I’ve been a working mother and a stay-at-home mother and an in-between mother, and different things have driven me totally crazy at different stages. In fact, sometimes I think motherhood is just an ever-shifting landscape of shit that will make you nuts. Right now, I’m in a working-out-of-the-home stage, and I can tell you that there are a few things that are guaranteed to make me flip out. Below, nine things that drive working mothers up the wall.
1. The morning barf. That moment on a Tuesday morning when you’ve got everyone’s coats on, backpacks on, shoes on, and you’re just starting to herd everyone out the door, and someone pukes. Thus begins a frantic round of calculations and discussions on who’s going to stay home, who has the more important meeting that day, and irritable reminders about who stayed home last time—all while mopping up vomit and wrestling a sick kid into bed. Good times.
2. The dentist running late. Working parents do not have a lot of give in their schedule, so when the pediatrician, the mechanic or the hair salon is running late, I swear I can feel my fingers drumming their impatience even when I’m making an effort to remain calm. Because basically this line of questioning starts up in my head: “What do I have next? Can I be late? Whom do I have to text? Is it better to reschedule and have to fit this in again, or to be an hour late to the next thing?”
3. The 8 a.m, or even 9 a.m., meeting. That’s all well and good for people who don’t have a morning that’s a combination of a delicate ballet choreography and an out-of-control slalom down an ice-covered slope. The early meeting might be OK, if the kids cooperate, the bus is on time, and the gods are smiling on us. But generally we’d like to get into work and have a few minutes to get organized and suck back a third cup of coffee before we have to say “Interesting perspective, Jim,” to our idiot colleague Jim.
4. The colleague who says, “Can I get an update on that project?” at 4:49 p.m. as you’re setting yourself up for the next day, keeping one eye on the clock, and calculating how fast you can get to the day care if you catch all the lights. Jim, you could have gotten the update an hour ago, but you were busy talking about CrossFit with the obviously totally bored admin assistant.
5. Random days off from school. Thanksgiving and major religious holidays, sure. If I have them off from work, I’m fine with the kids being off. But otherwise it’s a holiday that costs a day’s pay in babysitting.
6. Any kind of outage or breakdown. Cable cut out? Dishwasher on the fritz? Sears give you a window of 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. for repair? You know someone is going to have to stay home to wait for the guy and that someone is you.
7. The disorganized colleague. Most working moms I know are organized to the max, partly because they have to be, to make it all work, and partly because they don’t want to reinforce the scatterbrained working-mom stereotype. (We may feel scatterbrained, but we don’t want to look it.) So when Jim the idiot arrives at a meeting clearly unprepared and talking out of his ass, it makes us, well, want to chuck a laptop at his head.
8. The peanut-butter-to-the-skirt maneuver. I usually try to put on my work clothes at the very last second before leaving. But sometimes I’ll forget something, or a kid will demand another goodbye kiss, and that gives my toddler just enough time to smear his little grubby paws all over my clean work clothes.
9. Whoever ate the last egg, or box of pasta, or the leftover chicken in the fridge. I generally have exactly one idea for dinner, maybe a fast carbonara or some “casserole” made out of leftover hamburger and rice. But when I skid in the door at 5:30 and find that someone ate the one ingredient I really need? Let’s just say I’ve buried some creative curse words in a dish towel as I’ve dialed the pizza place again.
There are a lot of advantages to being a working mother, even when it gets crazy. And for the most part, we manage pretty well—right up until the moment someone pukes.