I’ve been a mom for four years, and in that short time my work schedule has changed drastically depending upon our family’s needs. I have worked over 80 hours a week when my first was an infant, and I have logged as few as 12 hours per week soon after we had our second, when life really turned into a balancing act.
I thought the latter schedule would be ideal, but that euphoria lasted about 12 minutes into day two. Between naps, tantrums, snacks, fatigue, and diaper changes, I started questioning my skillset as a mom. I can’t do this!, I remember saying over and over in my head, on the brink of tears, overwhelmed by my inability to manage two small children.
I remember one day that first week when my husband came home to all three of us crying, toys everywhere, the house smelling like poop and old breast milk. My husband gave me a hug, silently took the baby and ordered Thai food for dinner. I did slowly adjust to spending most of my time at home, but I never felt quite as fulfilled as I had hoped. Now don’t get me wrong, there were a lot of really great times in there too, moments like “wearing our diapers on our heads day” that I will always treasure as some of my favorite memories. But I also felt like I’d lost a huge part of myself, and didn’t have time to find it amidst all the chaos. I didn’t know what I wanted, but this current situation wasn’t working.
I have now settled into a comfortable 20-hour work week, which makes me an excited new member of the Part-Time Working Mom (PTWM) Club. I thought this would solve all my problems, but it turns out I still don’t know what I’m doing. Despite what sounds like an ideal schedule, I actually have more people counting on me, am always running behind or missing out on something, and wear too many hats at once.
Challenges Of A PTWM
I don’t quite fit in anywhere. I always feel like a bit of an outsider with my friends, who tend to be either full time working moms or SAHMs. I’m not trying to be divisive here, because I have worked full time and stayed at home, and know neither are a walk in the park. It’s just hard to find someone who has a similar life schedule. I’m either missing out on weekday playdates or trying to get to know families that are only free once every 5 weekends.
Turns out I’m lousy at juggling. Three days a week, I dress professionally and show up to the office on time, while the the other half of the week I’m trying to schedule playdates, run ten loads of laundry, and redirect my toddler over and over and over again (Hands are not for hitting!) It’s really hard to keep it all straight! No matter where I’m supposed to be that day, I always manage to forget something and am usually running about 5-10 minutes late.
My brain is often somewhere else. No matter where I am, I never feel fully present. I find it hard to disengage when home with the kids- to completely turn off my work brain and set those thoughts aside. And on the flip side, I frequently check my phone at work to see if daycare has called and am always racing to daycare pick up in the evenings.
I am making sacrifices at work. I know that by not working full time, I am missing out on career opportunities. I’m ok with that because I get to be home with my kids and it helps the household run smoothly. But there is a big part of me that wants to be a leader in my field one day, and it is sometimes a bitter pill to swallow that I am actively choosing not to pursue that track at this point in my life.
I am sacrificing time with my kids. When I’m at work, I miss my kids. I look at cute pictures of them and think about all the fun things we could be doing together. I regret not being able to take them to music class, ballet, and swim lessons during the weekdays, and feel guilty that they are being cared for by someone else. I worry that I’m missing out on their lives, and will never get that time back. As many working moms know, the guilt is always there, sometimes quiet, sometimes gnawing at your heart, but always hovering in the background.
What I’m learning is that there is no perfect work-life balance. It’s a moving target that’s only constant seems to be change. The best advice I received was from a wise and experienced older PTWM: stop ruminating! Pick a work schedule, commit to it, and embrace it. Re-evaluate once a year to see what might work better for you and the family. And then try to be in the moment as much as possible, wherever that might be.
Any PTWMs out there? What's the best piece of advice YOU would give?
Contributing Sister Site and Author
Meredith is a 33 year-old transplant to the Bay Area, and has fallen in love with the weather, gorgeous scenery, and plethora of kid-friendly parks and activities. A wife and mother of two, she also works part-time as a Child and Adolescent psychiatrist. She hails from Texas, where she attended the University of Texas and will always bleed orange. She then moved to Washington DC for medical school, where she fell in love with her husband, a fellow student, and has now been happily married for 6 years. She and her husband moved to Cincinnati, Ohio for Residency where they started their family, and then recently relocated to the Bay Area last year. Meredith has chosen to devote more time at home now that she has two young kids, and has been enjoying the balance of working and full time parenting. In her limited free time, she enjoys reading, running, playing old lady soccer, watching college sports, and more recently wine tasting.