I never thought I’d become one of those women whose priorities so obviously shifted once I became a mother. Of course I’d want my family to think they were my top priority (because they are), but I also thought I could make my bosses and coworkers feel like work was my top priority, even if common sense told them it couldn’t possibly be. I just thought that in the best of all possible worlds I could be everything to everyone—the best mom, the best employee—and no one would feel like they were getting the short end of the me stick (except maybe myself, but oh, isn’t martyrdom the curse of the modern mommy?).
It’s hard to put my finger on exactly why I feel so scattered and thinly spread these days, but I suspect it might have to do with thinking I could maintain my full-time workload and full-time office persona on a less-than-part-time schedule. Last week I missed a deadline for a coworker because I lost her email in the shuffle of trying to do too many things–both business and personal–during one too-short naptime on a non-work day, and as I was apologizing profusely to my coworker (while banging my head on the keyboard because how could I be so careless?) I couldn’t help but think that (a) she was rolling her eyes because isn’t that just like a part-time “mom-ployee” (blech) to lose an email? and (b) this never would have happened if I still worked full-time.
Part of the problem is that when I go to work, I don’t always feel like I’m fully there. Because I’m only in the office one day a week, it seems like I spend my first hour on the clock getting my bearings as if I’d been on another planet for the previous week, which, in some ways, I have. Staying at home with a pre-toddler means adapting to strange customs, following bizarre routines, and speaking a foreign language–all of it worlds away from the comfortable, “native” existence that used to be my full-time job, which now, in comparison, is sometimes like being on the moon.
And then when I’m at home, I can never quite relax and be in the moment as a part-time mother because I’ve always got work hovering over me like a cartoon stormcloud. Gone is the old 9-5, and in its place is the 24/7; I work when I can, even if that’s bleary-eyed in the middle of the night or at noon with a wriggling kid on my knee. It never ends, not the parenting stuff or the career stuff, and it just now hit me that I’ve not been a part-time mom and a part-time employee all this time, but a full-time everything, to everyone, without even realizing it. No wonder I’m exhausted.
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