Obviously, there are a lot of things that are hard when it comes to being a parent… having children is a path that so many people take though it is a tough one, and one that we will surely all struggle with in our individual ways. I know stay-at-home moms that struggle deeply with feelings of isolation, single moms that are hanging on by a thread to keep it all together by themselves, and as a very busy working mom I have a handful of my own challenges… all I am sure are extremely different but so valid.
There is one challenge as a working parent that I feel the deepest and wanted to write about, in hopes that others can relate and know that they aren’t alone in this feeling. And that feeling for me, is never having enough spare time to share with the ones I love.
Let me break this down for you with a look at my typical work day. I work 5 days a week – 11 hour days when you add my lunch break and commute. Almost half a day I spend apart from my beautiful little girls. Add in the hour and a half it takes me to get them ready in the morning, and account for their age appropriate bedtimes, and at the end of the day it leaves me with about an hour to spend with my girls before bed. Five days out of the week, all I have to give them is an hour. If that hour is all we get, I of course want to make it count the best as possible, and I also know this is my only time to sneak in all the cuddles I can get before they are grown and uninterested in this little sliver of time I have to give them. One hour when I hope to catch a glimpse of my baby rolling over for the first time, or listen for her first word. One hour where my four-year-old can tell me all about her day, and I can instill in her that I care and will always be there to listen when she needs me.
This hour is the only time I have for my girls so it is gospel for me to spend it with them. But wait… what about my husband who so badly would love a night out of the house with me so we can feel young and spontaneous again? What about my girlfriend I haven’t seen in 6 months who is having a happy hour for her birthday? My friend who just had a baby and could use a visit for emotional support? The bride whose wedding I am in and would love help planning? My parents who live across the continent from their grand babies and would love a face-time call to catch up? And last… what about me? Where is there even a free moment for me to breathe, to relax, to take care of myself?
The sad part is that many times there isn’t, and if I do make a moment for myself or someone other than my kiddos, there is an enormous amount of guilt that comes along with it. Sure I will go out on a date night with hubby, but there goes a snuggle to bed that my baby would love with her mama who she sees in limited quantities during the week. Maybe I can make it to one birthday party, but I have to turn down the next three that month and risk offending other friends who I couldn’t make it out for. All I have is a year of these one-hour snuggles with my baby before she becomes a toddler, is walking and talking, and how fast that year flies by is heartbreaking.
Sometimes I think that I want to be a stay at home mom… when I was on maternity leave I had a glimpse at it and thought for a second that maybe that could be me. Spending all-day, every-day with my kiddos, it was easy to say an excited YES to a friend when they asked me to come over in the evening… I needed a break! If I wanted to go get my nails done on a Saturday I had no guilt whatsoever taking off for a little me time, because my kids probably had more of me than they could handle all week. It was great to feel so free to commit to personal plans since I know I had been so present with my children all week, and as soon as I went back to work that freedom left.
When it comes down to it though, I know I am supposed to be a working mom. I want my daughters to see their mom out there being a boss chick, contributing financially to our household and enjoying my own career path. I want to set an example for them of what women can accomplish, and that having a family does not mean that they need to put any part of themselves on the back-burner. As a family we love to travel, and all our trips and vacations would not be possible without my income. My daughters may not have memories of me at home with them daily, but they will have memories of flying as early as they can remember, of playing on warm sandy beaches, and exploring different places and cultures together as a family. When everything is weighed out, it comes down to the fact that I am able to provide them with the life I want to give them because I continue to work instead of stay home, and as a result I will continue to do so.
So in closing, what I would like to do is apologize. I want to say that I’m sorry to friends I haven’t seen in months… or maybe even years. You are still just as important to me as you were before I had kids, and in my mind we are just as close as ever. I haven’t forgot you and it means so much to me when you still reach out! I am sorry to my hubby if we don’t get out enough…. I really want to get out too! I tell myself that we can make up for lost time when we are empty-nester’s, but I know that isn’t the right answer. I am sorry to the people I take a week to text back because between it all, I just completely forgot we were having a conversation. I want to apologize to my daughters for the nights I don’t see them because I did decided to make myself social… you are the most important parts of my life and I would do anything to not skip a night of tucking you in.
And lastly, I want to apologize to myself. I am sorry because some days I look in the mirror and I don’t look like myself anymore, with my grown-out roots and half-assed attempts at looking put together. I am sorry that my favorite hobbies have been put on the back-burner for years. When it comes to parenting, there is no overwhelming correct answer, no right way to go about this whole thing, and I am most sorry for the guilt I let consume me as I try to figure it all out.
Is there anyone out there who can relate? I hope so.
X.O. – Abbey Co.