After my 12 month maternity leave in Canada, I came back to work full time in quite a shock. Working full time and being a mom and making sure all the food is cooked, all the baby freebies are acquired, all the dishes are clean, all the Child Tax Benefit payment dates line up, all the activities are booked and organized really burnt me out. Here are 6 of my musings of being an overwhelmed working mom.
Working here and there during maternity leave is a breeze, working full time with an active toddler isn’t!
Full Time Working Mom Feeling Overwhelmed
According to Forbes, millennial working moms are feeling the pressure. A lot of pressure. The pressure is to be available and ‘on’ around the clock- at work and then at home.
I am grateful I was able to have the year long maternity leave in Canada and not have to worry about pumping while back at work. I think I would feel even more overwhelmed than I am now, but it’s not as overwhelming as it should be since I know there is an end in site (a second maternity/ parental leave, which I often liken to a mini-retirement). I remember when I first went back to work, it was so very overwhelming and I was already wanting to go on another parental leave and counting down the months.
During the work week my child is in a mix of part-time day care, at grandma’s, and with my husband. I remember there was a day where my mother in law wasn’t feeling well and I couldn’t take a day off (I didn’t ask my employer, I just felt an obligation to stay work that day) to take care of my own child. I felt guilty and overwhelmed- like I failed as a mom because I prioritized work instead of my child.
This isn’t the only time I feel mom guilt. I often feel mom guilt when I come home from work too. It was the ultimate Motherhood Penalty.
The Mom Guilt When You Come Home From Work
When I come home from work (my husband does the pick up from grandma’s home or was with our toddler all day) my toddler often is very upset for about 30-45 minutes. He doesn’t let me do anything like prepare dinner and just wants to be held, and is not very consolable. He usually gets like that just when he sees me and yells “mama, mama, mama!”. The mom guilt hits hard at this time.
Sometimes I wonder whether he wouldn’t be like this if I wasn’t at work all day.
After he settles, then we manage to eat dinner, and then it’s bath time, and then it’s clean up dishes time, and cleaning his eating area time. Then it’s sleeping time for him. The time I get home from work until his bedtime are completely busy and all-consuming.
I’m Not so Judgy Anymore
I am ashamed to admit this, but before I had a kid, I used to be very judgy when I saw parents on their cell phones, pushing the stroller. I used think “they are totally checked out, they should be interacting and engaging with the child”.
Now, because there is so little ‘me’ time and it is basically a 13-14 hour shift with a 30-90 minute break in the middle of the day on days off work, I’m the one with scrolling the smart phone pushing the stroller. Just 5-10 minutes of me time (and relative silence), in between tantrums and “no’s” and thrown food is like a cool fizzy beverage on a hot day.
When I see other moms or dads on their phones looking tired, I glance at them with a knowing solidarity now instead of being judgmental.
I Never Knew How Tired I Could Be Until I Became a Parent
When my friends without young kids tell me how tired they are, I don’t say anything but sometimes secretly simmer. Before children, I was like that too, complaining about how tired I was from working a busy work week. This level of tiredness as a parent of a young child is like beyond level of comprehension. Maybe I’m extra tired because I’m pregnant but I’m sure if I wasn’t pregnant I would still feel quite tired being a working mom or overwhelmed mom.
5-6 hours of sleep a night is my usual now, because I try to cram everything like evening grocery shopping, food preparation, laundry, me-time (like working on this blog), reading, exercise (and by exercise I mean 20 minutes of light stretching a few times a week), and 10 minutes of meditation a few times a week (and by meditation, who I am I kidding, I mean a nap) in the hours from 7:45pm to midnight, and then it starts all over again the next day at 6am.
Let’s just say coffee in the morning is my friend.
Parenting Is Hard
I really admire SAHM, SAHD, and grandparents that take care of young children during the day, it’s a lot of work. It sometimes feels like a nice break going to work and actually being able to rest your brain in between doing things at work. It’s nice not to have to worry about your child hurting themselves, tripping, climbing on top of something too high, or just getting into trouble.
Setting limits and boundaries are easy to read about and learn about but actually putting them in action is difficult. One little ‘maybe next time I’ll give him a time out’ erodes away weeks of lessons and training for a young child and confuses them. It’s hard to have stamina and a strong will to go against the strong will of a toddler who wants things right NOW.
Working Mom Burnout- Food Preparation Becomes A Chore
If you check out my Instagram, during my year long maternity leave, I think I had more energy to make tastier and more time consuming foods, like fish and chips, and eggs Benedict. Now, my food preparation is often done at 11:30pm for the next day since my toddler doesn’t do very well when I get home from work (sometimes late) and cook. I noticed that the Instagram pictures of proudly made food are few and far between. I have less energy to be creative with meal preparation and cooking.
Food preparation as become much less enjoyable these days. I’m not very proud of the meals that we are eating these days, they aren’t very good or tasty, and often I don’t even want to eat them! Let’s just say thank goodness for the Instant Pot and for takeout sushi or Thai food.
I can definitely see why online grocery shopping, meal prep services, and food delivery have become very popular as of late.
Well, those are my thoughts that have accumulated over the past few months. I hope things will become a bit more balanced once I’m not working again.
One thing is for sure, I’ll need to try and check out the Netflix show Workin’ Moms– when I get (or make?) the time to.
Working overwhelmed moms, how do you do it? Is Workin’ Moms a good series? Any tips for surviving with two children under two? How do people with three young children manage?
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9 thoughts on “6 Musings of an Overwhelmed Working Mom”
I don’t know how you do it, but I’m sure there are many other Moms just like you trying to do it all. It’s so different than my Mom growing up. She continued working after she had my older brother, but that was very atypical. Her father-in-law did not approve at all.
She stopped working after she had me and was a full-time Mom for my brother and I. It was so different back then. We lived in a small town. The only way to contact people was in person or on the home landline. No internet, no cable TV, no smartphones, etc. Family and friends were the only entertainment. And I’m not that old. It’s just wild to me how the world has changed so much. Tom
@Tom- Hah I don’t know how I do it too. That’s cool that your mom was such a rebel to the social norms- that’s probably where you got your tenacity and grit from! 🙂 The world has changed so much, even in the past 15 years or so, especially with Internet.
You just find time and do it. That’s it. How do we make it work! We have to, we just do.
Great idea.. for a post
@Sherry- Looking forward to reading it! 🙂
Since I had chronic pain and fatigue before kids, I experienced no demonstrable difference between the tired I was before and after kids – it was all horrible and the same. Yay! But we can survive, it’s just a matter of taking one step at a time and keeping going.
@Revanche- Sorry to hear that the chronic pain and fatigue has been the same pre and post family addition. Keep going is the way to go and knowing/hoping that things will get better.
I remember when we were taking care for BwC for those first six months and having that lack of sleep and energy, I kept thinking on how do the SAHM and SAHD do this? We were exhausted and I could throw in my in-laws, it took all four of us to take care of him, I couldn’t imagine how a single mom/dad did it. I got a new appreciation for them after going through that.
Laura Vanderkam, the author of the time management book “Off the Clock” I read last year had a online Q&A recently and I asked her how to manage your time with a newborn. She basically said to set low expectations for yourself meaning you don’t need to make any nice dinners or have anytime for yourself(beside sleeping). Just make some quick meals so you can go back to taking care of the newborn.
I think we need to check each other the next few months since your expecting around the same time MwC is…lol!!
Sorry I meant *check on each other..doh!!
@Kris- This is silly but sometimes I think for a single mom and dad, they get some ‘alone’ time when the kids are with the other parent, but that’s still not saying that what they do is not 100% exhausting. I do think that too oftentimes, it must be so hard. That’s a good tip, because even though people told me not to have a to-do list last time, I didn’t listen. Yes, we definitely need to check on how each other is doing (and our toddlers/preschoolers too!).