I hate the phrase “Working Mom.” I was home with my daughters for almost three years, and I promise, that was work too. But it is a different kind of challenge than working in a paid profession. I returned to my job as a guidance counselor this past September, and it’s been an interesting few months. (Read: It’s slightly insane. Moms of many and single mothers, I salute you.) But I confess, I’m doing things that I never thought I would:
1. I make three dinners.
My husband is a picky eater. Each night, my mother-in-law would come home from work and cater to her son’s “discriminating” tastes by cooking a separate meal. “Not me,” I swore.
This rule was the first one to go.
My 3-year-old is a de facto vegetarian, and the toddler is a carnivore. There’s minimal overlap in their menus. Our attempt at the “Eat What I Give You or Your Next Meal is Breakfast” approach backfired miserably. That night, my 3-year-old climbed into my bed, poked me in the eye, and demanded banana muffins. The toddler was up a few times, then started her day before dawn. And then my husband and I went to work and had to function. Now, everyone gets whatever she will willingly eat. I plan to add “Short Order Cook” to my resume.
2. I am still breastfeeding.
(Disclaimer: This is not intended to rehash past battles. Every mother is doing what’s best for her family. Nursing works for us, so this is just how we roll).
After the birth of my first daughter, breastfeeding meant war. Every day was a fight with my body. A post-partum transfusion delayed my milk coming in. I had supply problems and she had trouble latching. A lactation consultant, a hospital-grade pump, a case of fenugreek, and some nipple shields (that looked disturbingly like plastic sombreros) helped us conquer our early issues. And then we developed new ones. By the end of the first year, I was D.O.N.E.
I never anticipated how much I’d love breastfeeding the second time around. It was, and is, a simple joy. After 16 months, we’re still going strong. It’s nice to spend a few quiet moments with just the two of us, her chubby fist wrapped around my finger. Bonus: breast milk is like duct tape–it fixes everything. Teething and cranky? Big sister stole her toy? No problem. I nurse her, and all is well. I’m in no rush to give this up.
3. I spend more money if it saves me time.
Our finances were stretched in order for me to stay home. I rarely bought anything that wasn’t needed. But going back to work changed that. Now I can spend (a little) more on convenience without panicking about paying our bills.
Cleaning is the least favorite task on my to-do list. I’d rather play with my children or write than scrub a bathtub. But cleaning still had to get done… so we hired a housekeeper. We come home and POOF! Like magic, everything is immaculate. (Of course, my daughters see a house without crumbs as a personal challenge, so it doesn’t stay this way for long).
The same philosophy works for shopping. Weekdays are packed, and I’d do anything to avoid the madness of Target on a weekend afternoon. I learned to love online shopping. Clothes, diapers, toys… I have it all shipped to my front door. If I could find a grocer that delivered Kosher meat, I’d use their website, too. It’s probably cheaper to buy it direct, but who has the time?
4. I am a co-sleeping convert.
“Someone slept between your mother and I for years!” warned my dad, the father of four.
I grinned at him, the cockiness of a woman pregnant with her first child in my smile. “We won’t do that,” I said with certainty.
My toddler likes her room. At bedtime, she cuddles her blankie and falls asleep in her crib. But my three year-old refuses to stay alone, and I don’t want to force her. My husband or I snuggle with her until she falls asleep, usually in our bed. We move her, but she always comes back. We wind up clinging to opposite sides of the bed, fighting for scraps of blanket, while a 35-pound preschooler sprawls across a Queen-size mattress. I usually wake up to a toe in my eye. But I admit–I love it.
Motherhood and work are both vital to me. But my life has become a juggling act, and I hope I learn to do it all well. I want to believe that, despite my mistakes or altered plans, my children will ultimately be fine. How do other moms balance everything? I will take suggestions.