The Everyday Conflicts of the Working Mom

The Conflicts of Working MomsThe Conflicts of Working MomsMy new job is going great -- there are M&Ms in the breakroom, trails to run on during lunch, and my coworkers are incredibly fun to work with. I'm learning some great new skills and, while I have a lot of experience in project management or producing content, I'm finally getting to do the back-end tech stuff. Like coding and list-scrubbing and all that nerdy stuff that makes 99% of people just smile and nod. The transition from home back to work hasn't been as difficult as when I left maternity leave, and a lot of that has to do with my commute being so manageable -- I'm out the door at 8:30, home by 5:30, and this gives me almost three extra hours in my day. Plus I can exercise at lunch, which means that those three extra hours can be devoted to my family, cooking dinner, going to the park, etc.

I really don't have much to fuss about these days. THIS is the work-life balance that I fought so hard to get as a working mom -- the ability to do my office job well, but have time to be the wife and momma my family deserves. Harrison has been doing so well in daycare and hasn't cried at dropoff since the first week. I have barely wasted one millisecond of time on "working mom guilt."

Until yesterday, when it all came crashing down that maybe I was failing him by working. We are new at Harrison's "school," so I'm trying to get caught up on the activity calendar. Yesterday morning, I received an email reminder that they were having a "Mother's Day Tea" at 3:30 pm.

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Oh, no. My throat caught as I checked my calendar. There was no way I could make it to the tea -- what if Harrison was the only one in his class without his mother at this tea?

I quickly dialed The Momma and asked if there was anyway she could make it. "My pleasure," she said. "I'm just sorry that you can't make it."

My heart agreed with her and I remembered all the Mother's Day teas and parties she attended when I was a little girl. I scowled at my desk in frustration, wishing I could do the things for my son that were done for me when I had a stay-at-home-mother. I felt so guilty that he would be missing me and missing out. I thought of all the times I've read and been told to "set priorities," but I think most people imply to always choose your child over the office. To skip out early and go to this tea because that's where memories are made. But what if I am putting my child first by staying at the office, by providing income and benefits for him? Unfortunately, there's just no explaining that to a 2-year-old -- he just sees that his momma isn't there for tea.

Related: A stay-at-home mom's questions for working parents

But then I got angry. REALLY ANGRY. What daycare holds a Mother's Day tea at 3:30 pm on a weekday? Hell, don't I pay them to watch my child during that time because I'm working?!

Just as I was about to fire off a polite but firm email to the daycare center regarding this practice, my mother called. "Hi, honey," she said. "I just wanted to let you know that the 'tea' was really a stand of refreshments for the parents as a treat, not an activity. They put the table up at 3:30 because that's roughly the earliest pickup and it will be available until closing. Harrison was playing happily with his friends, so I ducked back out so you can get him at 5."

My heart lifted. I hadn't failed him or let him down.

- By Beth Anne Balance
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