I have the unique experience of knowing what it's like to be a stay-at-home mom and a working mom. When your kids are little, staying at home is beyond difficult. Then your kids go to school and staying at home is much easier. Up until a few months ago, I spent a little over three hours a day on just commuting for work. My commute was longer than the time I had to spend with my kids. However, while being a working mom is tough, there are some things you can get away with only when you're a working mom.
When I say that working moms can "get away" with certain things, I'm referring to the alleviation of guilt. No mom can truly "get away" with anything (mainly because of the immense pressure we put on ourselves), but she can allow herself to not feel guilty about letting some of her responsibilities slip through the cracks for a little while. Working full-time and managing a household is a balance that is difficult for most, and I know it's burdensome for me.
As a working mom I had to accept some of life's realities. I quickly understood that a balance between family and work is the most important benefit a company can offer, and that most don't offer it in any capacity. I learned that seeing my family for only a few hours each night was miserable. I discovered that no matter how hard I tried, I could never get everything done and that some things were always left unfinished. When I finally realized I had to let go of some of the guilt I constantly felt, I began allowing myself to "get away" with some of my "inadequacies."
Takeout For Dinner
Although I became quite skilled at making quick, 30 minute meals, some evenings became takeout nights. When I'm coming home somewhere between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m., I don't always have the time or the energy to make dinner. We tried making the best choices for takeout, but some days we ate mac and cheese and hot dogs.
Not Putting Your Kids To Bed
There were days when I came home, went upstairs, closed the door, and went to sleep. Then there were days when I gave up on life right after dinner. I missed more than a few bedtime stories while I cleaned the kitchen after dinner, or while I prepared lunches for the next day.
Money for field trips, signing off on homework, birthday parties, the yet-another-dress-up-as-your-favorite-cartoon-character day, sneakers for gym class, the yet-another-bring-a-book-to-class day were all, at one time or another, forgotten. I forgot to pay bills, to make appointments, to email the teacher, and to drop off supplies for the yet-another-exciting-let's-build-a-scarecrow class project.
Letting The Kids Watch TV
When I am not working, the television isn't something that I frequently allow. Generally, we have a no-tv on school days policy. In our house, weeknights are for homework, activities, playing, crafting, reading, and really anything but the passive tv watching.
However, when I've just commuted for over an hour and made dinner and cleaned, I don't care what you do as long as you are quiet. If that television buys me an hour of quiet, I'll take it.
I had to say no to after-school activities, birthday parties, and other various random requests from the kids and other parents. I had to say no to volunteering for school events and to coming in during the day for the yet-another-let's-celebrate-every-single-holiday party. I couldn't agree to everything, even though, of course, I want to be the mom who comes in to read to the kids for Dr. Seuss Day, or the mom who brings cupcakes for her kid's birthday.
Ignoring Your Partner
Some days after the kids went to sleep, I had to catch up on some work. I sacrificed my time with him for my time with all of them. I could have stayed late at the office, but then I would not see the kids at all. As a working mom, these are the decisions that plague your everyday, and you have to be able to allow yourself to "get away" with some of these choices or otherwise you'll be committed. I mean, I know I would be.
When you spend every day at work and every night cooking and running around for extracurricular activities, you have two days left to cram in every other thing you need to do. Food shopping, laundry, cleaning, and cooking fall on the weekend. Also, some weekends you may want to, you know, go out with a some friends or unwind over a drink with another couple or just leave the kids with the grandparents and go out on a date. With just two days to do it all, you have to ask for help (if you have the opportunity, of course). I've asked my parents to babysit and cook. I've hired someone to come clean the house. I learned that asking for and getting help is not only OK, it's absolutely needed.
Now that I've stayed at home for a few months, I can tell you with certainty I can no longer get away with most of these things. I make dinner almost every night (because I actually have time). The house is always clean. The laundry does not pile up. The bills are paid. The field trip slips are signed. The fundraising money is sent to school. The supplies are dropped off. The television is a weekend activity. We spend our weekends together, relaxing or doing family activities. Our world is a lot less hectic and I feel like I get everything done. It's a nice peaceful feeling, hardly riddled with guilt.