Here’s my working mom experience, month one. What am I learning, and what goals am I setting?
1. Goal: to establish a solid morning routine.
I start my day at 5:30am. One of my two New Years’ Resolutions this year was to hammer down a really great morning routine: one in which I incorporate water, exercise/stretching, Bible reading, a healthy breakfast, reading the news and browsing my Feedly, and showering. At first, I thought I would try to incorporate all those things before I leave the house, but that is basically impossible. New goal: do it all in the first four or five hours of my day.
2. Learning: Being a working mom is a fresh hell of motherly exhaustion.
My days are incredibly long, and it is a new type of busy. I was crazy busy (read: over-committed) in college, but this is entirely different. Mainly because I am caring for three other people in the process. I am on from 5:30am to about 10:00pm.
I’m on before work, as I’m scrambling to fix breakfasts, assembling after-school snacks and lunches, taking a shower and finding something to wear, attempting to tidy the house a bit, packing the car, making sure the bags have everything we each need for a full day, driving to Denton and dropping off the girls, then racing to work to make it by 8am.
I’m on at work, having meetings and brainstorming creative marketing ideas, pumping three times a day, traipsing up and down stairs, sending emails, chatting with students and checking in on their work, and generally learning the ropes.
I’m on after work, as I walk to my car, pick up the girls (consoling and comforting if necessary), drive home in traffic, cook dinner, spend quality time with Stella and Iris, do the bath time and bed time routine two separate times, half-heartedly trying to clean the house and prepare for another work day before deciding I’m too tired, and flop down in bed to relax and fall asleep… only to be on at night, because both my kids wake me up multiple times throughout the night.
By mid afternoon, I am often falling asleep at my desk. Yes, literally. I thought I might develop a coffee habit (something I have never done before), but the caffeine left me lightheaded and dizzy, with headaches. Not the desired effect. I figure eventually my body will either get used to the fatigue… or I will die.
3. Learning: Working parents rely on the other parent in a new and different way.
But Kellie, how are you not completely overwhelmed? I hear you ask. Admittedly, the responsibility is intense, and I am stretched pretty thin.
But the answer to that question is Clay. He has been very helpful in sharing sharing household/children duties with me so far, which has helped immensely. When both parents make the choice to work outside the home, it’s a big adjustment for everyone. Clay typically gets home before me, so he has cooked more in the past couple weeks than in the first two years of marriage (we are not sexist… I just love to cook). We try to share every responsibility, which is a challenge in itself.
I’d like to take this moment to thank him (and also give a standing ovation to any single parents out there. I don’t know how you do it and you are amazing to me. You deserve a spa day every day).
I will also say that being a working parent isn’t really special. Thousands of women before me have made this decision based on the needs of their family, and thousands will after me (a kick-in-the-butt pep talk my husband gave me when I was wondering if Stella would ever adjust to school).
4. Learning: This job is perfect for me.
Something I knew already, but is even more apparent as time goes on. It’s a brand new position, which means the opportunities are endless. But such an open job description is a bit of a double-edged sword because I don’t have much guidance. Getting into the swing of a career after being in the land of diaper changes, potty training, animated characters, toddler lunches, and managing small people feelings requires a serious mind shift. I think it will take some getting used to.
5. Goal: to leverage my time away from my daughters to make my relationship with them better.
Do I feel guilty for working outside the home? Absolutely not. Guilty is not the right word, but sad might be. I’m definitely in a state of grieving for my old life. I feel sad because I miss my girls. I feel sad because I don’t get to be with them all day.
It’s obvious that being a mom who works outside the home instead of a stay at home mom is going to change my relationship with my girls. Now I only get to see them for a couple hours on either side of my work day!
But let’s turn that on its head. How can I use my time away from, and with, my daughters to make strides to improve my relationship with them? I put my phone away, and focus on quality engagement, rather than quantity. When I can, I get on the floor and play with Stella more than I used to when staying home was rote and I was lazy.
When all the days would bleed together as a stay at home mom, now weekends are gold. Snuggling together in bed on a Saturday morning is like discovering a new treasure. In the middle of the night when my eight month old wakes to nurse, I savor that time together and have gratitude that she is keeping my milk supply up, instead of internally grumbling about how tired I am.
6. Learning: Stella is learning lessons that she might not have learned otherwise.
Other than learning about letters, numbers, days of the week, patterns, etc, Stella is learning valuable life lessons by being at school. To name just a few:
- How to connect with the other kids in her class, navigating their interactions with out parental involvement.
- How to self-soothe in an environment that might overwhelm her at times.
- How to ask someone other than her parents for help.
- How to practice positive thinking to keep her mood up.
- That not every adult will relate to her like her closest relatives do.
7. Goal: Lose my need for control.
A couple weeks before I started my job, I asked the women in my home group to pray that I would learn to relinquish my need for control. Let’s get real for a minute. I love control. I have a serious problem. I often micromanage and I don’t even realize I’m doing it. My love for control is rooted in a few things: fear, a belief that I can do it best and only I have the right answers, etc etc.