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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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The Sound of Silence

Earlier this week I wrote a short blip about the Excruciating Silence that happens when a loved one fails to communicate. As I mentioned in that post, I am a communicator, sometimes an over-communicator. It drives me insane to feel like I have discord with a loved one. I have always been in favor of mediation, conflict resolution, and the pursuit of harmony. When silence lingers for too long (especially when personal and relational challenges are being faced) it’s easy to make assumptions or perhaps let resentments linger. One such instance of an uncomfortable and ongoing silence in my life happened when I started sharing with loved ones about my new-found atheism.

“Coming Out” Atheist: Eventual Silence

About two years ago, my husband and I shared some important information with our close family (specifically, our parents and siblings). We “came out” of our atheist closets and said:

  • We are not Christians anymore
  • We don’t have sufficient evidence for any gods and therefore don’t believe
  • We are at peace with our realization
  • We are still the same caring, fun-loving, and happy people that we were before 

Every single family member was surprised at this change of heart… I don’t blame them since we were seriously devoted to our faith for so long. Some family members had pretty mild reactions. Oh, but some of our family members…their response was not so tame. Raised voices. Heated arguments. Hurt feelings. Unusual behavior. Aggression. Blaming. All of these things erupted in the first few months after sharing our news.

Soon, the raging fire sizzled out and the rumblings ceased…

Silence.

Share faith? Feel free. Lack belief? Mums the word.

Share faith? Feel free. Lack belief? Mums the word.

Awkward, uncomfortable silence.

Excruciatingly painful yucky silence.

When it came to our lack of belief, our families cries went from passionate and vocal… to silent. In desperation I felt like shouting, “But, we used to talk so openly about so many things! Can’t we be real with each other without taking things so personally? Or at the very least, can we agree to disagree, choose to love each other, and THEN not talk about it?” I used to share my deepest emotions and thoughts with my family. Now that we disagree about our core beliefs, sharing in this way has become incredibly difficult, and for now, impossible.

I can hear some of you saying, “Why do you even need to talk about god?” Truly, I would be happy to avoid the god topic under the following conditions: religion isn’t being pushed on my family and we’re not looked down upon for our disbelief. For now, that is not the case.

Unfortunately, because some family members are so devoted to their god, I fear there will be strife, passive aggression, and awkward, painful silence indefinitely. I have rejected their core beliefs, somehow that hurts them. I have to remember, I am the one who changed gradually over time, and then suddenly, I dumped this shocking information on my family.

Perhaps, gradually over time, my family will embrace me with open arms once again, with a willingness to share and be real about who we are. 

But I’m not getting my hopes up.

In the mean time, I will attempt to be inspired by the words of actor and playwright, Harvey Fierstein:

Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself.