Or, at least, that’s what I’m currently feeling.
My daughter turned 7 years old recently. I’ve worked full time — which for me has meant a minimum of 50-60 hours a week at a series of fairly intense jobs — since she was 3 months old. (I stayed home on maternity leave for the first 3 months.) It’s never been easy (ha!) and as with anything, some times have been more challenging than others. But I can honestly say that working full time with a 7 year-old is harder for me than working full-time when she was a baby.
Don’t get me wrong, I remember how hard it was back then. She had a tough first year — lots of crying, not sleeping and not eating well — and I remember not being able to focus on anything at work because I was waiting for a call from a nanny to tell me how many spoons of mashed banana she had eaten for lunch or whether she managed to at least take a 20-minute nap. I remember standing outside the door of our apartment in the morning, after I’d left, feeling the tears well up in my throat, and having to literally peel myself away from the door and get in the elevator to go to work. I remember surviving on just a few hours of sleep for days and feeling like a total zombie.
It was not easy, by any means.
But, on the flip side, we had wonderful nannies and I was confident that our kiddo was getting great care. What she needed when she was little was someone to care for her, to feed her, change her, put her down for naps, take her outside and to fun kiddo classes. Our nanny did that wonderfully — in fact, she was much better at getting our daughter to eat or sleep than we were — and when I left I felt like our daughter was getting what she needed.
The reason it’s gotten harder for me to work full-time as she has gotten older is because what she needs now is different. Sure, she still needs food and sleep but a lot of what she needs has nothing to do with fulfilling her physical needs. Instead, more of it is emotional or intellectual or just life stuff (I am sure there is a much better term, but I think you know what I mean.) I want more time to be able to hang out with her and talk about everything from what happened at camp to why some people commit crimes (we covered both topics today). I want to be there when she has a tough day because a friend told her she is moving. I want to have more time when we’re just hanging out in the kitchen, doing our own thing — because it’s during those times that she usually shares more about what she is thinking or feeling.
Another reason I find working motherhood more difficult now is less emotional and more about logistics. There is a LOT going on in her life, from school performances to dance competitions, and a lot of this happens during working hours. My husband and I have become master schedule jugglers but it can be exhausting (OK, it is exhausting). We want to be there for all of her events but it’s becoming increasingly challenging.
There’s something else too — I want to spend more time with her now. It’s not that I didn’t when she was younger, but c’mon, hanging out with a cranky 9-month old is not entirely exciting. But she has become a friend, someone whose company I truly enjoy, who is funny, and energetic, and creative, and really awesome to be with. Perhaps I won’t feel this way when she turns into a moody teenager, but that’s for another post.
Do you find that being a working mom gets harder as kids get older or the opposite?