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The Mental Load of Being a Working Mom

just remember to breathe

If you’re a working mom, there’s a good chance that you’ve had a day similar to that of our creative and content director Heather. Read on to see her take on what she considers to be the mental load of being a working mom.

This morning the weight of being a working mom feels extra heavy. My 2-year-old son Jude has a lingering cough that acts up when he’s laying down, so my first wakeup happened at 2:30am when I heard, “Mammaaaaaaa!” coming through the monitor.

Typically, some warm milk will calm him down; so I shuffle into the kitchen and make him milk before heading upstairs to his room. I know the milk he’s about to drink will push his already always-full-nighttime-diaper over the edge, so I to change his diaper in the dark.

This only makes him angry, and he starts crying again. But it has to be done so that—fingers crossed—we’ll both get more sleep before we start our day.

I clumsily apply the diaper in the dark before I pick him up and bring him to the rocker to lull him back to sleep.

Since my husband and I recently traveled for six days (the longest I have ever been away from either of my children) to Colombia for a friend’s wedding, I know these wake-ups are part cough and part missing mama, so I give in to the mom guilt and rock him until I hear his breathing slow and his body relax into sleep.

As soon as I stand to put him in his crib I hear, “No crib. I want rock.” I’m too tired to fight him, so I sit down and he lays his head on my chest.

I start to think about my checklist for work and home. My daughter Betty needs to bring her permission slip and library books to school today. I need to mail those Amazon returns. We’re out of cat litter. Keep the March books on schedule. Set up that interview for next month’s issue.

Suddenly, my previously sleepy brain is awake, and I’m realizing tomorrow (today?) is going to be long. I stand up again to put Jude in his crib and get more protests, but I tell him I’ll rub his back and he lets me lay him down.

After a few minutes, I very slowly turn the door handle and lift the door before I open it—otherwise it squeaks and we’re back to square one. I tiptoe down the hallway hoping I don’t hear protests before I hit the stairs.

I feel a moment of relief … until I hear crying on the monitor again. After a week of this, we’ve created a bad habit. His needs are met—he has water, milk and a clean diaper. If I ever want us to get a full night of sleep again, I have to let him cry.

With a sigh—and a heart full of guilt—I turn down the monitor. At this point, if I want to fall asleep, I know I’ll need my prescribed sleep-aid to get me past Jude’s crying and the looming to-do list.

The next thing I hear is my husband saying, “It’s time to get up, Mama.” I roll over to see I’ve slept through my alarm. And since I put a mask on my hair last night, I have to wash it. But first, I have to get Betty out the door to kindergarten in 20 minutes.

In a sleepy haze, I’m making sandwiches, signing permission slips and finding library books. We get Betty out the door and I rush to the shower—calculating how quickly I can wash and blow dry my hair before I get my son from his crib.

Once I’m out of the shower, I see on the monitor he’s still sleeping after his middle-of-the-night party and give myself a few more minutes to get ready in quiet. My husband is working in his office and doesn’t get this unspoken memo so—God love him, he thinks he’s helping—he wakes up Jude and gets him from his room and all I can think is, This is going to be chaos. And it was.

Jude’s grumpy and doesn’t want to breakfast, but he does want to wear the shark swimsuit and rash guard I bought for him from Target. It’s 40 degrees outside, so I tell him he can’t wear a swimsuit to school and I get an epic fit.

I try to negotiate by offering his favorite firetruck shirt but hear “No truck! Shark!” in between wails. I make a mental note that the terrible twos have officially hit, but I don’t have time for this today. A quick glance at the clock tells me we’re supposed to be leaving for his school right now, and my hair is still wet.

I walk back to the bathroom and realize my husband has gotten in the shower—this will make blow-drying my naturally wavy hair straight more of a task. I take a deep breath to try and not let the anxiety slowly building in my chest have a chance to run rampant.

I finish my hair with my son telling me the hair dryer is “too loud” and decide it’s going to be an all-black outfit day, for the ease of it. Put on eyeliner, curl my lashes and decide this will have to do.

We’re already 15 minutes late and not even at his school yet. I race to find the door locked from being that late and walk him to his classroom. I know his teachers see me running in and out of his school each morning frazzled; they show me so much kindness and grace—I’m so grateful for them.

Jude walks into this classroom without issue and I think we’ve made it, but as soon as I turn to leave I hear “Mamaaaaaaaaaa!” If I stop and go back to him it will only make it worse, so I put my head down and keep walking. I hear his crying until I walk out of the building—it breaks my heart into a million pieces.

Another deep breath. I’m so tired and it’s only 9:25am. Is it worth it? What am I doing? I love my job, but this is hard. It’s hard on me, and I know it’s hard on my family.

As I feel my heart beating in my chest, I remember that it’s all hard. When I stayed home it was just a different set of stressors. The lack of a break from my children. The self-imposed guilt of not contributing to our family financially. Feeling like there wasn’t space for me to follow my passions that existed before I was a mom. It’s always going to be something, and somehow embracing the “suck” helps the anxiety subside.

With two young children I’m in the thick of it, but it won’t be this way forever. The work I’m doing is meaningful and the example I’m setting for my children is important for me.

I turn on my Pump It Up playlist and decide to drive through a coffee shop for a little more pep in my step before I get to work. I’ve got this. And as a reward for conquering the day, I promise myself extra cuddles with the babies, a bath and an early bedtime. And then I smile to myself. Like that will ever happen.

Heather Vance Devers is the Creative + Content Director of DFWChild Magazines and the mom of a two-year-old boy and a five-year-old girl. Heather has 16 years of fashion and editorial experience with names including Condé Nast and Neiman Marcus under her belt. She has been in the DFW metroplex 99% of her adult life—except for a quick stint in New York City—and currently lives in Frisco with her children, husband and their two cats (but don’t peg them as strictly cat people). 

Check out more of Heather’s writing here:
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Meet Fort Worth Fashion Designer Sheridan French

Image courtesy of iStock.