Your Job is Mean! - Baby Steps in High Heels

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Your Job is Mean!

I try to use this blog to write about my experiences as a working mom. I try not to delve too deeply into the philosophical issues surrounding working moms, because, honestly, I just don’t have the mental bandwidth for it right now. It’s not that issues of paid maternity leave or paternity leave or anything else aren’t important to me … it’s more about the fact that I barely have time to compose a blog venting about the 100th Day of School right now. I just don’t think I could do justice to larger issues at a time when gluing 100 teeny-tiny rhinestones onto a shirt makes me want to tear my hair out.

However, avoiding this conversation came to a complete halt this week as my tiny six-year-old yelled at me from the backseat of my car, “I don’t care about Daddy’s job!! YOUR job is MEAN!!”

We had a rough drive to school that morning, a drive that, at its longest, lasts about six minutes. That morning it felt like sixty. She was having a hard time. This happens every sales season -- we all reach a breaking point where we just don’t want mom to leave again. This time, it seems to have come much earlier, though, and I wasn’t expecting it at all.

She cried a lot that morning. She was clingy. She was frustrated, angry. And, she yelled quite a few other things about Mommy’s mean job always taking me away from her, never letting me have lunch with her, and keeping me from meeting any kind of appropriate daily snuggle quota. Her words cut like a knife. They were the perfect weapon in her fight against my mommy guilt. She was definitely going to win this one.

These are the moments where logic has no place. There is no explaining the need for health insurance or that a salary pays for our home and her ballet lessons. There is no reasoning that this job, the one that takes me away sometimes, actually gives me more time at home in the long run. There is no rationalizing need versus want with a child who is just asking for a little bit more time with her mommy.

On the flip side, there really was no reasoning with my own guilty conscious either.

But then she concluded her tantrum with that lovely little line, “I don’t care about Daddy’s job!! YOUR job is MEAN!!”

And, that brought to light for me all of those philosophical working parent questions that I’ve needed to avoid in order to maintain balance and sanity.  

Are we making the best choice, choosing security and comfort at the occasional expense of time?

How can I teach my daughter the importance of having strong women in the workplace if she grows up hating that I work?

And there is this:

The question is NOT: Why is my husband held to a different standard?

The question she prompted is: why does my very young daughter already hold her daddy to a different standard than her mommy?

Is the answer as simple as knowing that my travel requires me to be away at times when she needs me most (evenings), while her father is only away during the school day? I hope so. But I also wonder if it could be more. Is the standard different simply because our roles are different? Or are we modeling something for her that is already telling her that working moms are supposed to do more and be more all the while never doing or being enough?

I may not write about these heavier topics very often, but I am constantly questioning and worrying about these things and how they affect our family, and specifically our children. Sometimes I worry that my lack of conviction is the reason we have this struggle in the first place.  Other times, I feel incredibly frustrated that we don’t feel more grateful for our situation, but it is hard to be grateful when you’re unsure about something.

At the end of the day, I just have to hope that she sees how hard we try. We try to make the best decisions for our family, the ones that offer the best balance with the least risk. We try to give the best of ourselves at home and at work. And, yes, WE both do … Mommy and Daddy. We both feel the ups and downs of being pulled in too many directions. We both feel the struggle of never having quite enough time and always feeling like we are not giving enough of ourselves. We both have a hard time feeling like we are letting somebody down – work versus family – when we are with the other. 

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