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.
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.
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.
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.