There are days I sit looking at the bills as they ping into my email and wonder if I have enough in my bank account to pay for them all. I have spreadsheets documenting income and expenses down to the penny. The numbers mock the slight overage of my paycheck that covers the bare minimum of bills on top of my daughter’s daycare. I don’t make enough to be comfortable with daycare, but I make just enough that I can’t quit working, either.
There are days I sit in a corner conference room pumping away while I continue working on projects with tight deadlines. I have moments where I tear up wishing I was attached to my son instead of a machine, but I quickly shake it off to respond to e-mails and voicemails. Most mornings I forget something important from my giant bag of essentials, like the bags for my milk or the ice packs for my cooler. I always realize it too late and have to figure out how to manage without them.
There are evenings I come home exhausted from the constant directives and demands. I just want to close my eyes to rest off the headache that slowly built up throughout the day. Maybe it was the heat of the office, maybe it’s the stress catching up. Either way, my toddler is screaming out of joy and excitement, and I’m trying desperately to not take that away from her. I haven’t seen her since dropping her off at daycare, I don’t want her last thought of the day to be that mommy made her sad.
There are weekends that I get invitations to spend a few hours doing things for me. Sometimes a manicure with my girlfriends, maybe a quick coffee or brunch to catch up. I feel the guilt set into my stomach as my desire for a little self-care crosses my mind. Which is more important, a minute of rest or preventing resentment? Will they resent me if I’m not around? Will they understand? I decline, counting the number of hours I’ve already spent outside of the home instead of being with my children.
There are moments when I think about what I want for my future. I want to continue my education, to get a doctorate that will ensure my children have a life free from financial struggles. I dream about what I could do, who I could be as an individual in the workforce. I try to plan things out: School in the evenings, internships and clinical hours throughout the week. But where are my kids? Are they in daycare again? I don’t think I can afford both, interning and daycare. Which will they want, a mom that can say yes to the luxuries they want or a mom that can take them to the park, play dates and classes?
There are days when others start to talk. A comment from my parents, don’t you want to be home with your babies? A suggestion from a childless friend, just leave them for an hour, take a break. A phone call after hours, can you get that report in tonight?
And the voice inside of me, torn between two worlds. So which is it?
But there is no answer when it should really be both. A mother working to support her family, a mother defined not only by her ability to grow a family but her ranks in the workforce. The guilt, the fears, the constant battle of the good mother versus the good employee. We deserve respect for who we are to our families and our companies. The supports to thrive in multiple environments, not one in lieu of the other but in addition to, because of the other. Where are those supports?
A woman can be both, can’t she?