Inside: This is to you, the working mom who leaves your home every day to support your family. But first, a caveat: This is not intended to discount the experience and daily challenges of moms in other situations or even of dads. Parenthood is parenthood, no matter the circumstances. But in reflecting on my past, I remembered the crushing weight of working mom guilt. And so this is to you, the mom who leaves for work.
This is to you, the mom who has one foot in each world. To you, the one who feels like a failure at home and a failure at work because you can’t give 100% to both. You, the one who fantasizes about not needing sleep so you can finally get it all done. Or maybe half of it done.
This is to you, the mom who wakes up at 4:00 am to pump because it’s the only time the house is quiet and nobody’s hanging on you. To you, the one who sets up the pump and sits down to hook up the tube and the flange and the bottle, and your milk lets down – just as the baby wakes up. You, the one who doesn’t want to wake the rest of the house, so you stop the pump, press a nursing pad to your chest, and go to get the baby. To you, the mom who sits back down to start the whole process all over again except this time with a squirmy baby who keeps kicking the pump flange, spraying you both in milk.
This is to you, the one who can shower, do your hair and makeup, and get dressed in 7.2 minutes. To you, the mom who can do this in 7.2 minutes while also keeping your baby happy in the bouncy seat because your partner already had to leave for work. You, the mom can even keep the baby happy in the bouncy seat by practicing your 9:00 am presentation while channeling the energy level and voice of Elmo.
When You’re Running Late
This is to you, the mom who walks the fine line between hurrying your slowpoke kid and losing your patience because everything. Takes. So. Long. To you, the one who smiles big when that slowpoke shows you his massive wobbly LEGO tower, even though you know you’re already 10 minutes behind schedule. You, the mom who gets all the diaper bags packed and the lunches made and everybody loaded in their car seats and buckled, and you’re about to back out of the driveway when you hear, “I have to pee.”
This is to you, the mom who pulls back in the driveway, unbuckles both kids, traipses back inside, sits the big kid on the potty, and waits. To you, the mom who waits. You, the mom who waits and waits and waits even though nothing happens.
This is to you, the mom who does all this, reacts only with a heavy sigh, and repeats the whole ridiculous process all over again. To you, the mom who always, always puts your purse in the backseat. You, the one who knows why this is important.
When Even Your Commute Isn’t a Break
This is to you, the one who sings “Old MacDonald” on the way to daycare. To you, the mom who can’t think of any more animal sounds so you make them up. The pink snorfallus says “snorf.” The hairy bumble says “bum-bum.” The vanilla snackimal says “yum.”
This is to you, on the mornings you have to reach back with one hand while driving to keep the pacifier in the baby’s mouth. To you, the mom who can do this and still be a better driver than some people are with both hands on the wheel. You, the mom who can already feel the crick in your back, but you do it anyway because keeping the peace is more important than saving yourself pain.
This is to you, the mom who parks in the daycare parking lot, gets out of the car, and opens the back door to discover the baby’s carseat fell victim to the most epic of epic blowouts. To you, the one who thinks of your 9:00 am presentation and your pristine white blouse. You, the mom who hands your phone to the big kid to buy yourself time, extracts the baby and holds her at arm-length, then completes a diaper change, full body wipe-down, and a costume change in the trunk of your car.
When You Have to Leave
This is to you, the mom who stops at the infant room and hands over a baby with arms reaching for you and tears running down her little face. To you, the one who turns toward the big kid classroom while holding that big kid’s hand. To you, when your big kid migrates from your hand to a full body lock on your leg. You, the one who has to pry each pudgy little finger one-by-one from your leg. To you, the mom who puts on a brave face even though your throat is tight from leaving your little ones like this.
This is to you, the mom who distracts your kid by pointing out an in-progress craft involving toilet paper rolls, fingerpaint, and glitter. To you, the mom who never, ever allows glitter in your house, so you know this will be your ticket out the door. You, the mom who’s almost to the door when your kid notices and runs up to you crying, grabbing you from behind for another hug.
This is to you, the mom who turns around and crouches down for a proper hug. To you, the one who lets go second. You, the mom who glances down at your white blouse to see a smudge of blue fingerpaint.
This is to you, the one who gives your kid one more hug anyway.
When It’s Time for Work
This is to you, the mom who finds a wrinkled cardigan in the trunk of the car to cover up the stain. To you, the one who delivers that 9:00 am presentation. You, the one who rocks it even with the fingerpaint smudge.
This is to you, the one who runs into your boss’s boss on the way out of the presentation. To you, the one who graciously accepts the compliment. You, the one who listens while your boss’s boss suggests you travel out of the country to deliver the presentation to another office, and you know you should be pleased but in reality you think of prying those pudgy little hands from your leg and the baby’s face streaked with tears.
This is to you, the mom who turns down lunch with your co-workers. To you, the one who knows it would take too long and you have too much to do and you can’t just stay later because daycare pick-up doesn’t make allowances for having lunch with friends for fun. You, the mom who hears the group come back from lunch, laughing at something together, and you put your headphones on because you wish you were laughing too.
When You Can’t Wait
This is to you, the one who gets everything done that needs to get done and still leaves with exactly the right amount of time to pick up the kids. To you, the one who inches your way through traffic and cranks up the radio when Don’t Stop Believin’ comes on. You, the one who parks a little crooked and hurries inside because you can’t stand to wait any longer.
This is to you, the one who missed those pudgy little fingers wrapped around your neck. To you, for when the baby face looks up and shines just for you. You, for when your heart feels full.
This is to you, the mom who heads home, tidies up the house with a baby on your hip while your partner makes dinner, then feeds the baby and the big kid and almost forgets to feed yourself. To you, the one who tucks them into bed. You, the one who tucks them into bed again. And again. And again.
When It’s All Over…Sort Of
This is to you, the one who finally collapses on the couch with a glass of wine or maybe a cup of hot tea along with your laptop so you can catch up on email. To you, the mom who sees your boss’s boss sent you an email. You, the one who gets a jolt of adrenaline expecting more accolades from your presentation.
This is to you, the mom who opens up that email. To you, the one who gets a wrinkle between your eyebrows when you see the only thing your boss’s boss wrote was three question marks. You, the mom who racks your brain.
This is to you, the mom who remembers the blowout – the phone as a distraction. To you, the one who scrolls down in the email thread. You, the mom who sees it.
The picture of you, taken by your big kid through the back window while you changed the baby’s diaper. The picture of you, bending over with a clear shot down your blouse. The picture of you, sent by your big kid to your boss’s boss and your boss and actually it looks like to the whole department.
This is to you, for blinking five times to clear your eyes. To you, for cradling your head in your hands. You, for picking your head back up, taking a swig of wine, and crafting a polite but witty reply.
This Is to You, Working Mom
Your kids may not see everything you do. Maybe not even your partner. But I see.
I see you.
This is to you, mom. For doing all this and more. And for getting up at 4:00 am the next morning to do it all over again.
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