Dear Working Mom,
I don’t know how you do it.
We’ve all seen the hilarious BBC interview that went so very wrong when a toddler and baby came running into the room while their dad was on Skype being interviewed about democracy in South Korea. It was my favorite YouTube moment of the year — until my friend reposted this on Facebook, a spoof of what it would have been like if it had happened to a woman — a working mom. And the reason I laughed so hard is that it so absolutely could have been true.
But actually, it’s kind of not funny.
Because, working mom, I don’t know how you do it.
I don’t know how you get up in the mornings and get not only your small people looking presentable, but yourself as well. Hair, makeup, clothes that do not fall into the activewear category, grown-up shoes — but you do.
I don’t know how you make breakfasts and pack lunches, and get small people to sit down and eat said breakfasts, while simultaneously preparing yourself mentally for whatever tasks are waiting for you when you get to your desk — but you do.
I don’t know how you manage to do the school run, administering that all-important “one last kiss,” and then haul yourself across town (or sometimes even farther) to wherever work is and arrive on time — but you do.
I don’t know how you field meetings and pediatrician appointments (both of which could be rescheduled at any given time), sick kids, conference calls, and the eyerolls of those who don’t know better when you absolutely have to leave at 5 p.m. (I hear the voices only half-joking: “Oh, half-day today?”) — but you do.
I don’t know how you keep straight in your head the permission slips that need to be returned and the birthday gifts that need to be purchased and wrapped while simultaneously putting together a PowerPoint presentation on That Important Thing for a room full of people — but you do.
I don’t know how you finish your day job and then rush home to start your other, harder, more demanding job. You cook dinner, you get them to tell you about their day, smiling while you try not to feel sad about the moments you missed. You coo over their artwork, oversee homework, referee skirmishes, kiss boo-boos to make them all better, do bath time, read bedtime stories, and then when the lights are finally out, there is the matter of running your household to attend to: making sure school clothes and sports uniforms are clean and in the right place, opening the mail, finding time with your partner.
I don’t know how you do it, but you do.
Working moms, you are the true unsung heroes, the true feminists, the true foot soldiers. Most of what you do goes unacknowledged because you make it look easy. You never let your kids think for one moment that there’s anything more important to you than they are, and by some Houdini-esque, magical slight of hand, you simultaneously keep climbing the corporate ladder, ensuring there are places open for the rest of us, ensuring we don’t get left too far behind.
I’ve heard it said that there can be a tendency towards judgment between different “camps” of women — the stay-at-home moms judging those who choose to value their careers too much to abandon them, the moms who go back to work judging the more Stepford-oriented among us for staying home. I have to say that I’ve never experienced any judgment of this kind. It’s been my experience that, whatever we do after we have children, it’s always accompanied by an element of regret and guilt. Those of us who stay home feel guilty for letting our careers stall, our educations go to “waste,” our skills get rusty. Those who return to work feel torn.
Judgment has no place here.
I’ve also heard it said that it takes a village, and that working moms have a team to help them. But in the middle of the night, you’re still Mommy. When your kids are sick, you’re still Mommy. You have to know who is where, when, and you’re the one who makes sure things don’t fall apart. You deserve every bit of credit for doing an impossible job, no matter how much help you have.
I can’t speak for women the world over, but from my little corner of reality I just want to say this: Thank you, working mom. Thank you for doing the hardest job in the world and making it look easy. Thank you for taking judgment from those who don’t know better and brushing it off because, really, you’re far too busy for all that. Thank you for walking out of that meeting early and ignoring the sighs from the people who will someday understand, so that you could get back to your kids.
Every day you are making strides toward normalizing work-life balance for parents — even if it is sometimes at the cost of your own pride. Thank you for showing us that who you were before, although never the same again after children, is important to preserve.
Thank you for holding our metaphorical seats for us in the office, so when those of us who stayed away longer do return, you’re there, just ahead of us, making sure the path is clear and we don’t trip and fall.
I don’t know how you do it, but, just, thank you. You’re my hero.
A Grateful Mom