The State of The Working Mom.

I’ve had a ridiculous few number of weeks at work, where I’ve been in a sort of survival mode, trying to cram all the work I can into the hours I can devote to working. I’ve been fortunate that my husband this week worked from home two days; so on those days I’ve had the luxury of working 12 or 13 hours without having to worry about juggling the rest of our life.

Which is why I posted my “confessions” post yesterday about some of my shortcuts. Because I know that shortcuts are a way of life, and we didn’t take them, things wouldn’t get done… and I would not have time for the important stuff.

I read an article called “The State of Working Moms” yesterday, a little bit of nothing, really, that spouts some statistics in advance of releasing results of a survey they took of working mothers. The article is here if you want to look at it.

Some of the statistics they use for the article are dubious – for example, the article says that 11% of women confess they’re afraid that their hectic schedules are preventing them from making lasting connections with their children but 29% refuse to hire help.

What about the other 89% of women? How do THEY feel? And 61% HAVE actually hired help, so isn’t that encouraging?

But there were some compelling numbers in there, too.

1 in 4 working moms cry at least once a week.

80% of working mothers feel stressed about getting everything done.

79% of working mothers feel as if they are falling behind.

Those were compelling enough to me that I forwarded the article to the controller of my client, who is brutally honest about her issues in juggling her stupidly busy job and her two children and one stepchild. Her response was immediate. YES! She said over email. This is me!

And then it was the first topic of conversation in the meeting we had yesterday with the General Counsel, back working full time only this week after having a baby – her first – at the end of August. The General Counsel said that her life was so ridiculous right now, all she could do at the end of the day was laugh at the lunacy of it all.

I forwarded it to my friend Katie, who has a 3:20am alarm set each morning to ensure that she either gets a run in before her long commute to Boston, and she sent me a response that was pretty similar to the controller’s.

THIS is why I dislike Sheryl Sandberg’s philosophy.

How can women lean in and help each other if they’re crying on a weekly basis because they are overwhelmed?

The article goes on to suggest three things which could help a woman handle the stress. Connect with friends, write in a journal, and get some exercise.

YES. Those are important things.

Those 12 hour workdays are started, generally, with a run. I’ve started meeting Katie for them in the city, since we’re both there early and want to run before the workday starts. We call them our WTF o’clock runs, and the whole time we’re running, we talk about how much we need to find balance between training for a race, wanting a new personal record… and making sure we keep finding the joy in our running. It’s SUCH an important outlet for our stress that we need to make sure we don’t burn out or get injured.

And I write. I started journaling again this summer, and I cannot tell you how much it’s helped. Somehow the act of writing, putting words to my anxiety and worry and fears and anger allows me to step out of feeling like I’m going to drown in whatever it is I’m feeling.

It totally works for me.

But then I look at my career. I work less than full time. I am a consultant, which means I have a hell of a lot more flexibility with my schedule than the controller or general counsel or my friend Katie.

So how do we fix the issue for women like them, successful, strong women who are invested in their careers and trying to juggle a family life?

Maybe we can start talking – really connecting.

Let’s talk about how we’re all busy and barely making it through some days. Let’s commiserate about the fact that there are mornings within moments of waking up we are wishing it was time for wine. Let’s share the shortcuts we all take. Let’s celebrate happy we are that we made it through another work week, though we still have more work to do and we have no idea when or how it’s going to get done. Let’s talk about how we’re not “off” this weekend, how we have do laundry and clean and unload the dishwasher and buy cub scout uniforms and indoor soccer shoes and get a pumpkin to decorate and crap, we need to get Halloween candy (with an extra bag because it’s the week before and OMG! CHOCOLATE!) and maybe this is the weekend we’ll get a kitten.

Okay, that’s just me. BUT.

We’re all in this being a busy working mom thing together.

Let’s talk about it.

Do you feel overwhelmed as a working parent? What strategies do you employ to help you cope?



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12 Responses to The State of The Working Mom.

  1. Kath says:

    Don’t get a kitten. (Because you asked for advice LOL).

  2. noemi says:

    Thank you for writing this. It’s good to feel like I’m not alone in feeling overwhelmed. You’re right that I do it to myself, but I do it to myself because if I don’t I don’t have anything that is for me. My whole life is for other people, so I schedule things that are for me, but that starts to make my life unmanageable.

    I definitely cry once a week. I constantly feel like I’m drowning, or at least uncomfortably underwater.

    I want to write more about this but I’m on the train to the airport. I will comment again soon. And I will share my short cuts, but honestly I need more of them. I am barely getting by in most areas of my life.

  3. noemi says:

    I just realized that asked what strategies I use to cope. The biggest one is to lower my standards, but that seems to be back firing of late. Just wanted to throw it out there though.

    • Karen says:

      I tried the lower my standards method too, but at the end of the day, dishes and laundry need to get done, and you can’t not clean forever.

  4. Deborah says:

    29% don’t hire help because they feel guilty – does that mean the others DO hire help, or that they don’t hire help for some other reason (like because they can’t afford it)? I have a really hard time believing 61% of people hire help, although it depends on how they define help of course.

    And actually, this survey is making me feel good about myself, because I don’t know the last time I cried about household tasks (actually, it was a few weeks postpartum, right after my gallbladder surgery), and I never work until midnight. I think I’ve become pretty accepting of being less than perfect. I just wish I could be on time to work for once, and finish painting my dining room, and remember to water my plants. It really is pretty chaotic!

    • Karen says:

      That’s the reason why I said the statistics are dubious. That particular one bugged me; I felt like the author pulled this teeny tiny sub population to prove a point that we’re self-inflicting our own stress. I wanted to know: what are the majority of women doing? Do they hire help? Do they make do and just let stuff go? That part was problematic for me.

      • Deborah says:

        I’m just thinking that the survey was done on users, which are already people who can afford babysitters.
        Of course there is a whole category of working moms who are in retail, food service, housecleaning, etc who probably never hire help! Then I thought, maybe they’re including an occasional babysitter in the definition of hired help, and that’s why the number is so high? I don’t know. K takes his clothes to a tailor when they get holes instead of making me sew them (because I hate doing it), but that’s the only hired help I can think of!

  5. Kim says:

    Wow, this is timely. I was in tears on Wednesday night, telling DH the pressure of working full time & being the person that is in charge of (what feels like) everything at home is too much. I do believe my exact words were “I’m not F*&%ing Wonder Woman”. His solution was to call in back-up in the form of his mom. Not exactly the answer I was looking for but I guess I will take it.
    I do have a cleaner for the house. She only comes once every 2 weeks but it’s better than a kick in the ass. I also have given up on folding laundry. It gets clean and dry and beyond that, I just don’t care anymore. Hubby usually gets miffed and will fold it. Most of my stuff gets hung to dry anyway so it doesn’t end up in a wrinkled mess. I just try to do a load every day or two so it never creeps up on me as a gigantic pile.

  6. Kathy says:

    It’s Sunday, and I am in the office. I only get two days a week with my kids, and I am spending one of them at work. I cried yesterday because P was working and I had a ton of work to do and responsibility for all three kids (he has all three today, but his mom is over helping and he doesn’t have any work to do) and the baby refused to nap. I had Pats tickets for today but gave them up. We could really use a cleaner but don’t have time to straighten up so that someone could actually clean. And I’m not sure we can afford one. (BTW, if your GC decides she’d be in a better place with an assistant GC (or senior counsel), have her look me up 🙂 ) I have gotten very little exercise for weeks now – if I don’t get to bed until 12-1 due to work, getting up early enough to run seems impossible. And I’m getting regularly chastised at work for not working hard enough, not showing enough commitment, not setting a good example for the more junior attorneys, not being efficient enough. As I was reminded a week or two ago, the challenges of balancing family and work are my problem, not theirs. I have felt on the verge of a meltdown for some time now, but I can’t even get an interview for a job that would be less oppressive, despite two degrees from Harvard. I’m with you – Sandberg can kiss my ass.

  7. Geochick says:

    So far, I’m finding that instead of crying once a week, I’m getting angry once a week that I can’t quite stay on top of everything. Part of my problem is that I do things like comment on blogs during work hours. *ahem* I have major trouble concentrating on tedious tasks like writing risk analysis reports (dry dry dry) and mess around, then get annoyed because I’m in danger of missing deadlines, yada yada yada. Apparently, I’m not doing that badly though because I just got a rave performance review. Go me! Imagine what I could do if I actually could concentrate for longer than 20 minutes at a time.

    Then there’s the issue that hey, I have 2 little kids at home, one 3 and one newborn. I’m not staying home with the newborn until December, but I think it’s really getting to me that I am trying to work full time the first 12 weeks of his life. DH does a fantastic job playing stay at home dad right now, so it’s not that. I think I can’t let go of that feeling that I should be home. NO, it’s more that I WANT to be home. It’s been a rough couple of years waiting for a successful adoption match and I feel like I need a break. It’s coming, but meanwhile, I can’t seem to get my act together.

    I have no idea how we are going to juggle both of us working full time, especially now that we are seriously considering putting our oldest into a school that is less convenient commute-wise for us, but may be an awesome thing for him. It’s either going to be that one of us takes a hit and works part-time, or…I don’t know. I can’t even think about it.

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