After being a working mom for several years now, I think that the time has come where I have to write a letter to the working moms who came before me. You see…a couple of months ago, I had to be in the office at 4 am for a video conference. I can usually do conference calls from home, but this one did not have much flexibility. Being in the office by 4 with a 45 minute drive and having to get ready for work meant that I was up at 2:30 in the morning. Not really what I would call a long and restful night sleep! I ran into one of my much younger female coworkers and she said that I looked pretty tired (lovely, huh?). I mentioned the early morning meeting and she told me that I should try to leave early to nap. I half laughed (because damn, that did sound amazing) and shared that might be tricky with my little ones.
Her response was “you should go home at 4, make a room in your house really dark, and make your kids take a nap with you.” I started to really laugh at that one but looking at her face, I realized that she was completely serious.
It was at that moment I knew she had absolutely no idea about kids. I did not want to be the one to blow up the idea in her mind that at the end of a tough work day the whole family could not just cuddle up on the couch and watch 90210 reruns or take a family nap whenever mom felt like it. I simply said, “you know what? I am totally going to do that.” She smiled and walked off, with the thought in her mind that she saved this tired, working mom by showing her a different view of life.
Unfortunately for her, she did not know that I was pulling off a cruel joke. In 10 years, she is going to be exhausted, sitting in her house, and thinking about that woman at work who could totally get her kids to nap at 4:00 pm and catch up on some snoozes herself. She will be there with kids running around, trying to cook dinner, get school bags packed for the next day, and desperately wanting some plain-old fun time with the kids – the nap will never (ever) come.
I also knew that I used to be that woman in the workforce who looked at the moms and judged. I am not sure if you saw the article “Apologies to the Parents I Judged Four Years Ago”, but I felt that I needed to write something specifically to the working moms that I judged. As my husband said, this post was a much needed penance for me!
So, to the working moms that I judged:
- When you had a defined start/end time, I judged you for not being as open as the rest of us to staying in the office for those late nights. I now realize you could get more done in those set hours than most of us did in our long/extended hours between various coffee breaks, quick walks outside, and catching up on tmz.com.
- When you grudgingly attended a dinner meeting at a fantastic restaurant with senior management, I thought you were nuts and should have been more appreciative of the invitation. I didn’t realize that your children were the most important and interesting people that you could have dinner with.
- When you left for your 2 thirty minute pump breaks instead of just taking an hour lunch break with the rest of us, I wondered if it was really that important to breastfeed. I didn’t realize that those pump breaks during the day would become my biggest “unbreakable” appointments, and the pumping was the best way for me to overcome my working mother’s guilt.
- When you rushed from meetings in Europe to catch the last flight out on a Friday evening, instead of staying through the weekend to see the sites with the rest of us, I didn’t realize that seeing your child’s face after being away from them for 5 days was the greatest sight in the world.
- When you said that you were tired from being up most of the night with your child that had an ear infection and I was tired from staying out way too late partying with friends at a bar, I thought it was the same kind of tired…I did not realize that there is no kind of mental and physical exhaustion like that of a mother with a sick child.
- When you said that you could not take a call during your “flex day” because you spent the days with your kids, I thought you were being selfish. I now realize how selfish we were that we couldn’t give a working mother one interrupted day with her children.
- When you sent your kids to day-care on the days you worked from home, I thought your kids must be pretty nuts and not well-behaved. I realize now that you had real children – the kind that make noise, laugh, and want to play with you, and that you can never productively work around kids!
- When you said you were taking a vacation day just for yourself to catch up on things around the house I could not believe how boring that sounded. I now think it sounds like the most magical day in the world.
- When you laughingly said once that it was sometimes tricky to balance it all, I realize you were laughing because you said it was sometimes tricky – the joke was that it was always tricky, and no one can find a way to balance it all.
- While you had a toddler at home, were 7 months pregnant, stayed up through the night to help us all finish a presentation that too many of us left to the last-minute, spoke lovingly to your husband on the phone and gave him all the bedtime instructions which you typically did yourself, I didn’t realize that I was in the presence of a modern-day superwoman.
To those working mothers who came before me, I am sorry for my judging. To those who will be working mothers in the future, don’t worry, it won’t be as hard for you. *wink*