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Being a working mom gets harder as kids get older

Categories: Balancing Act, Parenting & Family

13 comments

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?



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13 comments so far...

  • I also have a 7 yo and can relate to this post. Things are getting more complicated with school activities not to mention homework. I also have to work more carefully w/ my child due to some learning “issues” that were recently identified. I have to ask–why do we working moms put up with working? Why not just accept the season in life we are in and focus on spending time with our kids? The money reason, which is a big one for me and many of the moms I know, can be overcome. Why don’t we just pare down our lives and live within the means of our spouse’s salary? What are we afraid of? If it’s not the money but you love what you do professionally, why not go part time or contract? It may not move you up the ladder as quickly, but you will keep a foot in the door. It just seems like we working moms complain a lot about being too busy/ exhausted/ distracted/overwhelmed etc. yet we do nothing about it–myself included! Am I stating an unspeakable truth?

    Tina  |  July 25th, 2011 at 2:58 pm

  • Totally AGREE with the post below. Yes, there are many moms who are struggling financially and MUST work, but how many of us are simply putting career AHEAD of family? Like the first poster said, this is a season - a beautiful, amazing season that is over in a flash. How sad is it that so many moms don’t think that feeding/holding/changing their baby is important enough to stay home. I think that a lot of the moms who intentionally put career ahead of family are going to have major regrets as their kids grow up and move on - particularly when it comes to the time lost to a career that is nearly or already over. As Tiny Fey noted in her book, “Work won’t drive you to a mammogram when you’re old and then take you out for soup afterward.” Amen.

    Anonymous Momma  |  July 25th, 2011 at 3:25 pm

  • Agree Tina. In my experience, many moms who complain that they can’t quit working just don’t want to give up their lifestyle - new SUVs, cable, vacations, etc. etc. People just aren’t willing to make the sacrifice. How sad that we put possessions and impressing others ahead of our children’s needs.

    Anon  |  July 25th, 2011 at 3:27 pm

  • It is difficult as the child gets older with homework, events at school and activities. I try to balance it and hope to work 30-35 hours with a shorter commute instead of the normal 40 hour week and 45 minute drive each way. But we are thankful.

    He has ADD so homework and behavioral issues will be a challenge. Fortunately, I work at a non-profit agency and there is some flexibility.

    My husband and I borh work so the mortgage gets paid and our home is a normal 2 bedroom house with 1 garage. My salary does not go for extras; the last vacation we took was 3 years ago and it was an inexpensive camping trip to the catskills in upstate NY. The cable bill is $35 a month and we limit our son’s activities to 1 per seasaon; something inexpensive like soccer or swimming from the town.

    Working moms often get a bad reputation but most of us are paying the bills and not living extravagently with cleaning people, weekly hair appointments, landscaping services or personal chefs. We try to do it all.

    Louise  |  July 25th, 2011 at 4:22 pm

  • Ok, wait a second ladies! One post does not mean that all working mom’s put their career “ahead” of their family. All of the comments on this post just sent the entire civilization back to the 1950’s! Who says women only work for money? There are a ton of different reasons we work. And those that work are not necessarily putting their careers ahead of their family. Perhaps career is on equal footing as family. And having a career or job can be as fulfilling as parenting.

    Jeez….one post and we’re back at working moms are selfish and put themselves ahead of their family. How many working men do this? I’m telling you, women are their own worst enemy.

    Joni  |  July 26th, 2011 at 1:11 pm

  • Well, my kids are 4, so this is a bit premature for me. But tentatively, I say no, it isn’t harder as they get older. When they were 1-2.5, they had a nanny and I worked upstairs, but when they went to daycare at 2.5, it was difficult for me to figure out what was going on when I wasn’t there. Sure, I got a brief generic list at the end of the day - had chicken and peas for lunch, didn’t eat the peas, took a nap, colored a paper - but none of that told me how they “were.” Their conversational skills weren’t up to it either.

    Now, we can talk about our day (mine and theirs). They are also lower maintenance as far as physical needs, so we can spend our time on things of more lasting import. In the evenings, I can take them almost anywhere I want to go, and they will get something out of it. If I note something that they need to work on changing, I can talk to them about it (or discipline if appropriate) and reasonably expect that they will remember the exchange in the future and when I’m not around. The different caregivers’ styles don’t matter as much as they used to (e.g. nobody tries to treat my kids like helpless babies any more, and if I disagree with what their teacher says, I can explain to them my point of view).

    I think logistics can be a bear, but I also think that can be planned for. Right now I’m already trying to figure out what they are going to do after school when they are in 1st grade, over 2 years from now. I have to believe there is some combination of after-school care/transportation and extracurricular programs that can be efficiently scheduled without my having to be in 3 places at once. I also plan on having them walk or bus themselves from point A to point B as soon as the law allows.

    I think it’s nice if kids can be in a bunch of extracurriculars, but it’s not necessary. When I was a kid, I was in no organized activity outside of school, until I could take myself to and from (5th grade softball, 8th grade summer enrichment classes). I managed to find enough stimulation in what was available at school, at home, and in the neighborhood. I recently had to remind myself that while my kids’ “specials” at daycare will go by the wayside once they are in 1st grade, they will be replaced by other stimulating classes, including music (eventually orchestra), art, gym, eventually sports, etc. Also, they can read, meaning they can teach themselves lots of things. So I don’t plan on losing a lot of sleep over my kids’ schedule in years to come.

    SKL  |  July 26th, 2011 at 1:32 pm

  • And as for “why do we do this” - personally I believe that kids benefit from seeing what real life is, and that includes women working. I think if we stop buying into the idea that we should feel “guilty” about it, it would be easier to find the good in it. Ever seen a dad feeling guilty about having a job? Me neither.

    Surely there are things in your life that do your children less apparent good than your career. Watching TV? Gossiping? Shoe shopping? A mom’s career offers many opportunties to share both information and values with our kids. Would you rather talk to your kid about how you resolved a miscommunication with a co-worker today, or what Joey-the-sand-thrower’s mom at the playground should have done? Or who’s sleeping with whom today on your favorite soap? Or why it irritates you that Dad didn’t put his socks in the laundry hamper - for the 100th time?

    Besides, I don’t know about you, but I’m not that nice to be around 24/7. Neither are my kids, for that matter. They quit listening to me after a while and then I have to get militant. No fun. Ship them off to daycare, I say!

    SKL  |  July 26th, 2011 at 1:44 pm

  • I can relate to you completely. Even though my daughter is just two.
    Now a days in the morning when I am about to leave for work she expresses the desire to play with me. I do feel that I would rather play with her and spend time with her :).

    Though she forgets it as soon as her Nanny comes in and takes her to the park.

    Pooja  |  July 27th, 2011 at 1:15 pm

  • I’m a little offended by the comments that women who complain they can’t quit their job due to money just don’t want to give up their lifesytyle. I live in Los Angeles where rent is really high - and not the nice part of Los Angeles. My husband and I both work and litterally cannot afford not to. My husband has been applying at out of state jobs for over a year now with the hopes that we can move to a place that has a lower cost of living. We both grew up in Los Angeles and our families are here. It’s not like we made the decision to move here for any specific reason. We live in a 2 bedroom condo and the boys share a room.

    But either way, women can work if they want to, even if it is for a certain lifestyle. When I had my first son I didn’t think I would want to be a stay at home mom (I do now) and there’s nothing wrong with that. Being a stay at home mom isn’t for everyone. Some women (and men) need to work for their own sanity. Wanting kids doesn’t mean wanting to be with them 24/7.

    Me  |  July 27th, 2011 at 3:43 pm

  • Nataly, I was just saying this week that parenting has gotten soooo much easier. It probably helps that I work from home and make my own hours, true, but my 5 & 6 yos are so much easier to handle. They play happily for hours throughout the day and that lets me get so much done, like come back to WIM to check things out! And they certainly aren’t neglected as there is a sitter here with them a few hours a day and they are still involved in gymnastics and tennis.

    While I’m trying to enjoy what’s left of the summer, I’m also unashamedly looking forward to them both being in school full time come September.

    Mandy Nelson  |  July 29th, 2011 at 9:01 am

  • Wow, isn’t this a site for working moms to get support from other working moms? Some of the comments are harsh. Why can’t women support each other? Would I rather be home with my kids than rushing out the door to sit behind a desk all day? Yes, but my husband doesn’t make enough to keep me home with them and even if we downsized and cut costs we still couldn’t afford it. It’s not 1950 anymore, we didn’t buy our house for 50k like my parents did. I’m lucky I get to work a reduced schedule. My parents watch our two kids four days and my husbdand is home one day a week. Even if I left this job in five years when they go to school I would never be able to find/get a job like the one I have that is great money, stress free, flexible and close by. I’ve learned that women who put other women down are insecure in their own lives. And it’s been true every time.

    Jenni  |  July 29th, 2011 at 9:52 am

  • I have to agree with Joni and Jenni about the tone of the earlier comments. I came to the comments to see what other moms had to say about the post, not the negativity about being a working mom in the first place.

    Judie  |  August 23rd, 2011 at 11:32 pm

  • I have been a working mom forever it seems.I have a 23 year old, 20year old and 18 year old all graduated and we started over so we have a 6 year old just going into 1st grade. I have struggled and suffered and envied moms who could spend more time with their children than I could. It hurt that they got to go to MOPS meeting on Thursday mornings and Saturday picnic(my job requires Sat). I had to fit all that in somehow. But don’t think you can’t raise great well adjusted kids because you have to work. They can learn from Mom as well as Dad that its important to be a hard working person who cares about her job and the people her job helps.They can learn to be tolerant and caring that Mom worked hard and maybe they could cook dinner for her once in a while. The can learn to do their own laundry when they are old enough. Its not all bad for kids to have a working mom. I think sometines its a lot harder on Mom than on the kids because we make sure our kids have all they need in loving people to take care of them when we can’t be there and maybe grandma is the one who gets to watch dance practice or football practice when we wish it was us but we make sure our kids are loved and cared for when I can’t say we do the same for ourselves at least for myself. Working Moms if your kids know you love them more than anything which they will know it is still hard to be away from them but they will know. Sometiimes it just is what it is and we shouldn’t beat ourselves up with guilt that messes with our parenting not to mention our health.

    Mom of 4  |  September 3rd, 2011 at 7:13 am

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