Going through a mother’s existential crisis here. And with a new job that requires travel my desperation for answers is only growing. My idea of what makes a mother is, of course, heavily influenced by my own mother. As far back as I can remember, she was always there (she primarily worked from home). And so my lack of presence in my daughter’s life has led me to question whether I can work and be my own best version of a mother. If I’m not always there, if I’m not filling up my daughter’s conscious hours, who am I?
My lack of presence, my ratio of hours with my daughter vs. without has been haunting me since I started dropping her off at a baby sitter regularly. I felt that presence was the one thing I can’t offer as a working mother. Maybe it’s the vodka in my iced tea or this heat wave is knocking something loose in my brain, but I’ve come to two conclusions.
1) Letting this guilt rip me up, twist my guts, and pummel my heart doesn’t help me or my daughter. I don’t come home a better mother for it. I come home exhausted from feeling conflicted all day. Kids are very perceptive; I’m sure she’s picking up on my negative emotions when I bring this guilty feeling home with me. I’ve lived with this feeling for so long because I thought it would drive me to come up with some fantastically creative solution. But the truth is that mothering in America comes with some unfairness.
The majority of mothers in America work. The majority of American companies have not evolved to support a working mother yet. As Annabel Crabb said so succinctly, “The obligation for working mothers is a very precise one: the feeling that one ought to work as if one did not have children, while raising one’s children as if one did not have a job.” And so I’m not going to solve this problem for myself and all American women in a few months. This is going to take time (hopefully not too much), women raising their voices and coming together to resolve.
For now, this is the reality I’ve been dealt, I must be the best mother in these circumstances. I’m giving up on guilt, because it isn’t making me a better mother. And I don’t have time for anything that doesn’t make me a better mother.
2) Be present. I may not have as many hours to offer my daughter as I would hope, not as much presence. But I can be truly and fully with her when we’re together. I can do everything possible to make those hours count.
I still have to do laundry, clean the house, cook, grocery shop, all the things that keep a family running, but I put those things off until after her bedtime if I can. If that’s not possible I try to turn chores into a game we can play together. If all else fails, I’ll clean when she goes to college. When she wants to walk me in circles around the kitchen a tenth time, I’ll try to remember to say “yes” and tell that pile of dishes mocking me to shut the hell up.
That’s what I’ve got for now. If I figure out some magical cure for the working mom blues, please know that I’ll have it posted here ASAP.