This Is Why Working Parents Are Exhausted AF

by Ashleigh Wilkening
Father sleeping on a couch with his newborn
monkeybusinessimages / Getty

This working mom struggle may be new to me, but it’s fair to say, this relentless battle of juggling the ridiculous amount of shit is a plague inflicted upon all us mamas deperately attempting to fulfill multiple roles.

Regardless of whether you’re a stay-at-home or a working mom, neither gig is inferior to the other. Either way, you’re confronted with different battles and struggles. Personally, as of late, working life and mommying haven’t been playing nice in the sandbox, so to speak.

This week, for example, has been a goddamn mess. My husband is out of town, leaving me to pull double duty, which I’m not assuming is anywhere near as difficult as single mom life, but still is exhausting AF.

Every morning my day starts with getting three children under the age of 5 out the door to daycare. Bottles? Check. Backpack? Check. Signed paperwork? Check. Everyone wearing clothes? Check!

What day is today? Tuesdays are “share day,” for which I negotiate with my tiny tyrant to pick only one — not five — things to bring. Wednesdays are “letter” days, and I need to provide my eldest with an item that coincides with the letter of the week. This week’s letter is C and my child insists “snake” starts with C. My futile attempts to reason with him result in me leaving the house with a snake and the only other things I can think to grab — a carrot and celery stick from the fridge — I wasn’t sure if it should follow the rule of “phonetic” c. Thinking back, I don’t understand why I didn’t make it easy on myself and grab a toy car. Did I mention I’m tired?

So there I go, sending my preschooler off to school with two raw vegetables praying he doesn’t eat them before it’s time to show the class his contribution. I know, mother of the year over here. Oh, and teacher, please don’t judge me. I love my child just as much as other parents love theirs, I swear. In my dream of dreams, I would have a calendar and plan a month in advance, but this is reality, and I barely know what day it is until the morning is upon us.

Which brings us to the logistical nightmare of scheduling. Drop-off is at 6:30 a.m. which means I must be up at 4:30 a.m., and by 6:15 a.m. I need to have myself and three kids changed, fed and presentable-ish. Today is picture day? I must change my kids into an outfit that screams “this family has their shit together.” I later rethink the time and energy spent on their attire when my boys decide to wrestle in the muddy snow mound on the way into school and find my youngest bathing in shit soup when removing her from her carseat.

I finally pass the finish line and arrive to work whenever I’m released from the grasps of daycare drop-off in the morning. While at work, I must be present, engaging, and handle business like a boss while receiving notifications and emails about my littles — but I dare not let it interfere with demands of work or be distracted with every thought swimming in my head, like M was coughing today. Is he getting sick? — while remaining on high alert in anticipation of receiving a sick call from school.

Did I sign that sheet of paper and put it in J’s backpack? Is the baby running low on formula? Did dad sign up for time slot for conferences? Did I remember to put the boys’ favorite snacks in their lunch?

Pre-K is Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, for which bus timing is imperative. Someone needs to be home at 4:05 to pick up my eldest. I must leave work at 3:15 to pick up the kids and grab my eldest from the bus then commences dinnertime rush, bath time, homework, lunch bag prepping and clothes for the following day.

This limited, brief time I crave and ache for all day to spend with them, and I’m rushing to prepare and serve dinner, clean shit, and plan to repeat the same crap the following day. Any time with them is completing tasks on a list without any quality interaction. The night finishes off when I somehow manage to get the kids in bed by 7:30 p.m., which turns into 8:15 p.m., and finish up laundry because my boys are always out of underwear (thank you, potty training) and settle in for a reheated plate of leftovers and trash TV for an hour before I pass out and start it all over again.

Garbage day is tomorrow? Sure, let’s drag those overloaded receptacles to the curbside. Exhausted? Yeah, me too!

Despite my best effort, I can’t please everyone to the degree I want. 100% of me is not focused on one role, but rather spread thinner than ever. The moral of the story is, you can’t win. You can’t be mother of the year and successfully satisfy all the intense demands of work life while you’re running around like a wild woman trying to keep everything in balance.

All we can do is try our best and pray we don’t drop the ball or let something important slip through the cracks.