As a working mom, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s nearly impossible to strike a perfect balance between career and family. Don’t get me wrong — I knew it would be tough. I just figured that I’d get the routine down to a science after a few months. I was wrong.
My daughter is 9 months old now, and I’m still constantly torn between my desire to spend time with her while taking care of things at home and my desire to efficiently handle every project that comes my way and dedicating myself to advancing my career. To complicate the situation, my own emotions and feelings often add to my guilt.
I was raised by a wonderful, career-minded mother who instilled in me the value of hard work and ambition. She cared for my siblings and me while holding down a demanding full-time job and fulfilling other obligations, such as participating in PTA functions, attending church and ferrying her children to and from extracurricular activities. Plus, she kept our home spotless. I have no idea when she rested, and I always assumed I’d be just like her.
My mom made the balancing act seem effortless. Me, not so much. When I’m working late or on weekends, which is not a rare occurrence, I feel like I’m neglecting my family and letting my domestic responsibilities slip through the cracks. When I end my workday at a reasonable hour or take off a little early for a child-related reason, such as a doctor’s appointment, I worry my absence will inconvenience or disappoint my co-workers. I take both my family and my job very seriously, but some days, it feels like a no-win situation.
And if fretting over the tug-of-war routine wasn’t enough, my changing opinion on the subject of being a working mother often gets the best of me. I’m an ambitious person and I enjoy working, but I also sometimes wish I had the resources to be a stay-at-home mom — a desire that confuses and surprises me given my upbringing in a family in which most females — mother, grandmothers, aunts and sister — work or did work.
And then there’s the issue of trying to be a good wife. Between rushing to and from work each day, spending as much time as possible with my daughter and tidying up our house in the evenings, I don’t always have time to catch up with my husband. I know we should set aside a few minutes every night to chat about our days and other mindless matters, but that’s easier said than done. I’ve toyed with the idea of having a “date night” once a month, but by the time we schedule it, decide where to go, book — and pay for — a babysitter and get ourselves spiffed up, it almost seems like more trouble than it’s worth.
Perhaps the fact of the matter is, I’m my own worst critic. No one — my husband or co-workers — has criticized me for spending too much time at work and not enough at home or vice versa. I often wonder why I worry so much about it. Well, because I’m a mom, and worrying is one of the things we do best.
Barnidge is managing editor of the Coastal Courier.