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Unexpected Hard Days in the Life of a Working Mom

I’ve been a full-time working outside the home, daycare-using mom for about 18 months now. Most days, I’m content with my situation, but every so often I’m not. Usually it’s the small stuff that causes the unexpected hard days.

  • A sunny afternoon I’d rather spend at the playground instead of the office.
  • Hearing my son’s teachers talk about how much fun he had at story time. Or painting. Or snack time. You get the picture.
  • A little bit of guilt when my son asks for a waaaaaaalk as we are jumping in the car at 6:45 am. (Yawn.)

But periodically throughout the year, discontentment creeps in for other reasons. Namely, my husband’s work schedule. See, he’s a teacher. A hard-working middle school science teacher. I so admire the job he does with his students, and the care, attention, and dedication he gives those kids every day. (Rant: this is why it bugs me that people bash the public schools here in Nashville. I’m sure there are some bad apples in the classroom, but, man! If the haters could only see how hard my husband and his colleagues work. End rant.)

My husband, Ben, is often home before I am, and he gets about a zillion extra days off throughout the year when I’m stuck at work. Before our son was born, I was jealous of the perks of Ben’s schedule (even though I know how hard he works during non-school hours). Then, our son came along, and that jealously persisted—but with a twist. Ben got all this extra TIME with our son! I tried to talk myself into all the good stuff of having a husband who gets summers, spring break, and a bunch of other days off. See: stress-free snow day/holiday/summer planning for working parents and a husband who understands how the school system works. Plus the fact that I have a husband who WANTS that time with his son. Swoon. That lasted about three weeks before the next bout of hard days. No joke.

Now, a year plus into this adventure, and it’s not any easier. Sure, I have a flexible schedule. Yes, my boss/coworkers are understanding when I have a sick child. But it’s not the same. I don’t want my husband’s job (goodness knows I would NOT make a good K-12 teacher. Give me college students any day!!). But to have his schedule… sigh. I often see things very much in black and white and want everything to be fair above all. But guess what? Things aren’t always fair—especially as an adult.

If you’ve made it this far, props to you. I wish I could wrap this post up with a nice bow. THIS is the secret for “getting over” jealousy or discontentment or hard days with work, marriage, family, what have you. I know lots of teachers who find summer jobs to fill their days and their wallets. I’ve even had some friends (male and female) who “make” their teaching spouse fill up their summer/holiday days with part-time jobs or lots of home projects. On one hand, that sounds nice, but on the other? It makes me feel a little squirmy inside. Too much control—been there. Done that. Don’t wanna do it again. 

I have to end with something, so I’ll end with this. With anything, there is unexpected difficulty . . . but also unexpected joy. I’m not sure I’ll ever completely “get over” how things aren’t fair time-wise. Right now, in the midst of the little years, that’s just hard because it feels like my husband gets all this extra quality time with our son. I want to be there too — with them! Ben does what he can to make up for it: extra chores, texting me pictures during the day, coming to visit me for lunch during breaks, etc. I know I should be grateful for all that. And I am. 

So why this post? Because I can’t be the only one with this difficulty, this jealousy. Even if your situation isn’t exactly the same. I’ve heard similar refrains from couples with military, work-from-home, and seasonal work. I don’t mean to make this a complain-y post, but instead a realistic one.

Working moms are often told to “embrace the good” (uninterrupted lunch! adult conversations!) and to push through the hard/bad stuff (missing out) because it will “get better.” When? When your child is in first grade? That’s a lot of life to push through. The point of this post, in my opinion, is to embrace the reality of the unexpected hard days. They pass, and it may not be fun, but it will be okay. Every day probably won’t be awful, and there truly ARE good things to be found when things aren’t fair. Like coming home to a grilled dinner on a Tuesday because my husband was home all day and could make that happen! Yum! I don’t want to live in dread of every day of summer vacation because it isn’t fair, and I miss my family. So I’ll keep trying to smile through like my little man up there, and find the good—even when it’s hard.

And if you’re in this boat too, sister? Solidarity! I’d love to know how you cope.

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