Tag Archives: working mothers

The Mother of All Catch-22s

My name is Kendy and I’m a working mother.

This relatively innocuous statement actually has the power to evoke pride, guilt, judgment and even jealousy depending upon who’s in the conversation and their bias about what’s “right” for children, and society.  But what’s right for the moms?

Of all discussion topics, working vs. staying home gets the most play among my group of friends.  Some of us have full-time jobs and some have forgone a career to raise children.  Some need two incomes to get by, while others simply can’t imagine life without a career.  Some who stay home have realized that working is actually more expensive than not, given the high cost of childcare.  Regardless of the situation and our level of satisfaction with it, we all agree that there is no single “right” answer, as we are all faced with a different set of circumstances that impact our decisions on the issue.  However, no matter how satisfied we are with those decisions, we sometimes find ourselves peering over the fence to see if the grass truly is a deeper shade of green.

Even moms who count their blessings about being able to stay home with their children sometimes long for the adult conversations they remember having when they were working.  As one friend says, “When you start to discuss your problems with a toddler-sized plush SpongeBob doll, you know you need some time with grown-ups!”  I’ve had moms admire my shoes and comment longingly that they could never justify the purchase given the few places they would have to wear something so dressy.  Others feel they have no break from their children – as precious as they are – and battle conflicting expectations when their husband arrives home from his own long day at the office.  But these may very well be good tradeoffs for the ability to share all of life’s important and teachable moments.

On the flip side, working moms are often overwhelmed with guilt about the time they spend away from their kids.  I’ve always been career-minded and relatively confident in my ability to have it all in life.  But, even though I often don a super hero cape, I also have some pretty powerful kryptonite.  Looking down at those little people in my life makes everything go just a bit hazy.

At work, I find myself drawn to various pictures of my smiling kids.  I wonder if they’ve had a healthy lunch, whether they’re watching Nickelodeon or the Disney Channel, if Nolan’s had a good “pee pee in the potty” day, and whether Bailey’s loose tooth is still hanging on by a thread.  I feel anxious.  I guiltily remind my mother-in-law about the soccer practice that begins before I’m even supposed to clock out for the day.  And I miss them.

All that would be fine if the culmination of my day wasn’t hearing Nolan burst into tears and state emphatically that he doesn’t want to leave grandma’s house with me.  Bailey sends her own message by ignoring me altogether.  In these moments, when I’m kidnapping my own children from their grandparents’ house, I feel unsettled, disconnected, and a little like I’m watching my life go by from behind a pane of glass rather than out living it.  I’m jealous…jealous of my friends who don’t HAVE to work and surely aren’t subject to the sadness I feel at this repeat, albeit momentary, rejection.  I’m jealous that they get all day to reinforce bonds, while I’m trying to force that into the 60 minutes between dance class and bedtime.

These are the moments when the fantasies of quitting my job and becoming an at-home mom take over.  I imagine myself going on all kinds of daily adventures – to the zoo, the park, and museums – while organizing play dates, catching up on scrapbooks, teaching the kids a foreign language, and sewing their winter wardrobe.  We won’t go into the holes in my fantasy, but let’s just say the likelihood of me actually doing all these things is iffy at best and I stopped just short of adding to the list “make my own soap.”  Hey, it’s my fantasy and I’m sticking to it.

...and I stopped just short of adding to the list “make my own soap.” - Click photo for Making Soap article.

But it’s not all bad.  In fact, when I stop to remember that life isn’t all about me (what??), there are some really great benefits to my kids of being a working mom.

First and foremost, they have an amazing relationship with their grandparents that they likely wouldn’t have if I stayed home.  Having more than just mom and dad to teach, reinforce, and love is an incredible blessing.  In rational moments, I’m glad to endure some hard mommy moments in exchange for the wealth of experiences and memories made with their grandparents.

As much as I enjoy the work I do, my kids are really proud of me, too.  When we’re having our “what happened today” conversations, I get to tell Bailey about all the babies and children who have the benefit of two loving parents in their lives because of the work my company does.  The pride she feels and the fact that I’m modeling for her what I preach – that she can do anything and be anything – is enough to give guilt a high-heeled kick in the pants!

So, do these benefits outweigh the disadvantages?  I honestly don’t know the answer to that question, nor would my answer be the same tomorrow as it is today.  What I DO know is that I have two great kids who will never want for love, guidance, or the discipline and boundaries they need to grow into the kind of adults I want them to become.  And that makes my heart happier than any amount of time with them could.

But, just in case I happen to win the lottery one day, I bookmarked some You Tube videos on making soap at home.  I’m just sayin’….

A Spotless House Is a Sign of a Wasted Life

Hello, RDC community!  Before I jump into this post, let me introduce myself.  My name is Kendy Cox and I’ve been asked to blog about various women’s issues.  I have vast expertise in this content area because, well, I’m a woman!  Regardless, what I write is simply my humble opinion and I want to encourage the sharing of numerous perspectives.

My full-time gig consists of serving the couples and individuals of this state through the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative.  More specifically, I work for Public Strategies, a private project management firm which coordinates statewide services through a contract with the Oklahoma Department of Human Services.  My other full-time gig consists of being a wife to a wonderful husband and taking care of two lovely kids (the adjectives change depending upon the day…smile!).  I’m looking forward to musing about the issues on my mind and in my heart, as well as reading your feedback.

So, here we go…

I’ll never forget the day I happened upon this quote on a friend’s Facebook page:   “A Spotless House Is a Sign of a Wasted Life.”

I felt validated for the first time in my adult life.

The reason this pithy statement stuck with me is because I discovered it at a time when I was really struggling to keep everything in life “just so.”  Like many of you, most days are spent working hard at my job, serving as chauffeur to numerous kid-related activities, attempting to fit in a reasonably healthy dinner for the family, overseeing homework tasks, bathing kids and getting clothes ready for the next day, and hoping beyond hope that I find time to exercise and/or communicate with my husband about more than who’s picking up whom and at what time.  As an aside, I do this with the help of my attentive and helpful husband, so I tip my hat to those of you doing this solo!  With all of this activity, I end most days in a state of sheer exhaustion and many times feeling incredibly disappointed by the general disarray of my home.

You know what disarray looks like, right?  Remnants from dinner still on the table, clothes and backpacks strewn across the living room floor, and maybe even two weeks’ worth of laundry waiting to be folded and put away.  While keeping up with the house may not be your particular issue of concern, I know I’m not alone as I’ve talked with far too many women who tie their self worth to their ability to do EVERYTHING.  And not just everything, but everything well.

Now, I’m not striving for a feature spread in Good Housekeeping, but most days I would be lucky to attract the attention of So So Housekeeping.  My anxiety about it is ever present and my own negative self talk is brutal.  But let’s think rationally for a moment.  How absurd is it for any of us to fool ourselves into believing that a spotless home is a more powerful reflection of our worth than any of the other amazing things we do every day?  Let’s think about the activities that dirty up the house in the first place….cooking a great meal, building a fort with our kids, or sorting through weeks of newspapers to find that 20% off coupon we need to buy a pregnant friend a much-needed registry item.  Yes, the result may be messy blankets, newspapers, or dishes, but those are the remnants of a life lived, memories made, and relationships nurtured to their fullest.

So, the next time you look around at a less than perfect home, try to go easy on yourself.  Trust me, I’m working on it right along with you.  Let’s remember that we work hard for our families in many different ways and our work cannot always be balanced equally.  Something’s gotta give, and the laundry will be there tomorrow…just don’t trip over it on your way out the door to do something amazing!