Yesterday, I was standing at the stove making dinner for my family (or, let’s be honest, two dinners: one for the grown-ups and one for the picky AF kids). At the same time that this was happening, I was breaking up fights between my kids, answering work emails, shooting off some interview questions for a client, helping with homework, and revising one of my articles in my head.
Oh, and wiping one kid’s butt – you know, for good measure.
When my oldest refused (again) to eat his broccoli and my youngest started taking out this fossil excavating kit that unleashed an ungodly amount of gray dust all over my just-cleaned kitchen floor, I about lost it. No, scratch that. I totally lost it, yelling at both kids at the same time, rage and stress pouring out of every cell in my body.
Even while I was yelling, I saw my phone light up with messages from my editors, the to-do list that is perpetually running through my head began multiplying, and my head began to pound with the knowledge that even after I finished feeding the kids and winding them down for bed, there was at least another hour or so of work ahead of me.
Enter the life of a WAHM.
You are constantly working and parenting, both at the same time. There is no divide between your life as a mom and your career. Every breath you take is a multi-tasking miracle. And you are a #blessed #badass #momhustler #mompreneur and #youvegotthis.
Listen: I don’t take my blessings for granted. I really don’t. When I became a parent over a decade ago, I knew I would need to work to support my family, but I had no freaking clue how I would do that. Childcare where I lived was through-the-freaking-roof-expensive. Plus, I really wanted to be as involved in my kids’ lives as possible.
The WAHM life seemed ideal to me, and I know why it seems ideal to so many moms. I could make money while staying home with my kids. Yay! And over the past few years, I’ve finally found a way to do that full-time. Double yay!
What I didn’t bargain for was just how stressful it is. You are always on – either with your kids or at work. And yes, most working moms experience that. But what makes WAHM-ing unique is that a lot of the time you are doing both at the same exact fucking time.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve conducted important interviews locked in the bathroom while little fingers slip me notes under the door. Or the professional, high-profile work I’ve done while breastfeeding or changing diapers.
I personally do not do well with multi-tasking. It overwhelms me. It makes my anxiety spiral out of control. It’s physically and mentally exhausting.
Yes, we WAHMs can do it every day. Yes, we can do it well. But I don’t think any of us are supposed to be giving 200% of our energy literally all the time. There is no boundary between work and home life. It’s too damn much.
It’s time we stop glorifying the WAHM life. Enough with all the vapid hashtags and the pictures of #bossmoms looking all perky and perfect sitting there in front of their beautifully arranged workspaces as if they don’t have naked toddlers underfoot spilling apple juice all over their bare feet.
Let’s not forget that part of the reason that WAHM-hood is so popular and appealing is because so many of us have no choice but to do it all. Why? Because our country does not offer reasonably priced childcare or paid leave. Our economic structure rarely leaves open the possibility of a family being able to survive on one income (or both parents working part-time, if that is desired).
Make no mistake: it’s oppressive as hell to women. I know there are some kick-ass WAH dads out there, but the majority of parents in this role, juggling both jobs, are women. You know, working and child-raising and cooking and cleaning and bearing the entire mental load of the household.
Like we always have. Only now we have to do it all at the very same time. Look at how amazing we are. (And for real, can you imagine a man putting up with the amount of bullshit WAHMs do?)
My kids are both in school now (holy crap, the silence is delightful), so I see the light at the end of the tunnel. Yet things are still supremely exhausting. I am still the default parent for sick days, school events, vacations, transportation, and the after-school homework/dinner rush. I still spend a whole lot of my day working and mothering, one right on top of the other.
I don’t know what the answer is. I am grateful to spend my days with my kids. I really wouldn’t have it any other way, most days. And unless I win the lottery, I will be here doing the #wahmmomlife4ever. Or until they go to college, that is.
But I’m not going to sit here and pretend that it’s the best thing in the world, or that I have an immaculate, Instagram-worthy office space.
I’m tired. I’m tired of doing it all. I’m tired of pretending it doesn’t suck sometimes. I’m tired of the whole #wahm social media bullshit world also pretending that it doesn’t suck.
I think we all need to be more honest about it all, to have a dialogue with each other and as a culture about how we can make the lives of working mothers and families more equitable.
But before that, I think we all deserve a giant fucking nap.