ControverSunday–Working stiff

by Ginger on May 5, 2010

in Mom Thoughts, Working Mom

It’s that time once again–ControverSunday(now on Wednesday)! This week it’s Open Topic Day, which per our hostess is “a chance to write about nothing or whatever, this or that, non-parenting things or catch-ups from weeks ago.” If you’d like to join in (just jump in and join us! It’s what I did), just write something up, grab the badge from Accidents’ and then head over to Perpetua’s place to get linked up.

So, my post today is probably going to be the most controversial one I’ll write. Hopefully you’ll all still stick around after I say this:

I think being a working mom, at least the first year (for us Americans who don’t get the lengthy maternity leaves of the rest of the world), is harder and more stressful than being a stay at home mom.

There, I said it. Now let me give my little disclaimer. I think being a mom is hard work, no matter how you do it. I think we all have struggles and stresses and that one doesn’t make you a better or worse mom. And I get the feeling that after the first year (or earlier maybe if you’re not nursing and your kid sleeps through the night) the balance might tip the other way. But physically and emotionally, trying to be a mom, have a career and not lose your mind from the stress is harder than being home with a baby.

Physically, it’s a killer. I’m up with the baby at night because I nurse but I still have to be a functioning employee even when I’ve only gotten 2 hours of sleep. If he’s teething or sick or fussy, I pay the price the next day. I don’t have the option of sleeping when the baby sleeps, or sleeping in if the kid decides to have a late morning. And I can’t burst onto tears at work from exhaustion–well I could, but that’s not so great for the job you know?

Then there’s the stress, which mostly comes from time management. Sometimes I wonder how to fit everything in: spending time with the kid, working, commuting, errands, family, husband, social life (hahahahaha), household chores–it feels like every day is a race from the second I wake up until the second I fall asleep. And god forbid the kid needs to go to the doctor–fitting in a doctor’s appointment around my work schedule, then feeling like I have to make up the time I missed, but where do you make extra hours in the day? I’m lucky, because my husband cooks dinner pretty much every night and we share most of the chores, but sometimes I look at the list of stuff to do and wonder how to make it all happen. It does, but the stress of it can be killer (usually made worse the weeks the kid isn’t sleeping).

Then there’s the emotional toll. Leaving my kid every day is like ripping a scab off every day to have it bleed all over again. However necessary it is, it doesn’t make it any easier to leave. It literally feels unnatural to me some days. I wish like hell I could stay home with him (surprising to me, if I’m honest) but I can’t which makes it all that much more emotional. And even if you don’t wish you could stay home, it still stings sometimes when you see your kid cling to whoever watches them during the day instead of you.

Oh and please let’s not forget society’s judgement. I know this goes both ways but that doesn’t make it hurt any less when people say to me, “why bother to have kids at all if you’re nor going to raise them?” “Why bother if you’re going to leave them during their formative years?”or “Well, I guess if your job is more important…” (all things I’ve actually been told). Bitch, please. It’s awesome that you can stay home with your kids, but I can’t, so why try to make me feel like a crappy mom for doing what I have to do for my family?

As I said, being a mom in general is hard. Being home with a baby can be mind-numbing, frustrating and exhausting–I don’t want to diminish that. I know it’s not all rainbows and unicorns. But I still think it’s harder to work outside the home while being a mom (to a baby).

Now, hopefully I haven’t alienated all of you, but even if I have, you should go check out more of the participants of ControverSunday–they’re all smarter than me, and have the posts to prove it!


P.S. My first review is up over at The Essentials. C-section moms in particular, take a look!

Megan May 5, 2010 at 2:20 pm

I’m a stay-at-home mom, and I agree with you 100%. I constantly wondered how my friends who work manage it, for all the reasons you listed.

And when I was going to school this winter and working 15 hours (That’s it, 15 hours!) it was killing me.

I have so much respect for you for being able to make it all work, and I can’t believe people would say those awful things to you!

Brooke May 5, 2010 at 2:30 pm

I don’t know how people do it. I was a working mom for a total of 4 days before my face went paralyzed. My mom tells me often how lucky I am (not about the face thing because she saw how scary I looked) because it forced me to stay home. I was trying to add in meeting with contractors to re-build as well, and it just was insane. I can barely find enough time to do laundry and dishes as it is, much less without having to go to work.

Lisa May 5, 2010 at 2:33 pm

American maternity leave is a JOKE. And listen to this fun fact — FMLA is usually 12 weeks, right? I don’t get 12 weeks, because my husband works at the same company. *WE* get 12 weeks. So time he takes off takes away from the time I’m covered by FMLA.

I have my fingers crossed that my company lets me go part-time after the baby because just the mere thought of the stuff you’re dealing with every day exhausts me. You’re amazing for making it all work with grace!

Ginger May 6, 2010 at 10:29 am

Woah, Lisa, that doesn’t sound right at all. Do you work for a company with less than 50 people? Because that sounds so wrong, as far as I understand FMLA. I’m actually tempted to ask my HR friend about that for you because it sounds so wrong to me(not to get all in your business, but we get so screwed here in America to begin with and this just seems so unfair to you).

charmingbitch May 5, 2010 at 3:23 pm

Lisa, I am not an attorney (nor do I play one on the internet) but FMLA isn’t a ”group” or shared benefit; other employees whose spouses are otherwise employed aren’t required to split their government mandated time off with anyone else, I’m guessing.

I hope you’re able to drop to part-time but meantime please check with a Human Resources generalist or specialist regarding ”joint” FMLA because that is not the way the legislation was written.

Perpetua May 5, 2010 at 3:49 pm

No alienation! Don’t worry!

I occupy a kind of weird “both” place. I was a “working mom,” but most of my work I did from home, and my hours were extremely flexible (due to having the best boss I’ll probably ever have in my life). So I had a job, but I was way more mom than worker. On those days when I did work? Oh my god. SO HARD. I don’t know how people do it 40+ hours a week.

The only place where I’ll diverge from your point a bit is on the subject of daycare. YES, it is hard to drop off kids, and people judge you, etc. But having professionals you trust in charge of your kid for even a few hours–the feeding, the changing, the supervising, everything–is just…nice. It’s a nice break. I might be seen as a bad person for that, but especially because we had daycare so infrequently, I really valued that “free” time. (We also haven’t had childcare since November, so it might just be that I’m missing it.)

Good for you for raising the controversy bar. 🙂

Ginger May 6, 2010 at 10:32 am

You know, I can’t speak to daycare specifically what with the husband being stay at home dad and all, but I can see how it might be nice sometimes to have a professional involved sometimes. We’ll probably end up putting the kid in daycare a few days a week when he gets a little older so that my husband can get SOME kind of work done, and I’ll keep in mind your positive spin to it!

Elizabeth May 5, 2010 at 9:29 pm

I think you’re probably right–my mom worked TWO jobs after I was born. I don’t know how she did it. I have a hard time holding a full time load now with NO kids, haha.

Ginger May 6, 2010 at 10:33 am

Man, having a kid now, I’m even more in awe of my mom. When she and my dad got divorced when I was 2 or 3, she worked 3 jobs and raised me. I spent a lot of time with grandparents and caregivers, but now I know how much that must have just killed her.

Rebecca @ Diary of a Virgin Novelist May 5, 2010 at 8:40 pm

I’m inclined to agree with you but as a working stiff with no kids, I am a bit biased.

Alexis May 6, 2010 at 3:48 am

As a SAHM Mom I would still agree with your point. While my version of motherhood is grueling, my day is still free-form, I don’t have to be anywhere on schedule (most days) and well, if I am still in my sweats at 5;30pm when DH rolls in (yes, sometimes the days are that crazy) no harm done. The flip side is no scheduled breaks, no adult interaction and no time to get work done on my own, As you said, it is tough no matter what, but I couldn’t do what you do…you should put your panties on the outside since you are a modern-day super-hero!

I think the maternity leave/ finding time for doctor’s etc. is an issue that really needs to be addressed in this country. America talks a good game about “putting family first” but we don’t actually do anything about it. It is the whole lack of paid ‘family needs” time that keeps me out of the workforce. With DH deployed all the time, I can’t hold down a job since any time a kid needs a doctor, to stay home from childcare, I need a doctor, whatever, it would be me taking the time off and well, no one is going to pay me to miss three days a week. I know other Navy wives do it, but I do not know how!

I would also love to hear NC’s version of all this since I am sure he is now enjoying the phenomenon of being told how lucky he is to be home all day with “nothing” to do. After all its not like he is running full-out to provide childcare and keep a career as an artist going…oh no America, once you have some kids it is all bon-bons and daytime TV!

The point of all this babble is that your are doing a great job making the most of a system that is not designed to support families. It is hard to be a WOHM! (and a WAHD too!) Go team Ramble!

Ginger May 6, 2010 at 10:41 am

Yeah, don’t even get me started on the joke that is “family friendly” in America. The US is one of 4 countries that doesn’t provide paid maternity leave, the other three being Lesotho, Papua New Guinea and Swaziland. I’m lucky that I live in California, which has a state program that pays 55% for the 12 weeks, but seriously.
Add that to the fact that many of us work in jobs where, if we need to take the kid to the doctor for example, we have to use our PTO (although, my argument here is really that ANYONE who has to go to the doctor–kid or not–shouldn’t have to use their PTO. ), and you have a system that claims it cares about family but really, really doesn’t. (whew, my soapbox is getting a workout today).
We’re in a little different situation than a lot of people, because we’re a one car family, so N.C. is home with the kid without transportation–so while he has to manage the kid and the house and his work, he’s not running errands or going to the grocery store etc. But the trying to work thing is…interesting for him (maybe I’ll ask him to do a guest post for me on the joys of being a WAHD!).

jeni jh May 7, 2010 at 7:18 pm

I went back to work after a 9 week maternity leave and have been working full time ever since – pumping up until around 11 months. Let me say, YES! I agree! It’s f’n hard!!! I have zero social life. My life is baby, work, house. I’m internetting now simply because the babe is asleep and my house is (weirdly) in order. Otherwise, I’d be either passed out in bed or folding towels. I never imagined working full time and having a little one would be so hard and so draining.
However, when it’s my day to be home alone with baby I pretty much lose my steam by 4pm. I just don’t know if I could do the SAHM thing and take care of baby every single hour of the day. I look at women who do it and think “man, ya’ll got it together!”. So, to me it works both ways. I think it’s hard to be a Mom, no matter how you’re doing it. At the end of the day, it’s “Momma” that the baby is whining for (while you run for a shot of whiskey).

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