"Mommmmmmmmy! It's the daytime!" My 3-year-old son throws open the bedroom door dressed and ready for "school," the name we've given his daycare since he started as a 12-week-old infant.
A whirlwind of thoughts fly through my already jumbled brain: "Daytime? What's today? Am I doing pick-up or drop-off? Why am I still in bed?" It hits me when I open my eyes and spot my packed gym bag on the floor. Once again, I've succumbed to the allure of the snooze button and missed my chance for a pre-work workout. My husband is taking Max in today, which means I'm on pick-up duty. I groan because I know I've wasted my only "alone time" opportunity today on a few extra minutes of sleep.
During the commute, I'm bothered by the thought that if I'd gotten up on time today, not only would I have had one more workout under my belt, I'd also have missed all the rush hour traffic. The feeling's kind of a regret-mixed-with-guilt, and one I quickly got used to as a working mom. The regret part comes from the knowledge that most of my mom friends are at home right now, getting ready for a day of togetherness with their kids. The guilt's for the fact that even if we could afford it, I'd never choose to stay home full-time.
There, I've said it. From what I understand, there are lots of working moms who feel the same way--we all just feel too bad to say it out loud. I console myself with the thought that the traffic gives me time to put on my make-up, and there's always a chance I can sneak out for a workout at lunchtime.
I hit my desk and crash into gear. Before I know it, I'm swept up into the familiar sea of phone, email, meetings, and deadlines that will continue until I "pull the cord" and dash out to pick up my son at daycare. And here's where the mental component of working and being a mom comes into play. I noticed the day I returned from my maternity leave that being a working mom is a little like having one of those soap opera roles where you're actually playing two characters. Playing the part of the employee is me: nicely dressed, competent, and professional. The one who makes things happen and never, ever lets you think she's any less focused than before she stepped into Labor and Delivery.
Pre-mom, I was a die-hard office late-nighter, often bragging that I got my best work done after most people went home. Now, the close of the workday is tough, since there always seem to be a few more things I could accomplish to get myself into position for a better morning the next day. I could swear the clock moves twice as fast between the hours of 4 and 5 PM as I do the wrap-up, the desk clean, and sprint out the door.
Walking into Max's classroom at day's end is always a lift--today they're playing the animal matching game and he's covered with the remnants of lunch, an art
project, or both. He's usually patient for the car-ride home, a 40-minute trip that goes something like this:
Me: "Max, what did you do today?"
Me: "What did you play?"
Max: "I don't know."
I know he's had a long day too, so I usually try to take it easy on the line of questioning, even though learning tidbits about his day is one way I get to feel closer to him while I'm at work.