As a working mom, I have spent over nine years trying to figure out how to balance my family life with my work life. And after nine years, I feel like achieving that balance is impossible. Well, at least for me. My husband seems to be able to find that balance just fine and with minimal issues. Which is why, if I'm being honest, I blame my partner for me feeling like I can't "have it all."
Objectively, I have to confess that it's not entirely his fault that I'm stuck in this predicament. There are a combination of factors at play — societal, professional, personal, and circumstantial — that have contributed to my current life situation, and many of those factors are out of his control. He's not entirely blameless, though. And if I'm going to be honest about the barriers and difficulties moms face when trying to work and parent, I have to be willing to call out the man I decided to parent with. I mean, it's pretty damn difficult for me to find both personal and professional success when I'm drowning at home and have to do way more than my fair share to keep everyone — including my husband — afloat.
What's perhaps the most frustrating is that my husband is the first to admit that I am bearing the brunt of the parenting and household responsibilities. I'm the one who is in charge of household tasks, child care, cooking, scheduling, and emotional labor, and while he also contributes his efforts are nowhere near as consistent or extensive as mine. So add my paid labor for my employers and clients and, well, I am up to my eyeballs in responsibilities, feeling as if I'm failing or simply unable to be everything I need to be for everyone.
A typical day for me includes seven or eight hours of paid work, on top of cleaning the house, helping with homework, making dinner, doing the dishes, grocery shopping, trying futilely to do mountains of laundry, and managing a family calendar full of doctors' appointments, field trips, school dress-up days, choir concerts, and birthday parties. I handle it all and while also coping with chronic pain, keeping up with my own professional and personal calendar, and finding time to devote to my husband. By the end of the day I am so tired I can't function well on any level, let alone think about my future career plans or continuing my education.
My days rarely go as planned, too, and certain obligations or responsibilities fall threw the cracks. And that's when I feel like a failure; a feeling my husband can't understand.
Even when he's engaged, it's because I have done the emotional labor to ensure that engagement happens.
The truth is, our family life is impacting my career and I feel like there's nothing I can do about it. I also feel like I don't really have the right to complain, because I am privileged and I do have a beautiful family and I do have a rewarding job and I do have a husband who is willing to help around the house. He's more than willing to do his part, especially when I point out that he's slacking.
But more often than not I manage things in a way that makes it easier for my husband to play his part. I facilitate his parenting, too, and on top of working more than one job and being the primary caregiver for our children. Even when he's engaged, it's because I have done the emotional labor to ensure that engagement happens.
... I can't ignore the cultural norms and pressures that make arguably every mom feel as if she has to sacrifice herself on a consistent basis in order to be a good parent; a sacrifice that makes it impossible to "have it all."
I make to do lists and put events on our shared calendar, only to find myself having to act as Alexa or Siri for our household. I'm the one who reminds my husband about the baby's doctor's appointment or the parent-teacher conference. So while my husband will take the baby to the pediatrician or attend our kids' school functions, I am the one who has to make it so. I am the one who has those responsibilities taking up brain space, and to the detriment of my career. When I have to focus so much on what my family is doing in order for them all to succeed, I can't focus as much on my job or my passions or even my need for self-care.
If I don't do things like put away the ketchup bottle after dinner, or pick up dirty socks off the floor, no one else will. I'm the one who has to hear passive aggressive comments about things like the state of our house, my kids' clothes and hair, and their homework assignments, while my husband gets a pass. So while I'm thankful for my family and my career, I can't help but feel like this push and pull I constantly feel is entirely unfair and continues because my husband doesn't step up on his own and without my constant request.
In the end, I guess I have to admit that I can't help but feel jealous of how people treat my husband as a working dad. If he takes an afternoon off from work to spend time with his kids, people see him as "super dad." But if I did the same I would be chastised, or considered lazy, or people would assume I wasn't serious about my career. And if I work my love for my children is questioned, my parenting is dissected, and people ask why I would go back to work at all. My husband, of course, has never been asked that question.
I hope that my husband continues to listen when I bring the aforementioned things up to him, and steps up without me having to facilitate a damn thing.
The truth is, as a man my husband has no problem (and seemingly no guilt) taking the time and space he needs to recover from a hard day at work, taking a nap on a Saturday afternoon, sending the kids to school with messy hair or peanut butter smears on their faces, or letting the kids have screen time so he can get a break. I just don't feel like I can do the same, and while I have to take responsibility for that feeling to some extent, I can't ignore the cultural norms and pressures that make arguably every mom feel as if she has to sacrifice herself on a consistent basis in order to be a good parent; a sacrifice that makes it impossible to "have it all."
I want my children to grow up understanding the gender roles are bullsh*t and a woman doesn't have to do things a certain way just because she's a woman, just like a man doesn't have to do certain things just because he's a man. But how can I do that if I am failing as a working mom, and my husband is failing as an equal partner at home? Right now, I have no idea.
I hope that things will get easier as our kids get older and I am able to hop back on a career track. I hope that my husband continues to listen when I bring the aforementioned things up to him, and steps up without me having to facilitate a damn thing. But I'm worried that things won't change anytime soon, and I blame my husband for feeling this way.