Thursday, 20 December 2012

No matter what your full-time job're a great Mom

Not long ago, I shared a picture on Facebook that I found amusing. The picture features two women having coffee and one says “I hear you. Raising kids and running a house keeps me busy too. I also have this little gig on the side called a full-time job."

A few days later, I got a message from a friend who is a stay-at-home mom. She has a great sense of humour and is definitely not the kind of person who is sensitive or easily offended. But in her message, she very eloquently told me that she was bothered by the image because the joke draws a line in the sand about something she felt moms need to stop fighting about. I guess that something is “who has it harder – moms who work outside of the home, or stay at home moms?”

I found her message very enlightening and realized that it was a pretty insensitive thing to post. I’m pretty new to this whole mom gig, so I didn’t realize that moms actually competed or fought about this question. The fact is that I actually think being a stay-at-home mom is way harder!

I hope my friend won’t mind my paraphrasing but what she said was that she thinks both ways are hard. Most of the time, it’s not really a choice but a reflection of the way things are in our lives. 

For example, where I live in Quebec, daycare is extremely affordable but salaries are generally lower. So it makes it difficult financially for one parent to stay home with their children. In other parts of Canada and in the US, daycare costs are exorbitant; so many mothers have to stay home with their children. Another friend of mine once told me that if she were to go back to work and send her children to daycare, she would essentially be working to pay for daycare. At that point, why bother sending kids to daycare when you can provide them the best possible care yourself?

Then there are those of who have worked for a long time to advance our careers before having kids. There are feelings of fear associated with staying home with pre-school aged children. How will five years (minimum) out of the workforce hold me back from advancing my career? Will I still be employable after that time? Will my networks dry up? Will people forget about me? I admit that I like the idea of being a stay at home mom and while the main reason I work is financial, I would hate to lose everything I have worked for in my career so far. There is still a lot I want to do, and I definitely fear putting my career on hold for more than a typical maternity leave.

Sometimes I feel like by working outside the home full-time, I’m missing out on spending time with my son. When I first returned to work from maternity leave, I found it so hard to focus on working. I was too used to focusing on being a mother 24/7 and had a hard time remembering that anything else is important. But that’s the kind of job mothering is – full time with very few breaks. After a few months, I grew accustomed to this new schedule and I must admit - I thoroughly enjoy dropping my son off in the morning and picking him up at the end of the day. Talking to adults for the rest of the day is infinitely easier!

Juggling motherhood, a home and a career is hard work. Trust me, and read any of my previous posts. It’s not easy. I am definitely struggling with it. But I can assure you that I think focusing on motherhood and a home full-time is just as hard, if not harder.

So why are we competing with each other? Why do women feel the need to fight and one-up each other all the time? When did the realm of motherhood become this way? As my friend pointed out, whether you stay home with your children or leave the home to work, we're alike in the feelings of guilt and doubt that we allow ourselves to feel. These are the modern day results of feminism making us feel like we have to do it all instead of it all being about choices opened up for us. I suspect that even if you have a full-time nanny, housekeeper and a part-time career, chances are if you are a woman you will find something to feel guilty about.

Ladies, we are all Supermoms, no matter how we do it. On that note, I will be sure to think twice before posting that kind of picture again!

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Hurricane Mom

When I was much younger and just starting out in my career, I had a colleague that I would refer to secretly as “The Hurricane Mom.” She was a bright, intelligent, talented and hard-working woman but she had a full-time career, two young children and always seemed to be completely harried. As a young, unmarried, childless woman, I vowed never to let myself become a Hurricane Mom myself. I was so na├»ve.

More than ten years later, my life (and outlook) has changed significantly. I am now married with a young child, and I have an established career that makes me literally sleep with my BlackBerry. I love my life, but I understand now that it’s not easy. Stress can creep up on you from every angle and make your chest hurt in the middle of the night if you let it.

I’m usually awake before 6 am every day and before leaving the house at 8 am, have to get myself and my son ready, prep breakfast for all of us, send my husband off with his coffee and newspaper and yes, cook tonight’s dinner. If I’m lucky, I can get a chance to empty the dishwasher so the evening’s cleanup is not so painful. While all that is going on, I have one eye trained on the BlackBerry to see if the blinking red light is signalling anything urgent.

Does this routine sound familiar to you? I’m sure it does.

But wait – not only is managing the day-to-day stuff challenging enough on its own. Then there’s the extra stuff that I feel like I need to do to ensure that I am keeping up with super-mom status… if I ever get to it, which is rare. For example, making the annual calendar of photos of my son to add to this year’s Christmas gifts. Preparing little Christmas gifts for my son’s daycare friends. Baking…okay, maybe baking is a stretch. I blame Martha Stewart and Pinterest for making me feel like I need to go above and beyond making sure my family is properly fed and clothed.

You might be asking yourself – where is your husband in all of this? Surely you’re not alone in managing everything. Fair question. I am not alone, it’s true. My husband is right beside me, helping with meals, cleanup, bedtime, etc… but when it comes to Martha Stewart ambitions, he looks at me like I’m crazy and implores me to take a break.

So what’s my point in all this ranting? My point is that lately, I’m starting to realize that it’s all too much. This constant pressure to go, go, go is going straight to the place inside my head that makes me crazy. And tired. And anxious. I’m teetering on the verge of becoming Hurricane Mom. And I only have one kid! How do people with more manage it?

In doing some talking with people much smarter than I, the solution it seems lies in making more time for myself. Trying to do things every day that relax me. That doesn’t mean passing out, glassy-eyed, in front of the television at 9 pm. It means do some yoga, go for a run, get a massage, read a book, meditate, chill out.

The first thing I do when I’m told to take more time for myself is give an internal snort. Really?! More time? Where am I supposed to find said time? But the reality is that I can’t take care of others properly if I don’t take care of myself. I know this much is true.

Moms, we cannot let stress make us sick. I know that I’m not alone in this. If my friends’ Facebook posts and Tweets are any indication of how we’re feeling inside, we need to take a break. I don’t want to burn out and be useless. Worse, I don’t want to die of a heart attack before I turn 40.

So I’m asking you – how do you fight stress? What do you do that is just for you? Does it work? Make a cup of coffee, put your feet up and let’s discuss.