This post was originally published in The Daily Times.
“Hey, kids!” I said brightly.
No one bothered looking at me.
“How’d you guys like it if I quit my job?”
So I received the following three responses:
“Yes, mama! Please!” said my five-year-old, jumping up and almost strangling me in her attempt at a bear hug.
My 15-year-old boy just shrugged his shoulders.
My 12-year-old budding feminist said,
“No mom! you should definitely not quit”
The above conversation is a meagre attempt at describing the everyday turmoil and conflict that transpire within the mind of a working mom. And though this pleasant exchange did take place in actual spacetime, i.e. at my dining table, one fine afternoon, it is in actuality a recurring conversation that occurs each and every day between my heart, my mind and a third little voice that is a representation of all my aspirations and dreams – of self-growth and actualization, plus the little feminist residing within …
Every morning, as I pull myself out of bed at 5 am, I find myself standing at the crossroads – two clear paths before me. I could say “to heck with it all!” and go back to bed, or I could summon up the (imaginary) Iron lady who, at this early hour, also appears to be fast asleep deep within a cool, dry place otherwise known as my Unconscious Mind; and march into the kitchen with my head held high, even though my mind may still be struggling to pull itself out of the last stage of Slow Wave sleep, and my eyes might still be refusing to open almost as if someone has glued them together …
Two crazy, hectic hours later, in which I have prepared and packed 3 lunchboxes, made breakfast for 4 people including dad, managed to send them all off to school and work, I successfully manage to tumble into my workplace and slide behind my desk pulling my lips back into the big, bright, sunny smile expected of the School Psychologist, ready to pour wisdom and sunshine into the lives and minds of the teary-eyed teens that walk into my office in search of some solace.
Being a working mom can prove to be exceedingly challenging in many ways. You are, after all, trying to juggle two careers simultaneously. The word working mom says it all. You’re still a mom, primarily, essentially, fundamentally. It’s just that along with that Herculean task, you’ve taken up an additional job! So, quite understandably, you sometimes do feel like throwing in the sponge.
One of the biggest problems with being a working mom is the unnecessary, or perhaps necessary guilt you carry with yourself to work every day. Then again, guilt is just a part and parcel of being a mom. Period. It will be there. No matter what you do. No matter how much you invest. No matter how much quality time you spend with them.
Don’t get me wrong, though. I am not in any way trying to downplay the role of stay at home moms. Heck, I’ve been one myself for years and years, and studies show that being a homemaker is actually more difficult than having a full-time job. Full-time motherhood is taxing in more ways than we realise, and the fact that it is an apparently “unpaid and often thankless job” is only part of it. Being a stay at home mom means you are at the beck and call of those whiners 24/7, with no break in between.
Of course, this part, this primary role, has its perks and its rewards. That one look or hug from your otherwise ungrateful teen, or a bear hug and kiss from your five-year-old; and most of all, the satisfaction of the all-powerful maternal instinct that wants to see them comfortable, well-fed, rested, happy … the tucking them in and turning the light off with that sense of fulfilment and phew! the natural sigh of relief … But it’s exhausting all the same.
At the end of the day, however, being mom, simply mom, has major recompenses that make all the struggle appear completely worthwhile. Whichever mom you choose to be – working or stay at home. Even though at times, motherhood may demand a little extra, a few more sacrifices, including some unprecedented ones like putting self-fulfilment, career, self-actualization on hold. Sometimes for years upon end. But it’s still worth it. Every little sacrifice …
The journey will go on, despite all the hitches and bumps and roadblocks. You will move forward. The time for career building will come, eventually. But those precious moments with your little ones, they won’t return. If you miss them you most certainly will live to regret ’em! After all, Motherhood is in itself a major contributor to self-actualization and self-fulfilment.