Honestly, as a working mom I'm so busy there's usually not a whole lot of time to even realize I'm stressed. There are those moments, however, when my constant state of elevated stress hits me square in the face and I'm headed for either a glass of wine or a pretty big meltdown. Luckily, my partner has learned to spot the signs of distress early, because the things a working mom means when she says she's "a little stressed" are no damn joke. If you hear those three little words, it's time to jump into action, my friends.
Now, that's not to say stay-at-homes aren't just as stressed as mothers who work outside the house. Trust me when I say, if I had to stay at home all day (and in an apartment as small as ours) with a toddler, I would find it considerably more difficult to juggle my responsibilities and parent at the same time. Parenting another human being is tough, no matter how you choose to go about it.
Having said that, I do think being a stay-at-home mom and a working mom are difficult in different ways. As a working mom, my brain works overtime nearly all the time in an attempt to keep up with the multiple hats I wear on a daily basis. It means that I'm constantly convinced at least one of those hats are going to fall off my head. When that happens, my stress level elevates and it's time to break out the M&Ms. So, with that in mind and because prevention is easier than crisis management, here's what a working mom really means when she says she's "stressed." Keep the chocolate close, you guys.
"I Don't Have A Plan To Do It All"
When my stress levels creep above the normally elevated "slightly stressed" into "a little stressed," it's usually because I just don't have a plan for achieving all I need to achieve in a day. That feeling of not having enough hours in the day for working, spending time with my daughter, keeping the house in relative order, working out, and maybe opening a book if I'm lucky, can be very stressful.
"I'm Weighing My Options"
All. The. Time. I'm weighing my work responsibilities versus my parenting responsibilities all the time. I love my work, but thoughts of my daughter make up at least 30 percent of my brain space at any given time. It's downright exhausting.
"I'm Trying To Run Five Errands During My Lunch Break"
Why? Well, because there is literally no other time for them to be done. I never understood how much delivery services (which seem to be available for just about everything now) are necessary when you're a working mom.
"I Forgot My Kid's Stuff For Daycare"
This is me almost every single day, which means I'm usually tying to squeeze in an extra errand during that blessed, stressful lunch break. Thank goodness my kid's daycare is only 10 blocks away, right?
"My Kid's Sick & I Have A Work Deadline At Noon"
Or in my case, a classroom full of kids testing or a student who won't finish an assignment or pass his English class if I don't sit with him for the next hour. That is usually when daycare calls to tell me I need to come pick up my daughter. She has a fever, she has a mystery rash, she has a spider bite (which turned out to be a mosquito bite, but thanks guys!), or some other ailment that needs the more flexible parent to show up at a moment's notice.
Guess who the "more flexible parent" is, you guys.
"You Should Probably Make Dinner"
There's a very helpful article circling around the internet at the moment about passive parenting and women carrying the mental load of their families. The gist? Essentially, and while men may help with the chores or even split them equally, they aren't taking on the mental load of most of the household duties — from grocery lists to vaccination schedules — and that all takes a toll on a working mom.
If your partner is a working mom and she says she's "a little stressed," don't ask her how you can help. That just makes her brain hurt. Instead, imagine something she might be doing (or check out this article for a few examples) and take that on without being asked.
"I Need To Go To Sleep Immediately"
When I'm stressed all I can think about is how it would feel to go to bed at 6 p.m. and wake up 12 hours later. So far, and especially because I'm a working mom, this hasn't happened. Still, I think about going to sleep as soon as I'm home, and shutting my brain off a few hours early.
"My Brain Hurts"
On most days my brain is so exhausted from being as present as it can be, while simultaneously checking off mental lists and thinking a few steps ahead and trying to prepare for the next whatever, that it just starts hurting. It's that sort of stressed that's not helped by a nap, because there's just no way your brain will shut off in order to fall asleep.