The 40-Hour Workweek Was Not Designed For Moms

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Scary Mommy and Aleksei Morozov/Getty and Reshot

When I started my family with my ex-husband, we both agreed I would stay home with our kids while he got his business off the ground. I felt incredibly lucky — I’d worked with lots of women who had kids and there were many days when they’d come into the office crying. Once, a friend of mine had to bring her six-year-old to work and almost got fired for it. She told me it was either that, or to call in to work (again), which would have gotten her fired anyway. She had trouble finding reliable daycare and her husband worked for the fire department, so they never knew when he’d be called out on an emergency.

The women I knew didn’t even pretend to get it all done but damn, they tried — and beat themselves up about it all the time.

So, while I was breathing a sign of relief and happy to stay home with my babies, I soon realized I was working harder and longer than I ever had in my life. If I’d had to throw a job on top of all of that, I would have been crushed.

I lost a part of my husband during those years. I clearly remember him being irritated if I asked him to change a light bulb when he got home. He barely had the bandwidth to help me with bedtime when he got home and only wanted to relax on the weekends. He forgot how to find his way around a grocery store and he never took care of dinner.

He was working hard to earn money to support his family, but it took all he had. He had nothing left to give in the evenings — I did it all. The cooking, the cleaning, the shopping, the kids’ doctor and dentist appointments, the car pooling, the helping with the homework, as well as our social calendar. I wasn’t the only one in this boat. In fact, every other mother I talked to said their husbands were the same. One of my friends even told me that when she started working again, instead of offering to help pitch in more, her husband told her she was going to have to learn to let things go and get used to having a messy house.

My point is, the 40-hour work week isn’t made so people can kill it at work, then come home and keep all the plates spinning.

And it especially doesn’t leave any room for moms to “do it all.”

If we are being real, almost all of us work more than 40 hours a week anyway. That doesn’t count commuting time if you work outside the home.

This post by bougiepsychic on Instagram went crazy on Facebook and resonated with so many moms for a few reasons.

A lot of mothers need to hear this message, especially this time of year when we are trying to set the stage for a magical holiday season our kids will remember forever.

How easily we forget that the 40-hour workweek was created during a time when rigid gender roles meant that, for the most part, men were bringing home the bacon and women were at home frying it (and then cleaning out the pan). The attitude toward women working may have shifted, but somehow the attitude toward women’s duties at home haven’t caught up yet.

We are not supposed to be holding down a job, then coming home and tending to our kids, taking care of a home, and making sure everyone is fed, clean, and caught up on their homework.. That’s equal to over three jobs — and how many people does it take to accomplish three jobs? That’s right, three people, not one.

Too many mothers feel like they don’t measure up if they aren’t coming home from work with the energy to plate everyone a nice meal, leave the kitchen sparkling, spend quality time with the kids, invest in self care, and in their relationship, only to rise and do it again the next day.

One commenter wrote, “It may be too late for some, but let’s make sure our daughters and granddaughters don’t fall into this trap of trying to do it all. I am not afraid to ask my guy to chip in, he has his house work too. Maybe not as much as I would like.”

This is exactly the kind of message we need to show the younger generation of women so they don’t grow up feeling less than and like it’s their job to keep everything going.

Another chimed in with: “My question is why we as women are left to feel like failures. Why don’t men feel like failures when housework isn’t done, meals aren’t prepared, etc.? I’m sick to death of the antiquated notion of ‘women’s work.’ Men need to evolve into modern partners. While there are some who have, there are too many that haven’t. This is why we have a thread with stressed out, exhausted, overworked women. Who are all AMAZING BTW!!”

This comment hits us all. My ex-husband never once said he felt bad or like a failure because he could only handle work, then playing with the kids for a bit when he got home. He never felt the need to chip in more, cook us a meal. He also never really recognized all I got done and took care of. Well, not until we got divorced and he had the kids part time and had to do all I did (not even half the time) while having kids there and holding down his job. Since then, he has mentioned how hard it has been a few times.

Stop beating yourself up because your house isn’t clean and you aren’t going to make dinner tonight. Stop feeling like you don’t measure up when you see one social media post that leads you to believe another mom is killing it (she’s not — she’s just having a good moment).

You are allowed to say no; you are allowed to ask for help; you are allowed to lower the expectations you put on yourself. Men don’t have any qualms about shrugging off the workday stress by sitting around, so why should we?

Remember, there is only one of you … and if your kids had a choice, they’d much rather have a happy mom than a mom who got it all done, all the time.

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