Working Mothers Need More Realistic Expectations

I’m the mother of a beautiful three-year-old little girl named Brenna. I also work approximately 70 hours a week. For anyone wondering if this situation is easy, the answer is no. It’s not easy. Working motherhood is rewarding, but I would never say that it’s a piece of cake. It involves a ton of stress, numerous difficult discussions and often, a heavy dose of guilt.

Recent research shows that women who expected the juggle between family and career to go smoothly showed more signs of depression once the situation was actually upon them. Those women who went into motherhood assuming that they would have a hard time managing their family and their profession were happier in the long run. While the findings may feel like a little bit of schadenfreude for moms who never pretended to be perfect, I’m not sure we can completely blame the “Supermom” mentality on naivete or inflated egos. The fact is, most working mothers spend a lot of time trying to convince the world that their balancing act is no big deal.

As a mom, I too fall into this habit. I don’t want to seem like I can’t do my job, so I assure those around me that my motherhood never impedes my career. Of course I can manage two jobs at one time! Lots of people do it! Most don’t try to do it while they have a toddler at home, but moms can do anything! And we can. But that doesn’t mean that the entire process is easy. I would hope that our co-workers and superiors wouldn’t think less of us simply for admitting that the situation is complex and sometimes, we have a hard time. Unfortunately, to counter-act an persistent negative view that mothers always have a higher priority than their job, most moms are afraid to admit to any weakness. Just think about the resentment many of our co-workers feel when we go away on maternity leave! Knowing that, most of us aren’t going to come back to work and divulge the difficulties about performing our job on two hours sleep, smelling like spit-up.

On the other front of this battle, working moms never want to acquiesce on the ever-present “Mommy Wars.” Of course, we’re capable of loving and caring for our children just as well as any stay-at-home-mom. Having a career doesn’t mean that I can’t nurture my kids! Look at the time we have in the evenings and on the weekends, creating lasting childhood memories and bonding over storybooks! Working moms would never want to be perceived as doing less for their child because of their choice to work outside the home. We want everyone to know that we didn’t make the wrong decision. To other mothers, we constantly defend ourselves to prove that we love our child just as much as anyone else.

With all this pressure to be the perfect employee and the perfect mother, is it really surprising that most mothers would hate to talk about their difficulties? Why would you want to be seen as inferior, either in maternal instinct or professional dedication? “Supermoms” assume that its easy to balance career and family because all those that went before them spend an enormous amount of energy telling the world, “This is super easy! I can be great at both!” And we can! Really, I believe that we can be awesome professionals and amazing parents. But that doesn’t mean that its simple. It takes a lot of hard-work, a lot of juggling and a whole bunch of determination. Working mothers are capable of succeeding in both areas of their lives, but maybe we should be more supportive when they admit that it’s hard work. The more women who stand up and openly discuss the difficult times, the more realistic expectations new moms will have. Maybe instead of shaking our heads at those silly “Supermoms,” we should try giving them a break.

(Photo: Undecided)

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    • Lori B

      Lindsay, awesome post, as usual! My daughter is 2 years old and I have worked full time since she was born (less the 8 weeks I took for maternity leave). It has been a constant struggle filled with guilt and feelings of inadequacy. I always wondered how I could be a good feminist and not be able to handle being a working mother. When I first went back to work, I was able to work from home 2 days per week. Some said I was lucky, but that is where most of the guilt came from. When I was home, I felt like I had to do everything all at the same time, but logic tells us that is simply not possible. Yes, I could nurse my daughter and respond to emails, but I couldn’t do anything that required thought. As she got older, it bacame even more difficult do both jobs well. After a conversation with my boss about my performance, I started working only 1 day per week at home. That day was the most stressful and unproductive day of the week for me. No one understood what I meant. My husband thought that because I was in my pajamas, it must be easy. But the fact that I was in my pajamas meant I did not even have a second to get dressed! I have since switched to a job where the hours are much better for our family and I am lucky that it is also a step up in my career. Being able to see that my daughter is turning out to be a smart, independent and caring person with a working mother helps to alleviate any of the guilt. She loves her day care provider and has very loving relationships with me and my husband. Sometimes it takes seeing the results, to see that the struglle is worth it in the end.

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