How hard can it be?

IMPATIENT: restless or short of temper especially under irritation, delay, or opposition

In my previous existence as a mostly-stay-at-home-mom, I would occasionally encounter The Others.  Society calls them Working Mothers, but saying “working” before “mother” is redundant.  It’s like saying “mother with children.” 

But, I digress. 

The Others and I would occasionally cross paths. 

Not at the grocery store because The Others go on Sundays or after work with all the other harried folks rather than during off-peak shopping hours.  And, not at the zoo, aquarium, science center or other kid hangouts, because they go on weekends rather than mid-week. 

But, The Others and I would sometimes see each other.  Out to dinner, at library story time, when I needed “just one thing” for the recipe I was making. 

They are easy to recognize.  They wear shoes chosen according to their outfit rather than their chore list.  Their clothing requires ironing.  They accessorize.  Their hair is styled and they appear to have recently showered.  And (the former me smugly noted), they are often impatient with their children. 

I remember thinking, “Geez.  You hang out with grown-ups all day.  You only have to put up with your kid(s) for a few hours a day.  Why are you losing your temper and getting huffy?  After all, you’ve been soaking up grown-up conversation all day, spent hours having your back patted for your intellectual prowess and probably took a yoga class on your lunch break.  You’ve only got to keep it together for 180 minutes.  How hard can it be?”

Pretty darn hard, it turns out.

I take it all back. 

I have been humbled.  Brought low. 

I get it.

Or, at least I 24-hours-a-week get it.  I’m sure I’ll need to issue another retraction when I become a 40-hours-a-week working mother with children. 

I find myself absolutely exhausted after a work day.  I get on a 5:30 bus, arrive at the office in the dark and start working away.  I work hard with few breaks until 4pm.  Then I hop back on a bus and hustle to pick Daughter up from daycare.  She gripes when I don’t allow her to stay on the playground and negotiates for “one more slide.”  Doesn’t she understand that it’s five o’clock and if I don’t pick up Son, cook dinner and feed them both in the next half hour things are going to get ugly?  So, it’s off to Son’s school we go.  There the greeting is less than ideal.  I’m acknowledged with a groan and crossed arms.  He’s mad that I’m crashing the party, ruining his fun.  Inevitably, he’s in the middle of something more fun that walking home and cooking dinner. 

But, we leave.  We walk home, usually with Daughter crying from some perceived injustice and Son in a huffy silence.  This is the point where I begin deep breathing. 

We enter the house, unload backpacks, tackle homework, sign permission slips and consider book orders.  I get dinner started and set the table while Son and Daughter complain about how hungry they are.  I provide a snack to keep the peace.  Dinner is done.  We eat.  Well, I eat…Son or Daughter (heaven help me if it’s both of them) find something unsatisfactory about the dinner I’ve just cooked.  More deep breathing and a few stern warnings about the need for gratitude.

Play time, bath time, story time, bed time – all done with a sprinkling of whining and resistance.

So it goes…three days a week.

So, yeah.  If you walk by my house between five and eight o’clock you may hear an impatient mother using her children’s middle names.  It’s only 180 minutes.  But, that’s like saying to a marathon runner “it’s only a mile” in mile 25.  It is indeed, only a mile.  But it’s the miles before that make it hurt.

To my former clan, please be kind to The Others.  It turns out shoes that match your outfit make your back hurt and there is very little back-patting for intellectual feats of strength. 

And, they don’t do nearly as much yoga as we imagined.   



14 thoughts on “How hard can it be?

  1. I do this. I’m a work-at-home-mom (full-time, 60 hrs+) that also cares for my four month old two to three days a week. My darling husband takes the other days. We’re exhausted, but it’s good.

    On days when I get a lunch break and am sans child, I run to the store. I see stay-at-home moms shopping with their kids, and I think they glow. Meanwhile, I probably haven’t showered and am rushing to get the errands done. On Saturdays when I do the rest of the chores, I see the perfectly matched other moms, and I’m ridiculously jealous. I’m in this purgatory of WAH and SAH motherhood, and I often look at all the others with longing. And I shouldn’t.

    The road of motherhood is haaaard. I’m glad you wrote this. I need this reminder.

    1. I re-read your first sentence multiple times to make sure I was understanding it right. I can’t even imagine. After several times through, I was able to translate it into a language I understand: “Hark! I am a superhero. You are not able to see my cape in this photo…” But, you speak the truth about WAH/SAH purgatory. It’s one of those things that sounds easier than it is.

  2. Wow-and I really, really mean that. That is no casual ‘wow.’ You have, once again, brilliantly and tidily synthesized every work-related thought I have had as a full-time mom over the past 15 years. In your spare time, I assume. I may have to stick this one up over the desk to re-read on those days I aspire to whatever’s on the other side of the fence. Thanks for the reminder that the other side of the fence has its challenges too.

  3. I don’t know you, but our lives seem to be tracking each other with remarkable similarity. I, too, have just eased back into the workforce with my thirteen paltry hours a week. I adore the work I’m doing for my church. But despite feeling inspired and purposeful, I cannot overcome the grumpies I feel on my working evenings when my kids start pouting and complaining. Your evenings seem to mirror my evenings, down to the deep breathing (but, fortunately, not to the inevitable yelling and histrionics that I keep slipping into. Must. Stop. That.) Keep writing – you’re bringing levity to a sometimes hard situation.

    1. Well, since I serve as my own editor, I sometimes “edit out” the histrionics. 🙂 I’m continually amazed at how many experiences are shared between mothers – different cities, different backgrounds, etc…but so many shared experiences.

  4. This is just too fabulous. I’ve been, to varying degrees, a part-time working bloke / rest-of-the-time Daddy for twelve years and I think I can almost totally relate (except for the shoes, accessorizing, and hair things). You have such a way with words and nailing this parenting business! If you’ll allow, I’m assigning you the urban, hiphoppy nickname of DefMom. At least in my head.

  5. This is so true! I’ve noticed this about myself lately, as I’ve also begun working part time (2.5 days). I find the transition from office to home difficult sometimes – that 5-7pm tea/bath/bedtime can be a killer at the best of times, but is even less fun when you’re not really ‘in the zone’!

    But I’m still glad to have the two different dynamics in my life – even if it does mean having to wear uncomfortable shoes!

  6. It’s funny because I’ve just made the opposite transition as you…going from work 40 hrs/wk mom to working 20 hrs/wk mom. Neither is easy, but I am really enjoying having more time at home and most importantly, more time with my daughter. I think the moral of the story is that motherhood is tough–no matter where you spend the bulk of your time, it will always feel like you’re not doing enough! (for me at least)

    1. “no matter where you spend the bulk of your time, it will always feel like you’re not doing enough”

      So true!

  7. This is utterly perfect. The run down of your working day sounds very similar to mine (, but much more eloquently written! The only days I find being a working mom easy are the days when I’m not at work but the kids are still in daycare/school!

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