By Brandee, Contributor
One of my SAHM friends once said to me “I wish sometimes I could work out of the home too, if only to catch a break once in awhile!” At the time, the comment was just a comment, and I didn’t think twice. I know what she meant; she meant that as a SAHM she is on, full time, 24/7 attending to the needs of others. If the kids are napping or out at a playdate or in bed for the night, her work doesn’t end. She doesn’t enjoy a long leisurely lunch where she gets to eat everything on her plate with no sharing and no whining demands from someone else. She doesn’t get a mental break from motherhood, where she sits in a really exciting budget meeting or attends to her project management duties. She doesn’t get to hang up her mom hat for a part of every day, and put on the hat of a teacher, an administrator, a marketing professional or anything. She is mom, 24/7, that is who she is.
Well, so am I.
The thing is, as much as I will talk to the ends of the earth about how much I enjoy working out of the home, I will never for a moment claim that I am any less of a full-time mother than anyone else. Nor will I accept the idea that what I do is “having a break once and awhile.” In fact, breaks at all only work to create more guilt in me. And no, this is not another guilt post; I think this is more about balance.
While I do get to step out of the mom box 5 days a week, for a period of time, that doesn’t mean I cease to be a mother. I am constantly thinking about and doing things for Everly. My work days are not full of long lunches, socializing at the water cooler and taking time out for myself. It’s quite the opposite. The only time my lunch is long or extended is when I don’t get back from running the 15 errands I try to cram into that hour. My lunch hours are full of trips to the grocery store to pick up dinner supplies, and runs past the dollar store for whatever random household item I’m trying to find. I race up to the drug store for Kleenex and baby wipes, and race back with a sandwich in hand. I then attempt to use what remains of my lunch time to pick up on personal things that are slipping through the cracks at every moment. I’m emailing, blogging, organizing personal meetings, perhaps getting the eye brows threaded (relaxing this is not) or in some way utilizing that “personal” hour to alleviate some of the pressure in my life. It’s a rare day when I actually sit down, for the 30-60 mins I allot to lunch in a day, and just eat my food slowly, and actually chew it. Mostly, I am typing with one hand and using the phone with my ear and shoulder while I stuff an entire sub down my throat in record time.
From when I get up in the morning to when I get home, it’s 12 hours of go go go. I get up and ready, I get Everly ready, I drop her at school, park the car, put my 8-9 hours in and do everything in reverse. I need to pick her up and get her home where I need to prep her dinner and get her fed, bathed and off to bed in a reasonable amount of time. While I am infinitely lucky that my husband does bedtime with her, that doesn’t mean my day stops there. We eat when she is in bed (I know some think this is adding extra pressure but it’s what works for us), so once they are secured in her room for books and milk, I’m down cooking again, cleaning up her dinner mess, while simultaneously dealing with laundry or other chores. When the time finally rolls around and all the things are done for the day, it’s 11pm. This is when I start the internal debate about whether to go to bed now, or spend one more hour awake, just so I can have “me” time. That extra hour always wins, except I always spend it sleeping, neck kinked on the couch, while the TV blares, so I might as well go to bed.
Then there are the weekends. Sure, my husband is more than willing to give me some coveted “me” time. He is awesome like that. I want to go for lunch with a friend? Sure. I need to get my hair done? Why not? I just want to spend an entire day sitting in silence and doing nothing (ok let’s face it, I’d be tweeting), go for it! This is all wonderful and great and I am so lucky and blah blah blah, but you know what? I feel I owe that time to Everly.
I spend so much of our week at work. While she’s off playing and learning and socializing, I’m at work planning and scheduling and marketing, and we aren’t together. Is this part of the sacrifice I make? Obviously. Do I love it? Only sometimes. Most times though, I sit and think I need to make the absolute most out of every weekend and evening. I only get to see her a few hours a day, and weekends, so who am I to turn around and give up some of OUR time, so I can have some ME time. Where does ME time even fit?
Sometimes as a working mother, I wonder if I’m really even entitled to “me” time.
I try to schedule most of my personal, non-baby weekend activities during her nap time or after she’s in bed, but of course that doesn’t always work. I’d love nothing more than to take a yoga class, but that would take away from time she and I spend together (not to mention family time). I’d love to make plans with my non-kid friends to go for a long lunch, where we sip cocktails. We would talk about all the wonderful adventures they have while I’m at home trying to Shout! out the latest daycare stains, but that just isn’t as important to me as watching my kid go down the slide 2700 times in a row. I could go out after she’s in bed and get drunk, but having a hangover is not a fair way to spend a Sunday with my child. So where is the balance?
I am a firm believer that every person, mother or not, needs personal time. However you choose to use that time is up to you, but it’s important. For me, the line gets blurred when I consider how I balance what I need as a person, and what I want as a mother.
What I WANT to do, is spend as much time as humanely possible with Everly, outside of the work hours. I want her to know I love her, despite being away from her so often, and I want her to know I am just as fun as daycare. I want her to grow up with a dedicated mother who tends to her every need, and does it with a smile. I want her to know what it’s like to grow up in a happy, healthy household with a mother who has learned how to have her cake and eat it too.
I want something that doesn’t exist.
The issue with my above plan falls in the “happy, healthy, smiley” realm. Without some “me” time (and that does not include the one time my husband took Everly out so I could wash my floors in peace) I have a hard time staying focused and happy. I just plain get worn out and tired. Without an opportunity to take a few breaths, I lose sight of all that I have and quickly become overwhelmed by all that I’m not. I enjoy time away from the day in and day out of a working mother, but I need to accept that enjoying that time away does not make me a bad person. It’s important for me to find this balance, because it’s the only way I can demonstrate to Everly the type of woman I’d love her to be.
I haven’t quite figured this one out yet. The head and the heart battle it out on a pretty frequent basis. While I know I need the “me” time, I have to learn to embrace it when it comes. I have to let go of the guilt I associate with being away from her when I don’t HAVE to be, and realize that overall, it’s best for all of us. I have to think about that time more as time her and her dad spend bonding, and less as a burden to him as a solo parent (my issue, not his. He has no issue with me taking “me” time). I need to get my heart on board with what my head already knows – that taking some personal time is not an offense, it’s a need.
How do you find that balance?