Saturday, May 30, 2015

Reflections on the Past Year as a Working Mom

Well, my friends, the school year is almost done. It is so hard to believe. I remember last September so clearly and how nervous I was on the first day of school, my first day of being a full-time working mom--wondering if I'd like it, wondering how I'd do it all, wondering if I'd regret taking it on.

I'm here to say I don't regret a moment. It was Crazy with a capital C, and the moments of harried insanity were many, but I loved it.

A few reflections on my first year as a full-time working mom...

My intuition was right, as usual. When I made the decision to take the full-time offer, I was scared to death but I also had this gut sense that it was the right thing to do. Moms are famous for their intuition, and in my experience, those gut feelings exist for a reason.

It was tiring. So very tiring. At the beginning of the school year, when I was just starting to shoulder a second full-time job in addition to my existing full-time job of mom and housewife, I was frequently too exhausted to even chat with my mom friends at my daughters' evening Tae Kwon Do classes. By 6 p.m., I was sort of in a zombie-like state. Fortunately I have wonderful friends who completely understood when I did things like stare at them blankly when they asked me a question or forgot entire conversations we'd previously had. However, interestingly enough, one does acclimate. It's funny to me now to look back on last autumn and recall how utterly fried I was at the end of each day, because, even though of course these days I'm still tired, I'm no longer unable to read, move, or speak in complete sentences after 6 p.m.

The structure and routine of an outside job is a wonderful thing. This was sort of an abstract, amorphous feeling, so forgive me for not being able to clearly articulate what it was all about. But it was very important, and something I could never have predicted.

The notion of 50/50 household-responsibility sharing is pretty much bull#!*#. A work friend of mine and I used to call this the "Spouse too Used to the Luxury of Having a Full-Time SAHM Wife for the Past [insert appropriate number] Years Syndrome." (Errrr...yeah, just roll with it.) In other words, we were both still doing our entire previous jobs of stay-at-home moms, roughly 95% of all household/family tasks, even though we were now also working full-time outside the home. Sometime around April, my husband began doing some vacuuming. Other than that, if there were things that needed doing around the house, there seemed to be an unspoken assumption that it was my work to do. Plenty of us have nice, upstanding, good-father husbands--and this still goes on in some of our houses. Welcome to 2015, you all.

I'm very glad I waited to return to work until my kidlets were older--old enough to be independent in many areas, such as getting themselves ready for school, preparing their own breakfast, and getting into their outside gear to leave the house. I can't imagine trying to get ready for work each morning, or organized at home at the end of each day, if my girls hadn't been capable school-agers who could easily do things like pack/empty their backpacks, put on/take off snowpants, get the mail, set the table, and do their homework without my participation.

There is nothing better than working under the same roof, on the same schedule, as my kiddos. This made up for the fact that I'm working at job for which I am a million times overqualified, for an hourly wage that wouldn't even pay for housing on its own. I got to see my daughters multiple times during each work day, which was worth more than any amount of money in the world. We were always together during all off-school hours. It was a perfect equation after ten years of full-time stay-at-home motherhood, because it allowed me to still be a stay-at-home mom before school, after school, and on all school-vacation days.

That whole prediction about not having time to talk to my friends was pretty much spot on. For the past nine months, I've barely socialized at all, and I've found that this is true for my other mom friends who likewise returned to work this year. When you're working full-time outside the home, shouldering the majority of the tasks at home, raising children, and attempting to occasionally exercise, you simply run out of time. Maybe this gets easier, but since there are only 24 hours in a day and I need eight of those to sleep, I simply did not have enough time to see or talk to friends (much, anyway). My co-workers--whom I adore--became my daily confidantes, because they were the only ones I ever saw or had time to talk to.

Having said all that, every single challenge of my first year as a full-time working mom was worth it, a hundred times over. It was an awesome, fantastic, exhausting, interesting year. I will enjoy my summer off with my daughters wholeheartedly, for sure--just one more week of school and work! But yesterday I found out that I have the job again next school year, so I'll be back in the fall.

Maybe year two will be easier. Maybe not. But it will be good either way.

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