I feel like I have a confession to make. While I'm happy that my daughter got a chance to relax over winter break, the combination of a work-from-home mother and her 4-year-old daughter trying to coexist in the same house for two weeks turned me into a really horrible mom. Honestly, I became the worst version of myself. And it made my mom guilt soar to new, surprising levels.
I realize that just last week, I was vowing not to over-analyze or critique my parenting quite so much. But I guess I join countless other New Year's resolutioners in failing at my goal less than a week after it began. (Hey, have you hit the gym yet? Or thrown out the holiday treats? I'm not alone here.) Honestly though, I feel like this year's winter break gave me a big insight into my own work life balance and my abilities as a mother.
When people hear that I work from the comfort of my couch, their first or second comment normally sounds like this: "It must be nice to have so much extra time to spend with your daughter," or "That's great that you can be home when you have a little one." There's always this assumption that working from home means I'm capable of being a mom and an employee at the same time.
That assumption is oh-so-wrong. And I realized just how amazingly wrong it was when I tried to take care of my daughter during the work day while she was home on winter break.
My original thought was that just a few days of working with my daughter at home wouldn't be so bad. She would have plenty of new toys to keep her occupied. I might have to take more breaks to get glasses of water or put clothes on a Barbie, but in general, I'd be able to get small blocks of work done as needed. The reality of my situation was very different.
As the days went on, I found myself popping in movies at an increasing frequency. When I asked my daughter about all her new toys from the holidays, she said that they weren't much good if no one was playing with her. Once her cousins came over, the situation got only marginally better. I was still bribing them with popsicles and cookies for a little good behavior, during which I furiously worked as quickly as possible.
All week long, I became the mom on the conference call with her kid talking in the backround. I hated being that mom. And I let my frustration seep out as I dealt with my daughter. I knew that the problem was my own, but I had a hard time staying positive and cheerful when I was so stressed. I apologized to my daughter for my snappy attitude and explained the situation, but it didn't assuage the guilt building up in my mind.
At the end of the night, when my work was done and I was finally playing games with my daughter, I thought long and hard about stay-at-home moms. I thought about ladies who spend all day taking care of their kids, as I was trying to do. I realized that there was no way I could give up my "Me Time," my career. Then I felt even more guilty that raising a daughter didn't seem to be enough for me, that I couldn't be happy simply focusing all of my attention on her.
Maybe the biggest lesson I learned over the past two weeks is just how crucial my tenuous work life balance is. I don't want anything resembling last week to become a normal occurrence for me. Keeping my work time and my family time completely separate is a huge factor in my happiness and job satisfaction.
I haven't changed my mind about wanting my daughter to have relaxing breaks at home where she can calm down, veg out a little, and prepare herself for back-to-school. I'm not going to run out and sign her up for a Spring Break camp so that I can work from home in peace. However, I am planning on bringing in a little help at home, specifically for summer break, so that my daughter has someone to tend to her needs and I can lock myself away in my bedroom, pretending that motherhood doesn't exist until five o'clock rolls around.
The last two weeks, when life should have been imbued with the holiday spirit, I was struggling. I was snappy and stressed and exactly the kind of mother that I don't like being. I don't think that's being overly critical, I think it's being honest. And hopefully, admitting this will help me figure out how to never put myself or my daughter in that position again.
(Photo: Pablo Calvog/Shutterstock)