The Plight of the Working Mom and the Myth of “Balance”

I read an article the other day in Real Simple Magazine that was a bit of an eye opener for me (http://www.realsimple.com/work-life/life-strategies/time-management/spend-time-00100000077167/page3.html ).  They surveyed a bunch of women to find out how much free time they have.  (I’m assuming, here that the target audience at Real Simple are people like me, working moms or just regular moms, but it doesn’t seem to target the blissfully childless ladies of leisure out there).  Anyhow, their survey revealed that 52% of women report having less than 90 minutes of free time a day. 

That means that 48% of women surveyed have MORE THAN 90 MINUTES OF FREE TIME PER DAY!

What the hell?  I can tell you with absolute certainty that I have nowhere near that much free time.  To me, free time is time designated to doing something I want to do, not have to do.  As a working mom, I feel like the vast majority of my time is spent doing what I have to do. 

Otherwise my kids would starve, grow up to be drug dealers, and I’d be living in squalor. Right?  

Another article brought to light by one of my Facebook friends, another working mom basically blows the whistle on the myth of work-life balance: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/06/sheryl-sandberg_n_1409061.html?ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=false

There is no balance, just guilt because we can’t achieve balance. 

Did you see that movie “I Don’t Know How She Does It”?  Starring Carrie from Sex and the City (you know, Ferris Bueller’s wife)?  Me neither, because I read the book. 

It totally pissed me off.

I was a new working mom, Aidan was little and I was looking for some validation that I made the right choice by going back to work.  Turns out the moral of the story was that you can’t do it all.  The working mom in the book ultimately quit her job to stay home with her kids. 

Not the validation I was looking for.

Working mom wise, I realize I have things pretty easy.  I work Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and a couple Saturdays a month.  I’m thankful that at least I’ve got a couple of weekdays to run errands/do housework/ appointments, etc.  I’m certainly not sitting around eating bonbons on those days though.  I do, however allow myself to watch “GCB” and “Cougartown” while folding “Mount Laundry” on Mondays. 

The problem is that the older the kids are getting (7 and 9), the harder the juggling act is getting.  The kids have homework, activities and such that require parental involvement.  They hate their after school program.  

The guilt factor is rising.

I have to admit, I envy the men with the stay at home wives. They get to work their butts off, but then arrive home, put their feet up and relax.  Their dinner is cooked, laundry’s done, house is clean.  They totally get to recharge and refresh for their next day at the office. 

Not so much for the moms.

How do I meet all these needs while simultaneously trying to give myself some down time so that I can recharge my batteries and achieve some sort of mental reprieve? 

It seems the answer is to let go of the guilt, and approach the problem like a man.  They seem to have no problem working free time into their lives.  Guilt free.

I’m working on it.  The last two weekends I’ve gone against the very fiber of my being and forced myself to NOT do chores the whole time.  I let the laundry wait til Monday.  I got take out instead of cooking.  I mined the pantry and freezer for food instead of the grocery store and I sat outside and read my book awhile. 

Trying not to feel guilty. 

But then again, just writing this is giving me a headache, so we’ll see how operation ” achieve mental health for Viv”  goes.

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3 thoughts on “The Plight of the Working Mom and the Myth of “Balance”

  1. “I envy the men with the stay at home wives. They get to work their butts off, but then arrive home, put their feet up and relax. Their dinner is cooked, laundry’s done, house is clean.”

    Note that the “stay at home wives” are STILL working their backsides off, even after the man gets home from a day at the office. Gotta cook dinner, clean up, help with homework, etc.

    Oops. Did that sound sexist?

  2. I hear you, I am also amazed at how calm and collected men can come home, put their feet up or fall asleep on the sofa without pulling their hair out and feel the slightest tinge of guilt. I am lucky to be able to work from home, this frees up the commute time, and I can literally do 2 things at one time (exp: design while put laundry in the washer/dryer). Hopefully you will find that balance soon, or at least learn to not feel guilty while enjoying some “Me Time”.

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