I went back to work almost four years ago. I was a stay-at-home mother up until that point and got plenty of praise for that decision from family and random old ladies at the grocery store but it would seem there are few that cheer my life as a working mother. Sure, there is the typical pandering from some- "Wow, you are like a super hero with all you do!"- but I am a smart girl. I know the subtext is often "There is no way you are doing all of this right and you are CHEATING YOUR BABIES OUT OF A MOTHER".
These detractors plus a whole host of other daily hurdles can make life rough for a working mom. There are ever-present obstacles for me and my brethren because we are beholden not just to our children, but our employers as well. That juggling act (trying to please the people you love the most while also trying to please the people who make paying your mortgage possible) can be difficult beyond description but I am going to try to shed some light. Please take the tour with me to see the 10 things no working mother wants to hear:
1. "I could NEVER leave my babies at daycare!"
It may be true- you may really feel that you could NEVER leave your babies at daycare but some of us are without a choice. And this phrase also reeks of "I'M A BETTER MOTHER THAN YOU!" So yeah, STFU before letting this one escape your lips.
2. "It would be nice if you could spend more time in the classroom- I know your daughter would love it!"
My daughter's kindergarten teacher was awesome and I know she said this because she deeply cared for my child. However, I volunteered PLENTY in her class that year- at every class party and a random day here and there. Parental involvement at school is a thing now. Not that I have anything against it, but it makes me feel awful that I can't be there all the time. I wish we could just throttle back and make school a place mostly for kids and teachers. Or at least back the fuck off the working moms understanding that we need to save our time off for when our kids have a fleck of booger in their eye and Dr. Daycare says "IT'S PINK EYE STAY AWAY FOR 24 HOURS!"
3. "Mrs. Williams? You need to come pick up Mini Williams- he has a fever."
Which brings me to the phone call no working mother wants to receive. It seems that whenever it comes, my husband is ensconced in a meeting and unreachable and I am in the middle of a shit-storm and have to abandon my desk and fly to daycare to rescue my kid. Don't get me wrong, I am not angry with my child nor do I blame him for being sick but I cannot help the panicky downward spiral of "What if this is a bad virus and the fever hangs on for five days and ZOMG I'M GOING TO LOSE MY JOB!" No illness is simple as a working mother- you have to think 10 steps ahead and have a game plan. It sucks.
4. "Can't you at least be an assistant coach this season?"
Um, no. I can't. I barely have time to make dinner, help with homework and spend "quality time" with my kids on weekday evenings. I definitely don't have time to guide your Speshul Snoflach away from nose-picking and on to making contact with the ball.
5. "I think next session, we will do the lessons at 4pm instead of 5:30pm!"
Ugh, why are so many lessons and practices for kids held at hours that few working parents could possibly adhere to? I know it's probably better for the kids to do things earlier in the day but all it does is make me feel more alienated for not being able to be anywhere before 5:30 or 6:00.
6. "Wow, that's a nice purse/hair-cut/bracelet...wish I could afford it."
This might seem innocent but when said by certain people, it is definitely code for "SEE??? You work to buy yourself nice things, not just to help your family scrape by!" I wish I had the life that so many assume that I do as a dual-income household. It sounds pretty baller.
7. "Maybe he would be less hyper if he got to spend more time with you."
This one hurts and I've actually had someone say this to me. Suggesting that my kids would be somehow better off I were around more is like a knife straight in my heart because then I start to wonder if it might be true.
8. "Couldn't you just work part-time? You are gone so much!"
A little known fact among people who have never searched for daycare is that part-time hardly costs less than full-time. Why would a daycare provider, who has to adhere to a certain headcount, accept your part-time kid when they could make the full amount for a full-time kid? I did pursue part-time work initially but once I added up the cost of two small children in daycare part-time I quickly realized I would have to work full-time to turn a real profit.
9. "HOW DO YOU DO IT??"
This one might seem like a compliment but in my experience, it is usually something of a challenge. As in, "Go ahead and make me believe that your family is not living in a shitty filth hole and eating Ramen on top of a pile of dirty laundry every night."
10. "Don't you MISS the kids when you are at work?"
Of-fucking-course I do, genius. Does it bother you enough thinking of that to help me pay my bills? No? Then please, stop talking.
You can reach this post's author, Valerie Williams, on Twitter or via e-mail at email@example.com