That Kind Of Mother

When my daughter was born and I was presented with an opportunity to go back to work, I knew there was no way I could turn it down. I was suddenly compelled to set an example for my daughter as a successful working mother in a way I had not been while I was home with my son for two years. I wanted to be “that kind of mother” who gives her the freedom to make her own choices, while continuing to break glass ceilings and forge work-life balance to make her path just a little bit easier (as previous generations have done for me).

I’ve since realized that “successful working mother” is a loaded goal. I am successful at work, yes. I am a professional, working at a reputable national law firm. I have a salary that allows me to take home six-figures even after egregious federal, state and New York City taxes. I have awesome family health insurance paid for by my employer — and it even includes dental. The “successful working” part rings true.

As does the “working mother” part. I am grateful to have a job that respects my priorities as a mother. I have not missed a phase-in session, orientation or smallest event at my children’s school and none of the partners I work for have blinked an eye. They trust that I have a handle on the work that needs to get done and they leave me to do just that (my associate co-workers are another story, but I’m ignoring them).

But “successful working mother” implies that I’ve got it all under control. That, while I wish I spent more time with my kids, I have negotiated drop-offs and pick-ups around conference calls and late night loan document distribution. But this simply isn’t the case. Every single day is a negotiation. If I have deals closing, Ian needs to do more at home. If he has an important client meeting, I offer to take the kids on the morning he’s supposed to do it. For the most part our schedule is utter chaos.

And it’s taking a toll.

I am now “that kind of mother” who misses dinnertime and bedtime at least once a week. Once a month I get home after they are asleep and leave before they are awake. On those days I have no idea what they ate during the day, or whether they brushed their teeth, had fun at school, or read any books before bed.

I am now the kind of mother who screams at their kids to put their shoes on, adding, “hurry up, Mommy has to get to work!”

I am now the kind of mother who says, “Mommy’s just got to finish this email before I come in to read you a story” more often than I’d like.

I am now the kind of mother who has trouble transitioning from the uber-productive state at the office, to the constant presence required to spend time with a two-year-old and four-year-old.

I am now the kind of mother that cries on Sunday night because the thought of doing it all over again — another Monday through Friday! — is more than I can bear.

None of this is not what I had in mind when I wanted to set an example for my daughter.

I don’t know exactly what we will do about it, but something has to give. Finding an exceptional nanny/caregiver would certainly help. So would moving to Maine, or anywhere else where the cost of living wasn’t so insane. But alas, none of those is a reality for today, so I’m trying my best to keep my shit together and get through another day.

Now, after I said all that, please don’t look at me like I’m crazy when I tell you that I agreed to cover the weekend news for Mommyish yesterday. If you are interested in any of my posts, here they are:

You Definitely Didn’t See Louis C.K. Or His Kids In Line At The Apple Store Yesterday – I don’t care if you click on this or not, but if you didn’t see Louis C.K.’s recent rant on Conan, you MUST find it. Hysterical and profound, I love this man.

Why I Won’t Take My Introverted Son To Be Evaluated For Autism – an intensely personal story inspired by the Salon’s piece on confusing introverted brainy boys as showing signs of autism.

I’ve ‘Opt-ed In’ To ‘Lean In’ And Now I’m One Of Those ‘Maxed Out’ Working Moms Having It All – last night I read the first chapter of Katrina Alcorn’s book Maxed Out: American Moms On The Brink and I nodded my head with every.single.line.

After Kindergarten, Redshirting Backfires On Uber-Competitive Parents – this really just revolves around my fascination with the topic, but there’s a much more personal story of a mother willing to let her son be the youngest at Omnimom.

7 Awesome Benefits Of Being A Working Mom In An Office – you know me, always trying to stay positive!

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About Carinn Jade

Mother, lawyer, yogi, writer, non-sleeper. Published @NYTMotherlode. Contributor @Mommyish @Moonfrye @HuffPostLive. I like beer (not wine) & tea (not coffee) & being a contrarian.
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4 Responses to That Kind Of Mother

  1. I’m crappy at taking my own advice, but let’s take a looong, deeeep, breath. (I’m doing it, are you?) As a stay-at-homer whose greatest challenge these days is stain removal, I applaud you. May I gently point out that you’re beating the crap out of yourself? As a lawyer, I have to assume that you’re very smart (the stuff you do all day is like an Aboriginal dialect to me!) and since you love your kids (I’m sure you do) you’ll end up making the best choices possible. (I’m deep breathing again for you….)

  2. go Mama O says:

    There’s no easy answer to working / staying-at-home. I opted-out after going back to work after baby #2 (just like I did with baby#1), and left after two months. After a year at home, I knew I needed to get back to work and am now working part-time. I’m not sure what my career prospects will look like after my kids are in school full-time, but am just going with it.

  3. I have no idea how you do it, but you definitely are doing it. You’re an awesome mom and you’ll figure it out. As always, thanks for sharing your struggles (and victories!) with such honesty 🙂

  4. sagescenery says:

    I went back to teaching full-time again when my son was two…now that I’m retired…and just went back to work part-time…I don’t know how I did it!?!? But you’ll do it, until you can’t do it…and then you & hubby will figure it out…just as we all do! But let me just say there is something to be said for kids brought up to respect that their Moms work…they need to grow up more independent and organized…to survive…my son did!! Amen! God Bless!

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