When I first became a mother, I was a “stay at home” mother. While that term confused me before I had children, once I was doing that job myself, I realized how misleading and simplified it was. By the end of the days with my kids, I was far more exhausted — and exhausted in a different way — than I had ever been coming home from my job in an office.
My brain and body were fried after reading, playing, chatting, and just walking around in circles all day with my toddler. Never mind cleaning up after meals and tidying up after playtime, or all the things that went along with leaving the house (iykyk)... Plus a thousand more things I’m tired just thinking about. It took being in that role myself to really understand how much real WORK stay at home parents do, and I say this as a woman of privilege. The vast majority of this role is unseen, as it occurs behind the doors of a home. And once I saw it, with myself and other moms and parents, there was no unseeing it.
Then I started grad school and took a series of jobs through my university and I had another eye-opening moment: all of the duties associated with motherhood and my home were still there — despite the fact that I had other (paid) work to complete. Despite being a pretty aware person, I had no idea how hard that balance would be until I was knee deep in it. And while this thought is hardly revolutionary (the phenomenon was explored by sociologist Arlie Hochschild in her 1989 book, The Second Shift, for instance), I’ll say it anyway: the work of work and the work of home never stop.
There’s an Instagram post that recently went viral that speaks to the neverendingness of motherhood, the constant shifting between work and home and planning and the like that many moms do.
It seems to be resonating with working moms who often find themselves between a rock and a hard place on the daily. One person commented: “Empowering women is only going to make things WORSE without simultaneously increasing male accountability." Another just said: “and a simple... ‘Amen!’”
For me, I always come up short of “perfect,” because of course I do. At times, I brush it off and remind myself that I am not perfect. Other times, I feel angry that being “perfect” in these two worlds is even an expectation that society has of women, and that women may have for themselves. I get angry that I have it for myself.
So what now? There are real systemic issues society needs to address that will help alleviate the challenges and burdens for all working parents — but especially working moms. Until then, we’re left navigating these worlds as effectively as possible for us and our families. After all, managing both worlds is tough, but we do it every day.
Taylor Siering is a mom of two from New York City, currently living in the midwest. She writes personal essays and reviews related to motherhood, mom content, pop culture and social media trends for Scary Mommy.