We working mothers get too much credit. Yes, we juggle a lot. Sure, we raise well-adjusted children. And you better believe we keep our husbands happy and our houses clean. But it’s not necessarily because we want to – it’s because we have to.
You see, just as our husbands have taken on some of the family’s household duties, working mothers have taken on many of the financial duties. Our families rely on our paychecks, and quite a few of us actually make more than our husbands do. We’ve accepted the role, and do it (for the most part) surprisingly well.
In a few days I leave for an eight day trip that will take me across two time zones. I’ve spent the last two days prepping food, menus and carpool schedules. My five boys have started to watch me – they know something is going on because the black suitcase is out. Again.
My oldest has researched the weather and is in charge of packing my coat and umbrella. The middle is dropping hints for souvenirs and my worrier is reminding me almost hourly what he needs for school while I’m gone (sometimes I wonder if he trusts me at all). One toddler has quietly placed a stuffed animal in my growing pile of packed clothes and his twin has offered me his blanket for the trip.
I’ve always worked. I left my oldest for the first time when he was six weeks old. Over the years, my children have gotten tubes in their ears without me, celebrated birthdays without me and survived surprisingly well on Halloween without me (although a dear friend did have to make an emergency repair to a Power Ranger costume one year). Seriously, they won’t miss a beat during this eight day trip.
I don’t share this with you because I’m proud of it; I share this with you to help you understand that this is my family’s “normal,” and the normal of many other working mothers.
Being a working mother means our life is an on-going team building exercise. The seven of us know how to work together, pitch in and get stuff done.
My mother, who also always worked, counseled me years ago on the best way to balance working with being a mother and wife. She told me to take my boys with me whenever I could – on trips, to meetings, and anywhere else they could learn about what I was doing, and why it was important.
She also told me to never use my career – or the salary attached – to belittle my husband or make him feel anything but important to our family and me (Note: before I wrote this I even took into account my father-in-law, who has no idea about my career and salary, will most likely never see this post. He also will never understand why I don’t pour my husband’s tea.).
Last week we took the boys out for dinner after a school performance. I had already worked ten hours in the office, dealt with a few “fires” away from my desk, and gotten the middle child (who seems a bit needy lately) backstage in the appropriate costume on time. My whole body slumped into the chair after all the orders were placed (13 tacos made four different ways, three quesadillas, extra mild salsa, cups with lids, and two booster seats).
I looked over at a nearby table and saw another mother, dressed in emergency room scrubs, and her little girl. She looked tired. The same tired I feel at the end of most days.
Maybe this other working mother had spent her day saving lives. She probably had a long to-do list ahead of her, and a lot to get done before she would be able to sit or even take a shower. But she listened closely to her daughter, and laughed out loud at the story being told. I think I may have even seen her feed a doll a chip.
That’s what we do, us working mothers. We laugh at stories and raise strong children. We love our partners and care for our communities. Most importantly, we serve as role models to the next generation – of boys and girls – and show them that a strong family comes from teamwork, and acknowledging that we all play different and important roles when it comes being strong … together.