Times are a changin’
The generational gap has a big effect on the working mom. Earlier generations lived a very different lifestyle. And I often find myself asked a question which seems from a different time. Their time. The time when mothers traditionally stayed home and performed women’s work, while fathers went to work outside of the home for money.
It’s still amazing to me that families would pay for childcare and home maintenance, but when a mother does it it’s expected as unpaid labor. But I digress…
Women make up almost half of the workforce at 47%. And 57% of all working age women are in that work force. I hate to state the obvious, but most mothers are women (I mean what is gender nowadays. Fluid? Spiritual? I can’t keep it straight). In fact, 70% of mothers (with kiddos younger than 18) are in the workforce. Ok yeah, whatever, numbers.
My point is, it is incredibly common for mothers to be working. The reasons why may vary slightly, but increased costs of living over the decades definitely contribute. It’s not necessarily a choice for many women.
The choice is clear
Unless you consider the choice between pay or poverty, but you shouldn’t. I weighed that option. I actually glorified the idea of being a welfare recipient simply because I couldn’t cope with the reality of returning to work so quickly after birth. Pregnancy is an emotional time, so forgive me!
But even after a year of being a full-time cubicle dweller AND a full-time mom, I still feel a twinge of anxiety whenever I’m asked that impossible question:
“How do you do it?”
How do you leave your baby everyday and go to work?
Is it hard?
Are you sad?
Don’t you wish you could be home with the baby?
I could never leave my babies that soon.’
The worst part about these encounters is how surprising they can be. I prepared my answers while on maternity leave, and they seem to get easier to regurgitate with time. But I can’t help but fear those tears I’ve been fighting since my first day back will rear their ugly heads.
I’ve found myself faced with egregious assumptions. I went back to work full time after the legally allowed 12 weeks. Those who lived in the times which downplayed the value of a woman’s work tell me they understand, because things are expensive now. If only that were my reason.
Often, the ‘choice’ for a working mother is simple, but painful
- Work or starve your family.
- Work or lose insurance.
- Work or lose your home.
Now replace “work” with “give up irreversible time with your baby”.
My answer? I’m barely scraping by. I’m beat, sad, overwhelmed, and drained. But I’m also happy to see my baby at the end of every day. I blow off laundry and dishes because this is my excuse. I reevaluated my priorities, and that’s how I do it. No excess time wasted on anything except catering to me and my family’s needs. That’s ‘how‘. But that is also overkill. Ha! I often just say…
I have no choice. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
Times have changed, and working mothers are now the majority of mothers. They (we) are doing an incredibly difficult thing which goes against our nature and is underplayed.
So please, before you question a mother’s capability to sacrifice bonding time, consider the reality of our generation. Most, if not all, of those working moms suffer from Mom Guilt. Stop before you ask a working mom that impossible question.
How do you do it? Better yet, how are you doing?