Today marked a year since I started my job as an evening reporter, news anchor and producer. I’d like to say that after a year as a full-time working mom, we finally have everything figured out as a family, and most days our on-point schedule leaves us feeling closer as a family and excited for the future. I’d really like to put that on a Christmas/Holiday//Merry Everything card. Except I probably won’t get my cards out till the day before Christmas. The other problem with writing about how super awesome things are going is that they aren’t. (Before you read any further…this is NOT a feel sorry for me update. This is a “we’re-freaking-doing-life-and-here’s-what-it-actually-looks-like” update. If you like the Instagram accounts with whitewashed walls and white couches and monochromatic gray everything, this isn’t the post for you.)
Don’t get me wrong, everything is ok. Everyone is healthy. Actually, that’s only sort of true. We are currently healthy. We’ve been sick every other week since September, so I don’t really think I can state with confidence that we’re “healthy”. Also, I fed the kids McDonalds twice last week and Harrison’s breakfast before preschool this morning was a gummy snack and an organic marshmallow, so by crunchy mom standards we’re right on the path to hell. If hell looked like Twinkies and Fruit Roll Ups and GMO yogurt.
Truly though, we’re ok. We’re a pretty happy family, and I feel pretty freaking lucky every day for these people I’ve been given to do life with. And that’s what makes it so freaking hard to be a working mom. I’d love to tell you that working has brought out the best in me. That I’m a better mom, a better wife, a better friend for getting out of the house and pursuing my dreams (LOL). But I’d be lying. I’m more impatient with the kids than I’ve ever been. I go through my preventative migraine meds like tic tacs and the house is pretty much always trashed. (Though full disclosure, for one glorious day a week it looks as lovely as it can possibly look after several hours of intense work by the most amazing cleaning lady ever, who is also a working momma.) I sleep about 5 hours a night. Interrupted, of course, because my kids don’t sleep through the night. I had to buy them more clothes because I can’t keep up with laundry. About the only thing I’m doing as a mom that I’m proud of, is getting dinner prepped ahead of time. Part of that is just plain survival, Sam gets off work too late to get kids from daycare AND make dinner, but he still ends up doing that more than I wanted. For the record, he’s a warrior, and stays up late every night trying to help me keep this house running.
Speaking of running, ever try getting two toddlers out the door in time for daycare right during the time they SHOULD be napping? No? I don’t wish it on anyone. It’s actually a miracle I ever get to work on time. Doesn’t matter how early you start trying to get out the door. Someone poops, someone else takes that opportunity to half-undress, then the someone that you changed lets the dog out while you’re dressing the other someone and then while you’re getting the dog back in the kennel, the two someones empty out the diaper bag and find the snacks and then it’s a battle of strength and determination to wrestle those over-tired toddlers into their car seats. There’s almost always tears, and often not just the kids’.
Over the past year, I’ve noticed in conversations with other moms, that they’ll be telling me about something challenging they’re facing in their life, and suddenly, they’ll say something to the effect of, “But it’s not like I’m working full time or anything…” as if they’re trying to let me know they know I think they are a pansy and their problems aren’t real because someone isn’t sending them a W-2 during tax season. Want to know something? I absolutely do not think being a stay-at-home mom is easier than being a full-time working mom. I think they’re both equally freaking hard.
Finding childcare has been a nightmare. There’s really no other way to put it. I finally thought I had it figured out, but I think God might be doing some kind of working mom version of the Job story, because I lose the daycare we found at just the perfect time in September….in just a few days. All of my plans have fallen through. My schedule is weird, Sam’s schedule is weird, I can’t afford $400 a week for my two kids to go to a licensed daycare (assuming we can get past the 100+ family waitlist at the “good” places). It’s probably the single most stressful part of working. It’s heartbreaking to leave my kids crying in someone else’s home, regardless of how kind or wonderful they may be. It’s hard to have my son angry at me for going back to work after dinner. But it’s also hard to be home with them all day. Sometimes, after a really challenging day, where I’ve said “No!” like a thousand times and swept up dog hair for the 18th time, it’s actually quite lovely to grab a latte and then head into work.
It’s a whole different stress, fielding phone calls, sorting through emails and staring at a blank rundown, just waiting for stories to be told. I love it. I love it because I’m actually not half bad at it. I love it because when I produce a good show, I don’t feel like a failure. It’s not like my experience as a mom, where I mostly feel like Frankie Heck from The Middle, trying to keep all the crap from falling out of the car whenever she opens the door, microwaving breakfast and keeping a stash of chocolate hidden in her nightstand. (Harrison knows where to look now, so I’m thinking of moving it to the bathroom.)
When I’m on the screen, I have to be put-together, so for one hour five days a week, I can pretend like I have my crap together. No one out there knows the back of my hair isn’t combed, we’re all one pair away from no clean underwear, and my car smells like spilled milk. No. One. Knows.
I’ve tried to explain that it’s all smoke and mirrors. “Are you the girl on the news?” someone will ask. Without the thick TV makeup it’s kind of hard to imagine that the frazzled red-head wearing sweatpants and carrying a diaper bag with crap falling out of it while trying to tear a half-opened salami tray out of her 4 year-olds hands in the middle of Walmart… is that lady who sits calmly at a desk and delivers the local news at six and ten. “Yep, that’s me,” I’ll say. I’ll smile apologetically, like, “Sorry to ruin whatever ideas you had about my qualifications for this job, I’m actually just a hot-mess mom trying not to get her picture on the “People of Walmart” website. (I probably made it on there yesterday, in case anyone wants to look for a picture of Harrison eating a snack tray in the cart covered in glitter from a giant Christmas bulb he cracked open.)
So, a year. I’ve made it a year. I’ve had the help of my own sweet husband, my family, Sam’s family, friends who’ve offered to watch my kids when I had nowhere else to take them, bosses that have given me grace upon grace for our never-ending cycle of illness, and co-workers who graciously look the other way when I show up to work a disaster, and fill-in when I can’t be there.
So, this post is about my year as a working mom. It’s honest. I didn’t hold back. I did spare you a long paragraph about how Winnie is losing her crap and destroyed my new carpet and our living room blinds. Anyway. I’m not sure how to end this, except that my purpose in this maybe too candid overview of my life this year is not to have anyone say that I’m doing a great job and am an amazing mom. It’s so kind of people to say that. But the truth is, I wrote this because maybe someone out there is feeling like they should be doing more…like trying to have it all. I’m not sure that you can have it “all” without some really serious sacrifice, and I don’t know what that looks like for everyone else, but it’s been one of the hardest years of my life. I’m celebrating getting here.