Working Mom: A Syndrome?


Many ideas came to mind when first thinking through the idea of this blog. I was approached by a much beloved female—a working mom—about the subject. Having read my views on “Divorced Dad Syndrome,” she asked me to create something on Working Mom Syndrome. It’s a terrific idea, but I’m not entirely sure being a Working Mom is a syndrome. It’s like asking someone to pro/con Working Mothers and Stay at Home Mothers … it’s simply a misnomer.

Why a misnomer? Because some mothers just have to work. They have to—it’s the only way to make ends meet. Some working mothers might do it because they’re climbing a corporate ladder, envisioning a time in which they get to retire. Other working moms have to maintain a part-time or full-time job, just to supplement income—that damn mortgage doesn’t pay itself. Other working moms, myself included, are the only source of income for our tiny people to get what they need in life. A home, a bed, … a place to know they are secure because Mommy will provide.

Mommy has to provide.

Which is why I’m not thoroughly convinced there is a Working Mom Syndrome. But I will touch on aspects that a working mom misses while she’s at work, because I feel like that is the relevant key. Most of what a working mom goes through is based around one, all-encompassing emotion: guilt.

Working moms have Mommy Guilt. By the bucket load.

“Mommy, can we go to the park?”

Mommy just got done with her day, she worked 8-12 hours, and now she has to go home, make dinner, start baths, throw a load of laundry in the washer, ignore the fact that the same load won’t get dried or folded for the next week, help with homework, read a story, and get everything ready for work and school the next morning.

“Baby, tomorrow. If Mommy gets off early tomorrow, we can try to go to the park. If not, I swear we’ll do it this weekend.”

This weekend, where Mommy has to clean the house, finish that laundry, unload the dishwasher, mop the floors, try to do yard work, change a few light bulbs that decided to spontaneously go out two weeks prior, find a ladder to change the light bulbs, call the electric company about new rates, or call the insurance company because they’ve been refusing to pay for a standard well-visit, and then bake the cookies, or buy a present, for whatever event has already been forgotten that Mommy will remember Thursday evening, at eleven o’clock … at night.

And yet, all of that will have to wait, because at some point, the tiny human was promised the park. He was promised fun—with Mommy.

Guilt is huge in the world of Working Mom. Work isn’t an escape from our tiny humans, it’s a necessity to get through the day to day, but it puts us behind. We’re always behind. Those of us with spouses or significant others get a bit of help, but it doesn’t relieve the pressure that the all-encompassing missed time with the tiny human creates. The pressure of missing time with our tiny human, compounded with pressure of spending time with the spouse, compounded with pressure of keeping the house running effectively adds another component in the world of Working Mom: pressure.

“Mommy, hold me.”

Mommy might be in the middle of finally preparing a casserole, while washing dishes, vacuuming the living room, feeding the animals, making beds, and sorting through the mail. Mommy might just be about to finish her last sip of coffee while the tiny human has played on the floor for an hour on Saturday, the only hour the Mommy has free before jamming in all the obligations that have to be done in the two days before returning to work.

But, she can give a few moments to hold her baby. Sometimes, that’s the moment of calm for the Working Mom. Sometimes that’s the respite needed to make the rest of the day feel better. But, if pressure and obligation have reached a certain point, sometimes the Working Mom will hold her baby, checking the time because she needs to accomplish the day.

Cycle back to the guilt. The moment Working Mommy notices her impatience, guilt returns. She has her moment to spend with her baby, and the whole time she’s worried about what’s falling behind.

What’s falling behind?

Everything, all the time. Yes, it’s a problem.

There is pressure to maintain order, to find balance, and to get everything done in a reasonable amount of time … while going to work, and focusing on the main priority of kid and spouse. Unless there is no spouse in the equation, which would seem like a great idea, but there’s no one there to change that damn burned-out light bulb, or “watch the tiny one while I … .”

No one but the mommy.

Some days, the pressure of balancing work, home, obligations, and quality child time can make the Working Mom feel like an explosive pressure cooker. Add in two parts irritation, one part stress, and five parts guilt … boom!

This is why I can’t call it Working Mom Syndrome; it’s why I don’t truly believe it to be a syndrome. It’s a complication of compiled obligation, pressure, and oodles of Mommy guilt.

But, at the end of the day, there will always be tiny human snuggles, bedtime stories, and endless love for the tiny tots placed in our lives.

Guilt or not.

No comments posted on December 3, 2013 in Parenting, Winging It, Mom Style

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