As the movie “I Don’t Know How She Does It” comes out this Friday, I am reminded of how, well, naive, I was to the whole world of working momma. Heck, I was clueless as to what was going to happen during delivery and seeing animals born on the farm should have been a clue to me.
But, the role of working momma is a hard one. Yes, so is the role of stay at home mom. I really don’t know how all of you women who stay home full-time don’t go postal. Lord knows, my mother has reminded me that I am not cut out for staying home with my kids because I would go postal.
So, as I look back over the last six and a half years of working full-time, with five of those years with a 45+ mile commute, let me share some words of wisdom.
I can assure you of this. When you are at work, or worse yet, on a work trip in another state or country, you will feel guilty for not being with your child. When you are with your children you will feel guilty that you are not at some optional work event that you know is covered, but still feel like you should be there. Guilt. Guilt. Guilt.
Get over it though. Men don’t feel guilt when they leave work early to go fish or stay a few extra days on a business trip to, oh yeah, fish instead of coming straight home to hear about the spelling test or third tooth that popped through while he was gone. They just do it.
I have probably gone above and beyond over compensating for the guilt I feel. I over commit at work to prove I am committed and then I let my kids do more activities than any sane mother should. I just don’t want anyone coming back on me and saying if only you didn’t work when I was growing up or if only you didn’t have kids you would have gotten the promotion. But, I make my own choices and no one has guilted me into anything. It is all me.
You are going to feel guilty. Learn how to manage it and don’t be too hard on yourself.
Buy a box of Kleenx and hide them in your car.
I work in a male dominated industry. I have been to meetings regarding the meat industry, and I have been one of three women in a room of 150 men. I have had two female bosses out of seven different bosses I have had. People don’t want to see you cry. Or at least, that is the way I feel.
I have left at lunch to sit in the Wendy’s parking lot with a large frosty and french fries from McDonald’s and cried for 30 minutes after I had gotten a text that I missed the first steps taken by my kid for the second time. I obviously have used food for comfort in an unhealthy way too.
I have cried when leaving the kids at sitters. I have cried coming home from work because I am stuck in traffic because some idiot doesn’t know how to drive in rain and all I want is my babies. I have cried because I am so angry that my husband wasn’t tied to a job that kept him from missing everything I missed. I cried when my kids cried at first day drop offs. I cried when my kid called and left a voice mail to tell me he pooped in the toilet all by himself.
Have Kleenex, you will cry.
Make sure you have other working mom friends.
Nothing makes you feel guilt like being constantly reminded that you don’t stay home by your friends that stay home with their kids. I can’t count the number of times I have sat at a home jewelry party or get together, school event, bible class, doctor’s office, school open house and felt like someone didn’t belong and it was ME.
All these conversations about play dates and volunteering in the classroom and who has chicken on sale and who is going to what garage sale on Friday morning and how they would never have someone other than family watch their kids, yadda, yadda, yadda. I would get in the car and, yep, pull out the Kleenx. I wouldn’t let on that it bothered me. I couldn’t join in on the conversation, but frankly they didn’t notice.
I soon realized though, while the conversations were painful, they weren’t meant to be painful or mean towards me. These women interact everyday via text, calls, facebook and face to face. They are each others support system. You need your support system.
If it were not for people like my friends Heather or Katie or Jeanette or Cris there are days I would have never gotten away from the Kleenx box in my car. You have to have girlfriends that get it. Girlfriends who call when they are commuting back home from the airport. Girlfriends who call to see how something big at work went or small at home went. Girlfriends who embrace your juggling act and volunteer to help you juggle by helping out with the kids even though they are buried alive too. Girlfriends who you live near and far are equally as valuable. Let’s face it, you don’t have time for much face time with your kids and husband let alone a girlfriend.
You will need these women. Trust me. Seek them out.
Invest in clothes that make you feel good.
I have spent a butt load of cash on cheap clothes that make me look terrible. But recently, I had a good friend that said just spend the money on a pair of jeans that you feel good putting on. I cringed when I bought them. They did cost a three figure amount. I had bought some $50 jeans since having kids, but I rarely wore them, so this was painful for me. What if I ended up not liking them. But to my pleasant surprise, I love them. Wear them multiple times a week and have gone back for more. Plus I get a compliment about looking good or losing weight almost every time I wear them.
Same is true for work clothes. In college, when I thought I was poor but now realize I was filthy rich since I had virtually no bills except beer and clothes, I bought my “dress” clothes from The Limited. They were the only store that had a pair black pants that were long enough for me and a pair of 3 inch heels. After I had Boo, I started shopping at less expensive department stores. I looked ok, but didn’t feel that great about myself. I am back at The Limited and other stores that will tailor my pants and jackets to fit my tall frame. I am not afraid to buy fewer pieces that cost more. TJ Maxx has also become one of my new favorite stores.
I mean it. Don’t be ashamed of having someone come clean your house or fold your laundry or mow your grass or whatever it is you don’t want to do because you would rather be with your kids on Saturday morning. Look for a high school or college aged student who needs cash and is willing to watch your kids so you can go for a run, buy groceries or take a shower without someone trying to get in the shower with you.
If people stop by unexpected and your house is a wreck, don’t apologize, they are the ones that stopped unannounced. You live in your home. You work hard. Your kids play hard. You laugh and have fun in your house. That means it most likely will get messy. So, don’t be to proud to know you can’t do it all and hire someone to help. Even if it is only every once in a while.
Don’t lose you!
I think some of the things I have been most upset about as a working mom haven’t been real big issues except to me. I was worried people were judging me, when really I was the only one judging me. I was worried my kids would resent me. Actually, I was the only one who resented me. I was upset about missing things that my kids can’t even remember and they did them!
I don’t apologize for taking vacations without my kids. I stay up late into the night chatting with friends in other time zones when I should be sleeping. I facebook too much. I go to lunches just because I miss my best friend when I should work through lunch so I can get more done to be with the kids when I get home. I drink an expensive bottle of wine on random Tuesday nights because I can. I let my kids sleep on the couch on the weekend because I want to sleep there too.
I lost myself for a long time. I am day by day trying to find me, the me that I have become and will be moving into the future. Defined by me and no one else. Don’t lose yourself.
And remember this…
Find other great new mom advice and more over at Mama’s Losin’ It.