Even when my daughter was barely old enough to pull herself upright, I knew I wanted a career. At the time I was freelancing various projects on the side to help pay bills, but I felt ready to take on more. In fact, I craved it. However, there were so many intense things I wasn't ready for when I became a working mom. I guess I could say I went on the journey with a naive optimism. I'd like to think I was cautious and give myself a pass, because it was difficult to know how hard it would be to balance life and work, but I wasn't cautious so I don't get a pass. If anything, I jumped into the "working mom" life with everything in me.
When it comes to my career, I've known what path I wanted to take for as long as I can remember, but as I got older and life intervened, I trailed off of my proverbial "life road." I didn't follow the traditional path to my career, but it's OK. I got here eventually, and this period of time allowed me to grow into myself as a woman, and eventually, wife and mother.
By the time I had my daughter and my son, following my dreams became more challenging with every project I took on and every writing position I joyfully accepted. I wanted to be a fantastic mother, but I also needed to have this career, as a writer, in order to be my best self. The problem was, the two didn't always mesh. There have been a lot of growing pains and, at one point, I took on a part-time job outside of the home, which only added to the intense feelings I thought I was ready for, but totally wasn't.
Now that I've found a bit of a groove with how I work and mother simultaneously, things are better. Those initial freak-out moments after deciding I'd pursue my passion full-time made me question how badly I wanted to "have it all." With that, here are some of those feelings I had, when I became a working mom (that I sometimes still struggle with today).
How Tired I'd Be
I knew that taking on the role of mother and career woman would be taxing, but I didn't anticipate just how taxing. I'd never juggled the two before, so it took awhile to figure out the best ways to navigate my days. Even still, time management is key or I'll fumble and fail at everything I'm in charge of.
How Difficult Finding Balance Would Be
I'm not completely sure balance is attainable when you're a mom and have a career. I'm the type who needs to be the one in charge of the day's tasks, my kids' schedules, and all my work responsibilities. I teeter on feeling overwhelmed and utterly fulfilled, but I've yet to find true balance. I'm usually either giving more to parenting or my career at any given time, but not both simultaneously. Then, of course, there are the times when I'm doing one but thinking of the other. I call it "the curse of the working mom," because I want to do it all and be great at it all, too. It doesn't always happen that way, though, and it took a long time for me to accept that maybe that's what balance actually is.
How Overwhelmed I'd Feel
As I first tried to navigate the working mom waters, it all felt like too much. I was either not spending enough time with my baby or not devoting enough time to my freelance work and jobs. I think women are unfairly judged for doing both, and no matter how much we succeed it's the fails that others point out. Yes, I spent a lot of time building my resume, but that also meant a lot of takeout or frozen meals. On the other hand, yes, I had a specific schedule with my baby. That meant having to split my work into different parts of the day.
How Often I'd Fail
Ugh. I still fail. A lot. Part of becoming a working mom means learning to accept that perceived failure is going to be an inevitability. Sometimes I fail on the parenting end and sometimes on the working end. Regardless, I absolutely wasn't ready for this. The first few times I experienced what I considered to be a failure, I was really hard on myself. My expectations weren't realistic and, as a result, caused a lot of unnecessary stress.
How Much I'd Question My Decision
Because things weren't going perfectly in those early weeks of taking on more work and being a stay-at-home mom, I wondered if I'd made the right decision at all. If it was so hard to be good at both, so maybe I chose wrong.
This is what I argued in my head at the end of every day. It was intense, but I'm so glad I pushed through. If I hadn't, I wouldn't be where I am now.
How Hard It Would Be To Find Sitters
Part of my personal struggle was finding someone to watch my daughter so I could get work done. We didn't live near family and my husband worked a lot. It came down to me and my rigid scheduling that would save us most of the time (however stressful). Once we moved and I had my son, my work multiplied but we also had more options if I needed an occasional baby sitter. Still, and even today, it comes down to me and my kids and the way I manage my time.
How Little I'd See My Partner
I thought finding time with my husband was difficult before I took on so much work. Afterwards? Yeah, it was next level hard. Our schedules opposed one another (still kind of do) and with the kids needing our attention as well, me as a working mom meant being choosy with what projects I could work on at any given time. When it came down to it, sometimes I had to turn things down (like additional projects or extra hours at the part-time job), if it meant time with him.
How Much I'd Miss Quality Time With My Kids
The funny thing about being home with my kids all the time is that I miss the moments, even when I'm right there. My mind is constantly drifting to work or other things that need done, and honestly, I take my time with them for granted. When I'm working (especially outside of the home), I really miss all the things that would normally annoy me at home. Being a working mom is weird like that.
How Much I'd Simultaneously Enjoy And Loathe "Having It All"
The most intense thing that happened when I became a working mom was the emotional confusion. I was excited to embark on my career journey and start following my dreams, but I was scared of failing as mother. I was grateful to have my children, but couldn't ignore the tug in my heart to travel other roads that didn't involve motherhood. It took a lot of thoughtful consideration, but at the end of the day, I guess I do "have it all." I have amazing children I'm proud of, and a career that fulfills me.