of trash, shits all over the back of the toiley, leaves dishes everywhere and in the sink….and fully thinks it is acceptable to leave the rest on me which is a full time job, giving my child all the attention she needs and having a perfectly spotless house 24/7…. because apparently his mother had jo problem so I shouldn't. I kind of fantasize about him leaving me!!!!! I feel like I could be wayyyyyyy less sucky of a "working mom" without him. Sometimes I pray for it.

    1 agrees
  34. You have effectively captured my life in your post! I work 3 days a week and am a mum the other 4. I feel like I do neither well, which I guess probably means the work-life balance is right. But it's hugely unsatisfying. I'm not able to make myself available for new opportunities at work as these would require me to go fulltime, and my kids are growing up before my eyes and need me to do more fun stuff with them. We're currently trying to re-jig our situation so that I am able to stay home until our twins get to preschool, but foregoing my regular income and living off my self-employed husband's income will be really tough. Anyway, just wanted to say you are definitely not alone in your struggles!

  35. I could have written this. Thanks for showing that there are others out there trudging through the same days. I can only hope and assume that somewhere along the way, it gets easier and we can look back to realize that we did everything we really could have.

  36. I read this yesterday and last night as I sat on the floor surrounded by toys with my 8 month old precious daughter looking at the dog hair on the floor that needed vacuumed once again, the dust collecting on the T.V. Stand and the Pile of laundry blocking my bedroom door, I thought of all you said..and just let myself be in the moment with her. It felt really good. She is at that stage of wanting to be on my lap ALL the time..usually I get frustrated..sitting..thinking of all the things I NEED to be doing but am not. I get impatient with her and sometimes Im not the best mommy. But last night I made a choice to let it go and just BE ..with her and enjoy our play time. I also have a son, who yesterday turned 21 years old, trust me the time is gone with a blink of an eye and the times of sitting on the floor surrounded by dog hair they don't last very long..sadly.Thank you for helping me see that Im not the only one last night sitting in a dirty house playing with my little peanut..but I was a mommy that was present and SO in love with being right where I needed to be. Im going to try and remember this every time Im on the floor and catch myself looking around at all that needs to be done..Thank you Thank you!

    1 agrees
    • Thank you so much for this comment to my post. It means so much to hear from other moms who are in similar situations. Momaste to you!

  37. I'm on the verge of going back to work full time as a teacher after several happy months of maternity leave – happy, except for missing my competant, professional side and the buzz of doing a job I enjoy! I've loved the time I've had to focus on being just a mom, but I'm also looking forward to getting back to work.

    My role model in this is my own full-time educator mother who raised myself and my sister semi-single handedly because for much of my childhood my father had a job that had him travelling most of every week.

    We spent time at daycare, where we made friends with other kids, we had pizza and salad or sandwiches and fruit for dinner a couple of times a week, which we liked, and, yeah, we often fished our clean clothes out of laundry baskets, because who has time for folding? We grew up knowing we were loved and cared for, and we didn't particularly care that the floors got grubby in the busy weeks leading up to school holidays.

    Most importantly, I think, my sister and I grew up admiring our mom for being both a loving parent and a strong, competant professional. This is how I want my son to see me, even if some days we skip a bath or get take-out because neither my husband or I have time to cook.

    1 agrees
  38. This is me. This is my life. I only have one child so far but I am also working full time (12 hr shifts on an ambulance) and trying madly to finish nursing school. Our house is a mess. We have nearly no extra cash. It feels like a total mess. I see my part time and stay at home friends with clean houses and children who seem to always be one step ahead (total projection I am sure) and I just think "I suck at this". I love my daughter, I love my job. I hate being a grown up. I need a house keeper and a gym membership and about 6 more hours in every day. I can't thank you enough for sharing this post. I feel less alone.

  39. I'm really glad you wrote this because I feel on the brink of your life in a way. I am on Mat leave now; my son is 6 months old and I have three months left (of paid leave). I feel pressure to figure things out before the money runs out. I have decided not to return to my job that was incredibly stressful, in a company that has done massive lay-offs two of the past three years. I keep going back and forth between thoughts of working full time or part time; I am reluctantly applying to jobs and almost calling daycares in the area to find out their rates and if they have space.

    I think you are doing an excellent job. Please give yourself credit for being so strong.

    I am frustrated by the impossible expectations put on moms by society, the limited jobs with decent pay and flexibility, and the huge cost of daycare.

    I want to work part time. Ideally I'd be home with my son about 60% of the week. It would require strict budgeting and time management… Some suggestions about how to make this work and find time to have fun/de-stress would be appreciated!

  40. thank you so much for the blog post. I can completely completely relate to it! My husband and I both work 3/4-time non-profit jobs because that is where our calling is, and we need the income to stay afloat with two small kids (ages 2 and 4), but I honestly don't know if I am cut out to be a stay at home mom even if we won the lottery tomorrow! I can't tell you how reassuring it is to read about how messy other people's homes are, how kids go unbathed, laundry goes unfinished, kids are eating scraps on the floor, and emotions get a little heated sometimes. I have really struggled to learn how to prioritize and "balance" (whatever the hell that means) things, and it's definitely not been pretty along the way. it was slash and burn for a couple years as I cut out more and more 'optional' things in my life in order to retain some semblance if sanity, and i'm still overwhelmed ALL the time, never getting to more than 50% of my to-do list, and working hard to not resent it all. I wash my hair about every 4 days because I just don't have the time to do it more often! (it's long and a pain in the neck). I, too, have an amazingly supportive husband who does a TON at home, but considering he's gone 11 hours a day, and working a night shift every 6th night, it's utterly exhausting, EVERY day.

    and like you, mornings are the worst. I'm trying to get my 4 yr old to preschool, get my 2 yr old's diaper bag ready, look half-way presentable for my fundraising position, make sure I haven't forgotten anyone's lunch, feed the cat, change a poopy diaper that my 2-yr old just announced she has, turn the heat back before leaving, bring water bottles in the car, get my daughter's nap bag, make sure I have snacks so I can avoid full-scale melt downs on the way home when I really need to be already home and fixing dinner. it's unbelievable! and yet, I still berate myself for being late EVERY blessed day, like – why can't I ever get out of the house on time? we have this ideal we think we need to live up to, and it's utterly unrealistic and only adds to the stress. regular self-talk has finally helped quiet that voice for me, but it's taken a looooong time.

    in short, hang in there, sistah. you are so not alone. I hate that someone else spends more time with my kids than I do, and sees/experiences so many fun and special moments, but I'm secretly not sure I'm cut out to be a stay at home mom either, which feels a bit like a dirty secret to me. thank you again for sharing, and sorry this is so rambling.

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