The impossible balancing act of the working mom

When I was little, my brother and I would get into these epic battles over the TV remote. I wanted to watch KTV and he was adamant on staying tuned for the entire 5 day cricket match. I actually managed to get the remote from him once, but even then he just stood by the television set, switching back to his channel. I got so angry that I chucked the remote at his head and, since my aim was and still is exceptionally poor, I missed by about a meter and it smashed against the wall.

When I inevitably lost the fight, I would phone my mother at her office. Keep in mind that this was before cell phones so I would first have reached her secretary and politely asked to speak to my mom. Then, as soon as she’d answer, I would wail about how my brother was taunting me and how I couldn’t even watch one show and please please please could she help me.

Now that I’m a mom myself, I can only imagine being on the other side of this phone call. There I am, busy concentrating on an important pitch for a client, deadline looming, and the next second my infant is bellowing into my ear about wanting to watch cartoons.

When I recanted this story to my mom the other day she just laughed, shrugged and said, “Yeah, that’s part of being a working mom.”

Before I had my baby, I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about going back to work once she was born. I’d heard many stories about driven career women simply giving up everything to be with their children. I honestly thought I would be one of them. Then baby girl was born and I realised that I had an intense desire to get back to the office. I needed to spend a few hours each day challenging myself with stimulating work. Motherhood is incredibly special but it can also become mundane and lonely.

Once I came to this realisation, I found that I was suddenly more motivated and ambitious than I had been in years. Before I fell pregnant I was always on the fence about commiting to certain goals, unsure how my life would change once I became a mother. Now I find myself chasing a clear career path.

So, adamant to make it work and do it all, I spent the last few months pushing as hard as I could. I get up at 6:30 to shower, dress, tidy the house and feed my baby before my nanny arrives. Then I drive to the office where I work at maximum capacity before speeding back for baby’s 11am feed – yes, she is still 100% refusing the bottle. Then I rush to the shops to buy groceries and baby supplies, grab an on-the-go lunch and speed back to my desk to chase a few more deadlines. At 14:30 it’s back home for her afternoon feed, then I catch up on some last emails and get something in the oven for dinner before my nanny leaves at 15:30. And then it’s time to concentrate on my baby girl. By the time she goes down for the night at 19:00 (if I’m lucky), I am dead on my feet.

Of course this pace couldn’t last. I had become fixated on “owning it” as a working mom; being the ultimate boss-babe-meets-super-mom that managed to do it all. And suddenly the weight of it started to create so much anxiety that I became worried about tipping into postpartum depression.

Slow down.

Breathe.

Okay, let’s try this again.

I don’t think there will ever be something like the perfect work-life balance. Nothing is perfect when it comes to motherhood. What I do know is that while I might not sit at a desk from 9-5, I am pretty sure that with enough coffee and about 4 hours sleep, I can get more work done in a morning than I would have in a week. Tasks that would normally cripple me with anxiety now get tackled head on, because nothing puts shit into context like birthing life.

I also know is that I need to cut myself a whole lot of slack in both arenas. Some days an email will have to wait. Some days my baby will have to play by herself for a bit while I take a call.

So yeah, most days I feel like I am compromising on being a mom and an employee. But fuckit, do I feel proud of myself for tackling this life head on. That’s the kind of mom I want to be. You see baby girl, everything seems impossible until it’s done.

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