Tag Archives: working mom

Working Mom Paradox

If I wasn’t a working mom I wouldn’t get anything for Mother’s day. I wouldn’t receive an orange bird house painted by Nora, signed and dated on the bottom by a teacher. I wouldn’t get to go outside and feed the birds with my sweet and curious toddler because I would never have made myself a bird house.

If I wasn’t a working mom I wouldn’t be called Ms. Dille all day and come home to be called Miss Mama by toddler who is used to addressing all the women in her life with the polite prefix.

If I wasn’t a working mom I wouldn’t storm around the hallways of school, stressed out by some insignificant detail of the day only to be stopped in my tracks and forced to smile because I see a Roly Poly on the ground in front of me. Before Nora I would have ignored the Roly Poly or perhaps had an English teacher flashback to the passage in To Kill A Mockingbird where Jem asks Scout to spare the poor bug about to meet the bottom of her shoe. But now, as a working mom, I no longer see a Roly Poly as a literary symbol of innocence, but as a real life reminder of how happy one small bug can make a small child. And how that “thing” that I let stress me out during the hours of 8-4, doesn’t matter so much when I’m out searching under rocks for little bugs that roll up into balls – an effective  protective mechanism for curious toddler hands.

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Filed under daycare, going back to work, routine with toddler, Working Mom

Letter To A Friend At the End of Maternity Leave

My friend Cara wrote to me this weekend about returning to work this Friday. She is a teacher too and was wondering how she can leave her adorable daughter, Posey, for a classroom of teenagers. This is what I wrote to her:

Friday will be one of the hardest days of your life. I’m not going to lie. It will be like middle school, when you first fell in love and you couldn’t think of anything else and when the teacher called on you, you accidentally responded with his name. Kids will ask you questions about math and you will respond with, “Posey should be napping right now.” There may be a few times during the day when you want to cry (if you’re a crier like me, at least). That’s okay. Wait until you aren’t in front of kids and then let it out. It doesn’t fix it, but it makes you feel better. You can come get a hug and cry with me whenever you’d like.

And it will be like that for a little while. You will ache for her all day. You will run out of school with the bell and go home and grab your bundle of baby fat and hold her tight. And she will give you the best snuggles and smiles and try to let you know in all her adorable baby ways that she will be okay. That’s the hardest part at first, she can’t tell you she’s okay. But she is.

You will feel like you are in some cruel time-warp where you have to merge your pre-baby working self with your totally redefined mom-self. It will feel strange to stand on the supposedly familiar ground of your classroom. You will wonder how you can possibly be good at both jobs at the same time. You will wonder if you will ever find any pleasure at work again. You will wonder how you can possibly be more tired than you were in those initial sleep-deprived days.

The good news is that the initial aching and obsessing about what you are leaving at home will end (probably just in time for summer). You will slowly realize that you are an excellent mother even though you leave her side each day. Some days you might even think that it makes you a better mother. You will notice how she smiles at you all the time, how she wiggles or crawls or runs right over to you when you walk in the door. You won’t doubt that she loves you any less because you work. You will go home and treasure every moment you have with her instead of wishing that you could at least get a few moments of peace in the bathroom. That is one of the benefits of being a working mom. You get to pee all by yourself.

Summer will end and you will have to go through all of this again. And it will hurt, almost as much but not quite. You will mourn the end of summer like you haven’t ever done before. You will walk into that room of other people’s children and wonder for a while what your own is doing. But you will find a balance that works for you. You will realize that being a mom makes you a better teacher even though you can’t dedicate yourself in quite the same way anymore. You will realize that being a teacher makes you a better mom in the lens that it provides you with. You will redefine yourself as a working mom. You will find a routine that helps you and your family to thrive.

And when you make it through that whole first year of working, and you look back at how hard it was and how you figured it all out, you will be proud of yourself. That alone is a huge accomplishment.

And maybe, when Posey is two, and you are still wondering if you working is working for her, she will wake up one Saturday morning, like Nora did this past weekend, and say, “I’m ready for school!”

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Admitting It

There are many “shoulds” in parenting. Society tells you what you should do, family tells you (sometimes subtly, sometimes not) what you should do. And, most of all, we (mothers) have a whole slew of self-imposed “shoulds.”

I have told myself many times that I should want to stay at home, that I should envy my peers who have enough money and stability and insurance to go it on one income, that I should do everything to make staying at home a possibility. I think I even made myself think that because I work I should never try to be as “good” as moms who stay at home full time, which I now realize is totally ridiculous.

I am beginning to admit to myself that I might actually prefer being a working mom. This is hard. It’s hard to admit that I might prefer spending time away from Nora, that I might prefer teaching other people’s children all day, that I might be a better mom because I work. I’m not there yet, really. Writing that even seems wrong to me. How could I not want to spend all day, every day with Nora? It seems like a huge faux pas to even suggest that working isn’t so bad.

I find the actual work of teaching fulfulling in many ways – it’s creative, it’s a constant challenge and it makes a difference for real people in real ways every day. But, now that I’m a mom, I also appreciate what I do for the time it affords me. I get to spend time with Nora in the morning when she is a happy and energetic child (most days). I get to spend time with her in the evening, eating, walking, playing, reading, all the things that would, I think, start to seem tedious if it was all I did, although I certainly don’t know that for sure. Sending Nora off to daycare still ranks as the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But I also am starting to realize that it may not be the worst thing for me or for Nora.

I’ve written before about feeling judged because I work. I think those instances have stung so hard because I have also always judged myself for it. I’m going to try to stop doing that, to appreciate the balance that work provides. To try to see the good in our routine that clearly is working pretty well for us.

And I always have the summer.

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Filed under going back to work, SAHM

We’re Regulars

The man in the fish section of PetSmart knows Nora and I. When we arrived this afternoon, instead of asking us if we need help, like he used to and still does to everyone else passing through as Nora and I greet each of the fifty fish tanks, he asked how we were today. He smiled and walked away. I took that as a sign that I may spend too much time at PetSmart.

I don’t have a fish. Or a pet for that matter. Pets and I don’t have a very good history. One memorable miserable fall – I think it was fourth grade – my brother crooned in his charming young voice, “Sarah the red-nosed person…” There’s a photo of this time in my life and I can’t really say he was singing anything but the truth. I had a red nose through most of my childhood since I suffered from horrifyingly bad allergies. Thus, pets were pretty much out of the question. One Christmas my parents got my brother and I hermit crabs. My Aunt Mary, an avid dog-lover, mocked my parents as they sat watching us have hermit crab races across the living room floor. It was fun for a while. We, of course, won goldfish at the Pumpkin Patch fair at the elementary school every fall. We named them and they died. And then there was the brief experiment with the dog. I won’t go into detail, but I will say that after years of begging my allergy-free brother got a severlely in-bred hypo-allergenic dog. It was stupid. It didn’t go well.

This past summer, when the heat was so strong even a shady pool wouldn’t work to counteract the rising temperatures, I discovered somehow that Nora could be easily entertained with a few walks up and down the pet store aisles. I called it the Texas Zoo – air-conditioned, clean and friendly. We went rather often to say hello to the parakeets, turtles and fish. And since then they have added a permanent residence for rescue cats and a large panel of windows into the dog-grooming area, which makes the pet store even more exciting.

If I stayed at home with Nora all the time I would surely have a whole arsenal of ideas to combat rainy afternoons. But instead I have many back-up lesson plans for teenagers stored in my rainy day file. So, when it rained this afternoon and my plans for this spring break week – which involved trips to the park, rides on Nora’s new bike and walks to feed the neighborhood chickens – went down the drain, I went to my tride and true after-nap activity. The pet store.

I drove there wondering what other stay-at home moms were doing with their two-year olds. Did they invent amazing games out of things found around the house? Do they have a store of craft supplies to be brought out at moments exactly like this one? Is there some secret gathering of moms at a local indoor hang-out so the kids can run together and the mothers help each other maintain sanity? I can’t stay in the house all day with Nora; I need to get out at least once. And while I am sort of embarrassed that gong to the pet store is a regular activity for us, there’s no denying the pet store is fun. Nora screamed, literally, for joy when I reminded her we could go and look at the dogs; she took a final lap telling all the animals one by one that she would see them “soon.”

Before summer comes and I have more time free to spend with Nora I need to come up with more rainy day plans. I’m not sure I really want to be the regular at PetSmart, the lady who brings her daughter just to say hi to the fish.  But for now, I guess it’s an acceptable way to fill some time and get us out together. And I think I may have spotted a few more moms in there for the same reason.

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Filed under routine with toddler, vacation with toddler

Roller Coaster

I am frustrated and pop Nora’s bagel in a ziploc and throw it in her lunch bag. I chase her around again and attempt to put socks and shoes on her uncooperative feet. Ken steams about the house being a mess despite the fact that I was home all day Sunday. Nothing is going well. I am late for work, frustrated by Nora’s uncooperative behavior (though I can’t really blame her – she has no concept of being at work on time). At daycare, I tell Miss L to feed Nora the rest of her breakfast at snack time and walk out the door, hoping I am right that the day can only imrove.

Twenty-four hours later I am watching Nora play calmly with play-dough as she eats all of her bagel without me even asking her if she is ready for another bite. She happily gets dressed and puts her shoes and socks on while holding her nebulizer cooperatively to her face. She dances in her chair as the music on Sesame Street changes. I am dressed, have had my coffee, straightened my hair, and we even have time to spare. And to top it all off, when I put Nora down at daycare, she runs over to Miss L and gives her a giant excited hug, pushing any possible mom guilt way to the back of my mind. I thank Miss L and walk out the door, hoping that the day is going to stay as good as it started.

How can these two morning happen right in a row? Well, that’s life with a toddler, I guess. You never know what the next moment is going to bring. It could bring hopping around the house with a huge grin and a proud clap; or it could be tears and clinging and constant “no.” Ah, the roller coaster of toddlerhood.

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Filed under daycare, drama queen, mom guilt, nebulizer, routine with toddler

Good Day

The day ended with bath-time – as usual. But it ended with a quotable, blog-able, quote. Nora was playing in the bath – and playing with herself as she sometimes does. We ignore it. She looked up at me all of a sudden and said, “Mama, I hurt my butt.” I said, “You did? How’d you do that?” Nora replied, “I put my finger in it.” And then Ken and I tried to stifle laughter so as not to alarm her.

This was just one of those days, though. A day when I wish I could stay home all the time. Yes, it was a holiday. The weather was beautiful, it happened to be toddler-time at the children’s museum this morning. All the stars aligned to make my yearning emerge. If today had been yesterday (bad sleeping night, muddy weather, moodiness of mom and baby) I wouldn’t be writing this. But today was today and so I am.

This morning I decided that I would take Nora to the Austin Children’s Museum for their baby and toddler time. I had done that once over the summer and decided it was time to try it again. When else do I have these opportunities? I had no one to call to invite with me, so I mused to Ken on my way out the door that I need more mom friends. I have one good mom friend – she was busy today. I have a few mom acquaintances, but not really a good “supply” of people to call for a play date. I imagine that comes partly from working- I don’t have time for play dates.

At the museum I stood in line behind a woman and her two daughters. I recognized her. She lives down the street, in a nice house with an enviable play set. I said hello, introduced myself, talked about a mutual acquaintance who just had a baby – and who decided last minute not to return to work. “How could you go back to work?” This mom asked.

I chose not to be offended. She doesn’t know me. She obviously hadn’t registered that I knew this mutual acquaintance from working. I can imagine myself asking that same question in different circumstances. I moved on.

Nora and I had a most excellent two hours at the museum. The best story of the time there is of diapers. I only took one with me. Nora requested a new diaper since hers was pretty wet and she thinks its great to get her diaper changed in a public restroom. After changing into a clean diaper she decided to make the new one dirty again. I didn’t want to leave – we had just been there 40 minutes. I asked the desk if they by any chance had diapers for sale. The nice teenage boy got one from the back, which Nora put on and called her “museum” diaper for the rest of the day.

Taking her back to the toddler time made me realize that she is so much more “grown up” than she was in July when we last ventured out downtown. She talks. She is much more sure-footed. She is curious in a whole new, in-depth way. In the last two weeks there have been a number of things that have made me realize she really isn’t a baby anymore. Today was just more proof that that is true. Maybe that’s why my longing emerged. She is growing so fast. I am working so much.

After nap she wanted to go for a walk in the neighborhood and I chose to go in the direction of the neighbor mom’s house since I had forgiven her statement and really do think it would be great to have a play friend for Nora that close. Sure enough, we ran into her and her girls right around the corner.

“So are you around in the mornings?” She asked after re-introducing ourselves and our kids.
“No. I work. I am a teacher.”
“Oh.”
“I am around on school holidays like today and all summer.”
“Well, you’re welcome over anytime – I guess on the weekends. We have a great playset.”

I wanted to not sense condescension or judgement. I really want a mom friend. But it was there. And so was my longing to be able to say yes – I could come play with her and her kids any morning of the week. But she doesn’t know that about me.And so I walked off bothered and feeling sad.

On days like this I wonder. I wonder if I really would be good at staying home (I’m terrible at all the “domestic” stuff. Ken is so much better at it). If I would be more understanding of working moms than this neighbor is. If I am right to assume that working is good for me in many ways – and daycare good for Nora in some ways as well. I wonder if there ever is a “right” choice (if there is a choice).

Really, the point of all of this is that Nora and I had a great day off together. She’s quite a funny, smart and opinionated little girl. It’s days like these that I realize I’m lucky to be her mom – staying at home or not.

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