I read your status on social media the other day and you were overwhelmed juggling so many things – motherhood, work, wife, friend – and felt like you were failing at all of them.
The first thing I wanted to do was give you a hug. In that moment, you probably felt like you made the wrong choice, going back to work after your youngest turned one. It may seem like most days since made the decision, something has gone wrong. Fires are springing up faster than you can put them out.
After hugging you, my next instinct would be to shake you, just a little. Because this is the reality of a working mom. I’m sure stay-at-home moms have similar struggles, and I don’t want to diminish those, but right now I’m talking to you and to myself, and we are working moms. After shaking you, I’d hug you again just to let you know that it’s going to be ok. It really is.
When you feel like you’re failing at work…
I want you to remember that being a mom makes you a better worker. There’s even a study that says exactly that. Working moms are more efficient. They get more stuff done. It’s a fact. Remember that day, maybe last week, when you were having a crummy day at work, and it seemed like no one was listening to you? In fact, you might as well have been talking to a wall. It was one of those days where nothing was getting accomplished. Then everything hit the fan. The figurative mess at work became a tsunami, if you will.
Well, I want you to remember this the next time it happens (because you and I both know, there will be a next time). You are a mother. A master of navigating through storms.
No one knows more about guiding a ship and cleaning up debris after a disaster than you do. And not only can you tackle this latest monsoon at work, you can do it with a smile. Why? Because as a mother you grapple with storms each day. You clean up the dirty mess your potty training child makes on the living room floor; you act as a referee between your bickering children. You’ve got this, mama. Clean up the work mess, smile, and keep on moving.
When you feel like you’re failing your kids…
I’ll admit this happens to me far more often than I’d like it to. Those moments you feel like you are failing your kids for any number of reasons. You feel like you are away from them too much. And when you do get time with them, it seems like it is spent yelling and arguing, and easing household tension instead of smiling, laughing, loving, and enjoying your kids.
I want you to remember that, in the midst of this chaos, being a working parent is teaching your kids so much! They are learning, first hand, about work-life balance. Your children are learning to see you in a different light, not just as their mom, but as an entity separate from themselves. The other day, I took my youngest two – who are five and three – to my office for the first time. They loved meeting my coworkers and seeing where I do whatever it is that I do all day. It was good for them to see that the time they spend away from me has a purpose. I’m not just sending them off to preschool and having fun without them; I’m doing things that add value to all of our lives. And it’s okay if I need to be away from them for a little while.
My friend, remember on those days where you feel like you’re failing your kids, that your daughter is watching you. You want her to grow up and be independent and able to handle all she will encounter.
You are teaching her it can be done.
A woman can be a mom and go to work, and doing one thing doesn’t make you any more of a failure at the other. In fact, I think it makes you more successful at both.
Your sons are watching, too. You’re teaching them women and men are of equal importance at home. To look at women and know they are capable, strong, and intelligent. I want you to know how proud your children are of you.
When you feel like you are failing in your marriage…
Sometimes it can feel like our marriage takes a backseat to our children. You are so taken over by the immediate needs of a baby, a baby and a toddler, a pre-schooler, plus a baby and a toddler, etc, that it often feels like the time you spend in the bathroom adds up to more time than you are able to spend with your spouse. Focusing on our children is a necessary thing but there is a way to ease the burden a little.
Let your husband help with things. He needs to know he can do bedtime and bath time and dinnertime. The kids need to know he is capable, too. He might do it differently, but the kids will still get clean. Mostly. They will go to sleep. Eventually. The kids will even get fed, possibly later than you would feed them and with fewer vegetables on their plates, but they will eat. I promise.
Step back so your spouse can step up. It will be good for all of you. You’ll be more relaxed. When you and your husband work together to do things for your children, they will see your teamwork, and you’ll see new things to love in your spouse. And maybe, just maybe, bedtime will happen a little sooner, and you’ll have a little more time to spend with your husband before you both conk out on the sofa watching Friends on Netflix. Or Real Housewives of Atlanta. No judgment here, friend.
When you feel like you’re failing your friends…
Before you went back to work you were a stay-at-home mom and you rocked it. You went to play dates and Mom Nights Out. You saw your friends often and your kids saw their friends. It made you feel really connected to your community of moms that you worked hard to develop.
Now you’re back at work and there just aren’t enough hours in the day or days in the week to reconnect with your community. You can’t remember the last time you really spent quality time with your friends. Maybe you bumped into a friend at Walmart while both of you were doing some last minute grocery shopping. Or perhaps you’ve been able to squeeze in a weekend play date between soccer practices but the only reason you really still feel pretty current on your friends’ lives is because of Facebook.
Life is crazy busy right now as your family adapts to you working outside the home. But, trust me, your friends will understand. This friend in particular does. I have friends whose youngest children I have yet to meet. I stay “active” in our local playgroup by squeezing in a lunch or two with them a month. It’s not easy. Once you get into your groove – and it may take months to get there – your friends will be waiting. They are moms, too, and if there is anything moms understand, it’s the struggle of maintaining adult friendships. The struggle is real but so worth it.
My friend, if you made it through this long open letter, I hope you come away knowing a few things: You are not a failure. You are successful woman, mother, wife, and friend. You are loved.
A fellow mom friend in the trenches