I Am A Working Mom Trying To Juggle It All Because I Love My Family AND My Career

by Andrea Gallagher Nalls
kupicoo / iStock

I love my career. I worked full-time while getting a master’s degree, completed countless internships, and landed the job I wanted, right out of grad school. It wasn’t easy though. I was the first to arrive and the last to leave.

“Who wants to work New Year’s Day?”

“I will!” I always volunteered.

I didn’t (and still don’t) make a ton of money, but seven years in, I have always loved my job. I am so proud of the organization I work for, and I know we are doing important things in our community.

Then my son came along.

I cried when I found out I was pregnant. And I will admit to you, they were not tears of joy. These were fat, hot, tears that screamed, “Your life is perfect, and now it’s over!” I feel so much guilt over the way I reacted. One of my best friends and her husband had been trying to conceive for years. They wanted to have a baby so badly; they deserved to have a baby. Me? Not so much.

Instinctively, I called a girlfriend and continued to sob, uncontrollably. A common reaction to this kind of news, right? I managed to pull myself together before my husband, Sean, got home from basketball practice, and then I waited two days to tell him. Telling him made it real, and apparently, I hadn’t been mentally there yet. Sure, we hadn’t been preventing, but we hadn’t been trying for long and I had always heard it takes months, maybe even years. Of course, my wonderful husband cried actual tears (the happy kind) which only worsened my carefully concealed remorsefulness.

A textbook pregnancy ensued. I would scribble the words “conference call” on a sticky note, slap it on my door, and crawl under my desk to get through the morning. I would play my Pandora a tad too loud to cover up the sounds of my dry heaves, and when I started gaining weight, I wore boxy oversized sweaters and claimed overindulgence.

There inevitably came a day, though, that I had to tell my boss. He had been my boss for six years then. He was my mentor and well known in our field. He had given me my opportunities and accolades. He had given me my whole career. And now, blushing and babbling, I announced that Sean and I were expecting.

The first thing he said was, “But you will be coming back after you have the baby, right?” The next thing he said was, “Congratulations!” Some twisted little part of me was thrilled that his primary concern was whether I was coming back, with the congratulatory salutation being an afterthought. I felt needed and that felt good because I had been worried he would write me off as a baby machine with a new life focus.

The realization that maybe I could pull off both of these full-time gigs set in. The rest of my pregnancy flew by, and soon we had a happy, healthy baby boy.

I took eight weeks and two days off to be with my son after he was born. And (cue the guilt) at the end of that, I was ready, even happy, to get back to work. The walls of my home were closing in on me, and my living space was a mashup of farm animal toys and pumping accessories. I was tired of waiting to hear the garage door go up so I could have an adult human interaction and a hot shower.

Of course, I cried when I dropped my son off at daycare for the first time. I’m not heartless, but selfishly, I was ready to spend my days doing more of what I wanted and less of what it took to keep him cooing and calm.

He’s 10 months old now, and it’s still an ongoing internal struggle because of all the things I love and want out of this life:

I want a happy and healthy child. Yep.

I want a successful and fulfilling career. Sure do!

I want a contented husband who thinks I have it all together. Of course.

I want a clean table, laundry done, grocery shopping conducted not on a lunch break. Check, check, and check.

I want enough money to pay our bills, and I also want to save, feel financially secure, and be the mom who says, “Sure, honey, you want those new high tops, let’s go buy them!” I want all of that, but without my income, it wouldn’t be feasible for us.

I want to be the mother who purées her own organic and locally sourced baby food, who sits on the board at the children’s hospital, and perhaps, most surprisingly, I want to be one of the mom’s wearing Lululemon leggings, pushing a Stokke stroller, out getting her exercise. I drive by those ladies every morning as I leave my neighborhood, and I think to myself: “I wonder what fabulous (and incredibly educational) thing they will do today?”

But I will keep working.

I will work because I know I am providing my son with a good example of dedication and perseverance in a career I have always dreamed of.

I will work because I am passionate about my job, I am making a difference in my community, and honestly, I love what I do.

I will work because I am proud of myself for it. I think I’m interesting, engaging, and cool. I like me.

I will work because it keeps me witty, sharp, and intelligent so that I can be the woman my husband fell in love with.

I will work because I need to financially, but the main reason I will work is for the exact same reason other women choose to stay home, and that’s because its what’s right for our family.

I can’t say that I am the best mom, but I can say that I will continue to try my hardest at giving this mom stuff my all, because that is what’s working for us.