Apr 222011

I’ve come to the conclusion that working moms (and dads) shouldn’t aspire to “do it all” (i.e., be the perfect parent and perfect employee) because in fact they can’t do it all. AND THAT’S OK- let’s try to find peace with the sacrifices we need to make.  Currently, I see four basic approaches by working parents:

  1. Trying to be the perfect parent/employee and becoming depressed/upset that they can’t pull it off
  2. Trying to be the perfect parent/employee and being in denial that they aren’t pulling it off
  3. Being at peace with the their choice to work as well as parent because they believe it results some greater good for their family
  4. Those who give up working so that they can try to be the best parent they can be  

Hopefully most of us can redirect ourselves to #3 or #4, so that we’re not berating ourselves for not being perfect, and we’re not in denial about how our decisions affect our family.  My own experience is that in the four years since my daughter was born I’ve been employed either full-time or part-time, except for 6 months when I didn’t work at all.  Working, because of the time constraints it imposed and the energy drain it caused, necessarily required me to make sacrifices related to parenting and other matters. Here are some examples from my own life:

  • Decorating Easter eggs? Nixed because we don’t have time.
  • Chairing a committee at work? No thanks, even if it means losing brownie points with my boss.
  • Making our own pizza dough with my daughter?  When I wasn’t working I actually wrote a post suggesting that- now, as a working parent, I think,  “You’ve got to be kidding me if you think I have time to make pizza dough.”

Perhaps the key here is to remind ourselves to be aware of all of the consequences of our actions, and then making our decision based on our priorities.  That way, we are comfortable with our decisions, and we won’t be in denial about the consequences that follow.  For instance, I had to do this calculation prior to Easter Weekend:
The consequences of decorating Easter eggs are:

  1. bonding with my daughter
  2. giving my daughter a fun Easter experience
  3. an extra trip to the grocery store to buy supplies
  4. my daughter losing interest half way through the endeavor.  

The consequences of not decorating Easter eggs are:

  1. missed opportunity to bond (bummer!)
  2. depriving my daughter of a fun experience (but, she’ll have plenty of fun egg-hunting for plastic eggs)
  3. no extra trip to the grocery store (yay!)
  4. having more time to do other stuff that weekend (double yay!)

For me, the balance tipped toward nixing the egg decorating, but I knew that I should find another way to bond with my daughter, and I should make sure the egg hunt was super fun (which it was- yay again!).

Viva Harris

+Viva Harris writes The Daily Citron, a fun blog about setting goals, saving money, staying organized, and enjoying life in the process. Don't want to miss any tips? Sign up for the free Daily Citron Weekly Newsletter.

  4 Responses to “Working Moms Can’t Do It All”

  1. Welcome back, Viva! I like having a counterpoint to my "stay at home mom" blog. (Though, as a homeschooling mom, I'm hardly not working and hardly ever staying home!) No matter what you do, you have to make compromises as a parent. However, I will quibble about the pizza dough: Now that you're a working mom, set aside some of your income for a Zojirushi bread maker. We never actually make bread from start to finish in it. We use it to make bread and pizza dough. You stick the ingredients in (I timed it: 2 minutes flat once you're used to it), set the timer, then go to work. When you get home, pizza dough ready to make. If you're willing to tinker with it, your bread maker will last long enough to pay for it. Luckily, I have a husband willing to tinker, and we've had ours for over ten years! — Suki

  2. My husband and I work opposite schedules, so we're very busy. We get a lot of things done during the day, but what I've found works best to keep us getting most of the things done is to make a list for my husband with check off boxes on a weekly basis and then make a bunch of copies of it to basically check off and get done. He can also do this from his ipod touch, but the physical check off list is harder to lose!

    We have also made a lot of sacrifices to have the lifestyle we do. We live in a 1 bedroom apartment because even though I am sure we could get a 2 bedroom apartment further away, we'd be forced to increase our living expenses by buying a second car and spending a lot on gas and generally being more sedentary. As it is, we can both walk/bicycle to work each day, and our daughter spends a lot of time walking and moving instead of being strapped into a carseat all day. This has a positive and profound impact on our health and we would not be able to make time for exercise in the same amount if we did not live where we do now.

    An additional benefit is that my husband can walk over with our daughter so we can have lunch together every day of the week. Luckily for me, he loves to cook, so he makes lunches and dinners so we save money instead of eating out all the time.

    One thing I tend to do about holidays is leave most of it to my parents, who have more time and ability to get things ready for special holiday events. We live over 3 hours from my parent's house, but my mom always sets up the eggs to be dyed on Easter and the cookie dough on Christmas so when we get over there to visit, it's really simple and easy to get those happy memories in without a lot of prep and waiting.

    As I have always said, the mantra of being a parent is "Do what fits your needs and do what works!"

    We all live in different situations, and we must take multiple factors into consideration when we make any finalized decision. Remember, it's not the one or two Big Events that shape a child, it's all the little moments in between. Be kind to yourself, and your children will gain one of the most valuable skills you can learn.

  3. Wow, bravo to Anonymous for having lots of systems/strategies to keep everything running smoothly and according to your priorities. I love the idea of someone pre-prepping the activities so that the kids can dive right into the activities. You mentioned you work an opposite schedule to your husband- when do you and your husband get to spend time together?

  4. Hi Suki, I might have to try a breadmaker… I know my husband's going to kill me if I add another appliance to our kitchen- he still hasn't forgiven me for buying the dehydrator!

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