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When Being a Working Mom Crushes You

While perusing Facebook yesterday I ran across, Recline, don’t ‘Lean In’ (Why I hate Sheryl Sandberg), an article by Rosa Brooks criticizing Sheryl Sandberg’s book ‘Lean In’.

Now, I have NOT read Sandberg’s book so I can not speak about it’s content. But, as for the article, Brooks makes some great points. She says:

Work has expanded to require employees’ round-the-clock attention [and] being a good mom has also started requiring ubiquity…It’s hard enough managing one 24/7 job. No one can survive two of them.

This article reminded me of my time as a working mom. After my second son was born and I went back to full-time employment, my life soon became the most challenging, stressful, and unhappy time in my life. And while there were certainly some good things going on, the hardships far out-weighed any benefits my family and I were experiencing. Ah, my family. I think back and feel sad about how forgetful I was and how I neglected them. I was certainly putting my career first and was blinded by my need to do a good job and be perceived as a hard, competent worker. Brooks says it so well:

Rocks balancingIt’s little wonder that many of the gifted young female staffers who enter these workplaces hit a wall at some point, and come to the painful realization that work and family obligations aren’t always things you can simply “balance.” Often, these weights become too heavy. They can crush you.

I certainly felt crushed, and I felt like I harmed my family and our precious relationships with each other in the process. As it turns out, my attempts to be competent at both work and home became a battle I couldn’t win. Eventually I lost my desire to work and gained a huge desire to give staying at home a try. I became gradually more excited to create space for myself to actually get to know my kids, actually pay attention to my own needs and those of my family (including my poor neglected husband). Check out a previous post Why I stay at home to learn a bit more about when I hit my breaking point and quit my job to hang out with preschoolers 24/7.

Whether it’s one more meeting, one more memo, one more conference, one more play date, one more soccer game or one more flute lesson for the kids, sometimes we need to say, “Enough!”

I took it a few steps further than Brooks suggests. I chose to say ‘Enough!’ to working outside of the home all together. It has been a great choice. I have no regrets.

I realize that Rosa Brooks wrote her article not to encourage working moms to quit their jobs, but to encourage them to find balance between the workplace and family life. Many working moms have found a balance that works for them. If both parents are working, I think it’s largely important that tasks be shared between both caregivers or if you’re a single parent that you get help from your family or community. As I observe most of my mommy friends, it seems that working and stay-at-home moms alike do the bulk of housework and child-rearing. As nurturers we take on caring for everybody and often we neglect caring for ourselves. It is so important for moms everywhere to voice their needs and prioritize self-care. But of course that is easier said than done.

Although many working moms do strike necessary balance, in some cases, I think that balance can only be found by leaving the job that is crushing you. Leaving that job to find a less stressful job perhaps, or leaving to stay at home if financially possible. After observing the benefits my family has reaped over the past seven months I have been home, I realize that this choice was crucial for us and frankly…I can’t afford to go back to work. 

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