Saturday, September 27, 2014

Working Moms: Is Balance Possible?

With the feminist movement in the 1970s, women were told they could have it all -- career, husband, home, family – so that's what they did. They found careers and put their children in daycare. The family had more money because of the two incomes. They could buy more possessions, have a better house and provide a better, or at least a more materialistic, life for their children.

Did anyone consider that having it all would cause so much stress?

My mom and dad both worked an 8-to-5 job. I remember my mom rushing in after work and cooking dinner, doing laundry, packing lunches for the next day, etc. -- all the jobs that were considered women's work. My mom’s job didn't end when she got home. That's when the real work started.

I always knew I would work and not be a Stay at Home Mom (SaHM). After all, I went to college so I could get a good job to provide for my future. My kids would go to daycare, and I'd make it all work. 

And I did make it work, but oh my, it was hard to wear so many hats.

When I saw this Facebook status of a colleague, I was reminded of what it was like when I had young children and a full-time job:  

I need a few more hours in each day. Don't have enough time to work unless I get there at 5am! Aaaaaaahhhh! Or the house doesn't get swept...or papers don't get graded...arrangements don't get written (lord knows those things can't happen in the presence of a 1 and 3 old)....I pride myself on bring organized and managing my time, but something is about to have to give. ‪#‎stressed ‪#‎idotoomuch

I, too, never felt that I gave my best at either work or home. We women who work outside the home have bifurcated (one of my husband's favorite words) minds. We can't be at work without worrying about what is going to happen when we get home (laundry, dinner, cleaning, kids' homework, kids' extracurricular events, kids' everything), and we can't be at home without worrying about what's going to happen at work (lesson plans, scheduling, grading, etc.) the next day. It's like our brain never shuts off. Ugh!

As a working mom of young children, my house was never spotless even though I'd spend weekends scrubbing. The dirty clothes were washed but never put away, instead landing on the dining room table or bed. Once during a visit, my mom commented that my children’s feet were dirty and they had not even been outside. I was somewhat embarrassed but told her that if she’d just put on their shoes, no one would notice. My children took a bath every night and wore clean clothes each day. A little dirt on their feet wouldn't kill them.

This week, I heard on NPR that more women are choosing to give up careers to stay at home with their children. Several factors contribute to this increase -- the rising cost of daycare, unemployment rate of women, or the family’s income is below the poverty level.

Are these women who chose to be SaHMs happy? I’m sure they experience days when they wouldn’t trade it for anything and other days when they would trade in their children for a little time alone or with another adult. I have always gotten enough of being a SaHM during my summers off to know that I couldn’t handle it for longer.

Sometimes, my younger colleagues who are trying to balance a career they love with their family and home come to the wise old woman (me) for advice. I can only tell them balance never happens; the struggle never gets better, only different. The kids grow older and can help with household chores. The longer you work at a job, the more accustomed you get to rolling with problems. In essence, you just accept living in a somewhat messy home or you schedule a classroom activity that allows you to grade papers.

I’m not male-bashing here; I know there are many husbands/partners who handle a great deal of the housework and childcare. My husband does 90% of the cooking, and we all appreciate him.

If you are female and work, have a family, and don’t have a daily maid/cook, I don’t believe you can ever achieve balance. At least, I never have. If you have the secret, please let me know.