I recently watched a short video clip on Facebook speaking to the struggles/challenges of being a “working mom.” I felt encouraged that some of my personal struggles as a work-away mom, were accurately portrayed throughout the video. After watching, I dared to enter the toxic comments section. There were innumerable comments and rebuttals from work-at-home moms proclaiming, “we are all working moms.” The atmosphere of this comments section had missed the message the video was meant to portray. Moms shot nasty remarks back and forth, pitting the work-away and work-at-home mom against each other without support, understanding, or encouragement.
At the end of everyday, we are ALL moms and we ALL spent the entire day working. Working HARD. We work to get ourselves out of bed every morning after a night of frequent feedings, bathroom trips, nightmares, staying up too late to complete x,y,z or to enjoy a few hours of alone time. We work to get breakfasts made or re-made because the eggs our kids liked yesterday, they DO NOT like today. We clean up…and then we re-clean. We pack lunches, snacks, prepare dinners. We chase toddlers who have turned putting shoes, shirts, diapers on into a game of the Fast and Furious. We lose our tempers with pre-teens who need to be asked for the 27th time to get themselves ready. We desperately try to shower and put clean clothes on…or douse or hair in dry shampoo and grab the first outfit we know fits, hoping no one will see the previous days tenderly placed food/dirt fingerprint stain. We get out the door to wherever we may be going (jobs, doctor’s appointments, play dates, grocery stores, practices, etc) only to realize halfway down the street that we left our wallets, coffee, phone, “lovey”, diaper bag, etc. We put out fires when toddlers desperately seek their independence, when children fight, teenagers cry, schools/daycare’s call, children are sick, when bosses yell, projects remain half-completed, we run late to meetings, we forget to send important emails, bills go unpaid, husbands add something to the long to-do list, we neglect to call/text that friend back…for the 3rd time, we lose keys, kids get hurt, we forgot to wash their favorite outfit/uniform, homework gets lost, dishwashers break, garages flood…the list goes. on. and. on. foreverrrrrr. Most importantly, at the end of the day, we are all working HARD to keep our babies alive, thriving physically, socially, emotionally, mentally, and knowing without a doubt that they are loved. We neglect ourselves and we put them first whether we are working away or working at home. We are ALL working, and we are working HARD at the same end goal.
We pit the work-at-home (WAH) and work-away (WA) mom against each other because at the end of each of our long, hard working days, we all want to be seen. We want to be seen and understood. We want our hard work to be acknowledged and we want someone to meet us and see US in the midst of our daily working struggles.
Work at home moms, we want our husbands, friends, and WA moms to understand that it has been a long, rough day of rationalizing with toddlers, playing mundane games, cleaning and re-cleaning, feeding and re-feeding, teaching/correcting/disciplining, listening to fights/cries/choruses of “mommmyyyy,” carpooling, serving the needs of others all. day. long. Our brains are fried and our nerves are on edge. We earnestly wait for appreciation and acknowledgement for our day to day work that infrequently comes. We fight back the feelings of emptiness and loss of identity as we change our 30th diaper and re-clean the same sink. We struggle to push back the voice that tells us we are not contributing financially when things break, bills are due, money is tight. Our hearts sink as our babies cling to us desperately when we try to leave them with someone else or do something, like pee, alone. We cling to the friends who are in the trenches with us, share our struggles, and know exactly what we mean when we say we are ready to auction off our kids or that we physically cannot handle one more humans touch for at least an hour. We want our work-away moms to know it is not all socializing play dates, planned and prepared dinners, getting our chores done, perfectly engaging moments with our children, etc.
Work away moms, we want our husbands, friends, and WAH moms to understand that it has been a long, rough day of feeling like a failure in everything we do all.day.long. We feel the stabbing pierce of our hearts, watching our children run excitedly to the arms of a nanny/daycare. We push back the lies that tell us that we are not wanted or needed & we fight to believe that our relationship with our children is bigger than the relationship they build with others while we are away. We catch the eyes of colleagues as we fly into our jobs late, again, or explain why we must leave early, again. We realize we forgot to plan dinner before leaving the house so it will be another night of frozen pizza or take out. We attempt to finish jobs x,y,z before the inevitable phone call from school/husband/kids needing us to do x,y,z for them. We feel ourselves crushed by the daily struggle of trying to balance our jobs, engaging with our kids, and all the dirty toilets, messy floors, mountains of laundry. Our mind’s are so full of to-do’s, tasks, jobs, that being present in any moment feels impossible. We fail to find time for conversations with friends and we feel isolated from engagement with other moms. We fail to go on much needed date nights or accept girl’s night invitations. We stay with our children because we can’t face leaving them one more time that week. We want our WAH moms to know it is not all business lunches, thriving inter-professional successes and relationships, savoring “kid free” time, etc.
Dear mom friend, WA or WAH, we are ALL hard-working moms who need the help, support, encouragement, and friendship of other moms. We need to be able to recognize the difference in our struggles and find ways that we can acknowledge and support one another.
- Invite the WA mom to a play date! She does not work away 24/7 – her kid likes to play with kids and she likes tea/coffee/margaritas. She will even drink water from your porch hose in a questionably clean Paw Patrol cup if it means she gets to play with her kid and engage with a mom friend at the same time. Invite her.
- Ask your WAH mom if she needs anything from the store on your way home from your job. You know she avoided the torture of dragging her kids thru Wal-mart this week and she is probably going on day 3 of needing a refill of her chocolate stash and dry shampoo. Help your sister out with your kid-free time.
- Making dinner? Make extra. Take it to your WAH or WA mom friends house without asking to avoid the pleasantries of “no you don’t have to do that!”. Food freezes and she can use it another night if needed. Make a best friend for life and include a bottle of wine.
- Text your WAH mom from your job in the middle of the day to tell her something that has nothing to do with kids. Help her feel like a human instead of the alien she feels like in her questionably clean clothes, desperately searching for her last ounce of patience as her toddler unravels the toilet paper for the 4th time that day.
- Pick your WAH mom friend’s kids up from her house/school after you pick your kid up from daycare/school. Take them to Chik-fil-a or the park or your house. Just take them away. Give her a break from being hung all over or called on or ignored. Let her be in her house alone or with her husband or tell her to go to Panera and eat a muffin without sharing and read a book about something other than kid stuff.
- Buy your WA or WAH mom friend a supply of some delicious nutritious meal delivery service and a bag full of cute and practical panties for her birthday. The world is a much better place when mom’s do not have to worry so much about planning, purchasing, or preparing meals…or searching for clean underwear.
- Open up to your WAH or WA mom friend about the struggles you are feeling. They may not personally relate and they may get interrupted by a chorus of “mommyyy” while they attempt to listen, but the only way we will stop pitting the WA and WAH mom against each other is if we open up to each other, attempt to meet each other where we are, and try to find tangible ways that we can help each other in our albeit different mom struggles.
Post your ideas for how you can best develop a friendship with, support, and encourage a mom whose working struggles look and feel different than your own!