Working Moms: What Are You Trying To Prove?

I’ve reached a breaking point which has forced me to embrace this uncomfortable truth: career success is meaningless to many mothers.  And I am one of them.  For us, time devoted to climbing a ladder of occupational status is likely to result in irreversible regret.  I must have been subconsciously aware of this truth for quite some time, often manifesting itself in that reoccurring empathy for mothers dreading the first day of work after maternity leave.  The sooner we realize that our jobs will never give real meaning to our lives, and we start making decisions based on honest priorities, the better.

 

 

 

 

I’m embarrassed to admit that I went to graduate school with visions of big paychecks, fancy suits, and days filled with importance and significance.  That was before I became a mother.  Having children changes you, somewhere deep in your core sense of self.  I am simply not the same person anymore.  The thrills enjoyed by a younger version of myself seem distant and too overwhelming to the current me.  Life has become more complicated, but my priorities are simpler.  Work adventures and challenging assignments are no longer exciting or fulfilling.  Instead, quiet moments of snuggling a newborn or listening to my daughter’s tale about making a friend, while noticing new freckles on the bridge of her nose, are pure, heartwarming bliss.  Those moments mean everything and I don’t want to miss out on any of them.

 

Yet, I’ve been holding on so tight to my current position at work, rationalizing that it was the only way to make the good money needed to pay off student loans, other debt, and to support my family.  It’s been a couple of years since we decided to pursue early semi-retirement, but even then, I always considered being able to work in a freelance or part-time role for my current employer.  I like the people at my job, but not the work.  The continued presence of this job in my plans for the future is probably due to my aversion towards change.  It’s uncomfortable and scary to say goodbye to the predictable present.

 

Another part of my reluctance to choose a different path is definitely a fear of disappointing others.  They include family and friends who celebrated my graduation and being hired at a good company, co-workers who have become close friends, and even supervisors who have taught me innumerable lessons over the past eight years.  But, you work to earn money, and your employer uses you to make money.  They will unapologetically kick you to the curb if you stop performing to their standards – if they don’t keep making a profit off of your work.  We have to be honest with ourselves about these facts.

 

Over and over, people say to me, “I don’t know how you do it all.”  What they don’t know, is that I don’t really do it all.  It’s impossible.  Sure, I could stretch myself thin for the next few years, advance in a demanding career, and be a participant in the responsibilities of raising my family.  It’s just not sustainable on a long-term basis and there is always something or someone that is getting short-changed because there is too much on my plate.

 

The change from traditional roles for men and woman over the past century was supposed to be about having more choices.  However, the result for many women is being locked into working jobs that we don’t enjoy, while being depressed about missing out on time with our families.

 

Why does it have to feel like some ultimate betrayal to admit that as working moms, we are missing out?  We take great offense to any comments about “strangers raising our children” when they are in daycare or missing events at school because of work deadlines.  Why are we so overly defensive?  Is it that we’re overcompensating because there is some truth to those statements?  Do we stress the importance of careers to make ourselves feel better about our choices?

 

 

Just because you CAN do something, doesn’t mean that you SHOULD do it.

 

 

I’m working on making some big changes for the benefit of my family (with the help of a few AWESOME friends).  The amount of my paychecks will decrease and my job title will be less prestigious.  Seniority and career trajectory will be gone.  Our goals may have to be adjusted.  But you know what?  I’ve been planning my exit for years.  There’s no point in prolonging the inevitable and making myself and my family suffer any longer than necessary.  I can’t get this time back.

 

No one – man or woman – wants to work forever, do they?  Everyone wants to retire and leave work behind at some point.  Why stay in a job you hate and be miserable?  What options do you have right now to make life a little better, if you just stop worrying about status and what other people think of you?

 

There is always another option.

 

 

12 Comments

  1. This left me with a giant lump in my throat. The end of this week marks the halfway point of my leave. I can’t even put into words the regret I feel for missing out on so much of his 1st year. I know I need to stop framing it like that, but I can’t right now.

    1. Sorry, Penny. We can tell ourselves all sorts of things to try to feel better about it, but the truth is that being a working mom is really hard.

      Also, your comment about the halfway point – I hate how you can’t help but count down how much time is left of leave. The countdown clock is always ticking away somewhere in your head.

  2. Good for you, Harmony. I know you’ve struggled with your work-life mix and the time you felt you needed to work to be secure enough to come home. Glad that you’re finding a better way forward for you.

    Working dads may feel the same way you’ve just expressed but our society gives them even less room to express it.

    When my daughter was born and we decided my husband would be the stay at home parent, the guilt of not being there was really hard for me. When circumstances forced me home, I loved being at home for her and I’m thrilled that I now can do it most of the time. As long as work was rewarding and good, though, I feel like Jon and I made it work in the best way for our family.

    Part of that was because he needed to be home more than I did, both from an earnings potential standpoint but also from an emotional needs standpoint. He’s a caregiving, involved parent kind of guy. But he felt very self-conscious as a 50-year-old first-time dad in the land of mommies.
    Emily @ JohnJaneDoe recently posted…Selling to a Scrapyard: How I Made $25 Cleaning Up My Own Back YardMy Profile

    1. Work-life balance is such a convoluted issue, with everyone facing their own unique challenges. That’s why the best thing to do be honest about your needs and stop worrying about what others may think. You have to consider things like your spouse, children, and financial situation . . . but who cares about what everyone else will say?

      I think you’ve done a marvelous job of assembling all of the pieces to accommodate your family’s needs as best as possible and I’m sure that your husband faced quite a few challenges!

    1. Hi Mrs. Groovy 🙂 Yes, I think that the concept of FIRE was so exciting, that I got swept up in this hustling mentality of doing as much as possible right now. We’re still going to work hard to reach our goal of semi-retirement as soon as possible, but with more emphasis on enjoying the present too.

  3. Wow, thanks for your honesty here, Harmony. I am a stay at home mom and I’ve always felt for working moms because it’s a hard position to be in. I miss the feelings of importance and accomplishment I got from work. Sometimes I miss “needing” to wear nice clothes and be around grown-ups all day. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world, for the reasons you described. I do struggle with the regret of a career that ended “early,” though I don’t regret my decision or the time with my kids. Thanks for speaking from the working mom side because it’s important to be honest, while not being judgmental of each other’s choices.

    1. I appreciate you sharing the SAHM perspective. The grass is always greener and we all have our own struggles. But I think the ideal situation for most moms is to have some part-time, enjoyable work. The work keeps them engaged, with opportunities to interact with other adults, but also provides more valuable time to spend with their children.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge