They say career moms can have it all. As a working mom, aka a career mom, of two small children, I’d like to validate all of you other working moms out there in that we cannot, in fact, have it all. Working moms face so many obstacles at work that men do not. Have you ever heard the term “working dad?” I certainly have not, and I consider my partner and me to be on equal footing regarding chores and childcare. Unfortunately, some responsibilities still fall on me, despite us both working full-time outside of the home.
I find giving my all at work and home very challenging. When work is busy, I feel burnt out when I get home, and my children do not get the best of me. When my home life is chaotic, I do not work to the fullest potential in my job. There are times at work and home when you must give the bare minimum to get through the day (or night), and sometimes that must be okay.
Mom is Often the Default Parent
Moms are often considered the “default parent,” meaning the parent who takes on the burden of responsibility for their family, both mental and physical. It starts with pregnancy. Pregnancy is considered a disability according to the law, but many businesses expect women to work right up until they give birth in many instances. I worked the evening before my scheduled induction with my second baby at 7 a.m. the next day. Society also expects us to “bounce back” from childbirth, which is a significant medical event, whether you deliver via C-section or vaginally. Many career moms in the United States return to work six weeks after giving birth (or sooner in some situations) while possibly still bleeding and leaking breast milk, not to mention having significant sleep deprivation. Men do not have to deal with this, as they are not the ones experiencing pregnancy.
As the default parent, the mental load falls on many women for scheduling doctor’s appointments, play dates, ensuring their children have properly fitting clothing and shoes, medication refills, and grocery shopping, among other chores. Not to mention, if you are a breastfeeding mom, pumping at work is another story. We expect all of this and then some, whether mom works inside or outside the home. Weekends are a scramble to get as many chores as possible done, leaving very little time to relax. Eventually, Monday morning rolls around, and it’s time to do it again.
Career Moms Face Many Roadblocks
Career moms face many more roadblocks at work than men who are fathers. Here are a few examples:
There’s a critical lunch meeting you’d love to attend because there will be an opportunity for networking with executives. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to go because you must pump. And if you miss a pumping session, how will you feed your baby tomorrow?
Work From Home
Working from home? No problem. I know that I feel obligated to do chores when I am working remotely. I will run laundry all day in the background as I do my work. Sometimes, my work-from-home days are the only time I can catch up on laundry. This is not time-consuming but simply another thing to consider while trying to navigate your already full day.
Most pediatrician offices are only open during business hours which, of course, are traditional office working hours. I often must take time out of my day to take the kids to doctor’s appointments.
Organizing the Day
Simply the act of organizing my schedule. I arrange my days around my kids’ appointments and my own since I also go to the doctor occasionally. I also schedule around daycare pickup time or our nanny’s end-of-shift, pumping, and any other needs that pop up. These automatically put me at a disadvantage compared to my male coworkers, who do not have this level of responsibility.
I have a strict end time daily, as I am responsible for getting home to the kids. I don’t get to enjoy the essential casual conversations that happen at the end of a workday as people start to relax and get ready to go home. I used to be able to linger at the end of the day. Now I must rush home to feed the baby. If your workplace is not wholly supportive of working parents, some might perceive this as a disadvantage.
Career moms face additional challenges as companies expect us to work 40 hours a week (if it’s a full-time job) while performing at an acceptable level and working a second full-time job as a parent. And I don’t know about you, but my tiny bosses at home are much more demanding than my boss in my corporate job. We working moms can do our best to knock down the obstacles in front of us every day, but that experience is also very challenging. I want you to know that you are not alone, and you are doing a great job!