Friday, September 2, 2011

The great debate: Can working moms ever win?

Yesterday I shared some thoughts on my life as a working mom on the New York Times parenting blog, Motherlode.  Under the headline of How She Does It, I sought to answer the question that I -- and many other Moms -- are constantly asked: how do you do it? I answered from my perspective which apparently led some readers to believe that I am either A. a single Mom or B. a self-centered wife who gives my amazing husband Des no credit.  Neither is true.  And the mixed commentary caused me to wonder once again if working moms can ever really win. 

Like most moms, I struggle with the juggle and admit to occasionally dropping the ball, as Lisa Belkin noted in her lead-in to my piece.  There are days -- in fact, even weeks and months -- when I feel like I'm stretched too thin and not doing any of "it" well.  If I'm thriving at work, I'm not spending enough time at home and if my home-life is thriving, then something at work may be sacrificed. While I strive for perfection at home and at work, I've learned let go a little bit, to let things slide, to overlook the Legos in the living room or show up for a meeting in a wrinkled, snot-stained shirt.  Most simply put, I do the best I can, at work and at home, each and every day. 

It's not easy.  We worry about money.  We worry about raising happy, healthy, well-adjusted kids.  We worry about our marriage, about finding time for each other in the whirlwind of our lives. We're aware that our role as parents will get tougher as the kids get older.  We hope when that day comes, I'll have more flexible hours so I can help with homework, shuttle to sports, and truly tune-in to the teenage angst that surely awaits.

But that is then.  This is now.  I work because I have to and feel fortunate that I actually like to.  I can't spend too much time worrying about tomorrow because frankly, it takes all the energy I have just to get through today.  As many Motherlode readers rightly noticed, I don't get through the days on my own.  Des and I are a team.  And a good one at that. Much to our own dismay, we sometimes find ourselves humming that annoying Wonder Pets jingle..."How's it gonna work?  TEAMWORK!" He vacuums, I do the laundry.  I do the grocery shopping, he cooks.  We share childcare duties and are both experts at changing diapers, giving baths, packing snacks, making lunches… the list goes on and on.

Our kids know that they're part of a team too -- and that being on a team requires teamWORK.  They may be young but we want to instill in them a sense of responsibility and a strong work ethic.  That's why at four and six years old respectively, Ciara and Liam make their beds. And although they are not yet three, Kevin, Declan and Cormac know to clear their plates and put books back on the shelves.  It's all about teamwork.  As a husband and wife, Des and I make a great team.  As parents, we have great pride in the little team of Lyons Cubs that we get the pleasure of raising.

It should also be noted that we don't take ourselves too seriously.  We laugh.  A lot.  I often say that life in the Lyons Den is like that old fable... when it's good, it's really really good and when it's bad, it's horrid.  We have really bad, wicked, screaming, crying, temper tantrum, totally losing it, horrid moments.  Doesn't everyone have them?  Given the number of kids we have, we probably have more meltdowns more often than most.  But they pass.  And then we laugh.  And we remind ourselves that no matter how bad it gets, no matter how tired we are, we are lucky to have each other and our five kids are a blessing.

They remind us daily of what's most important. And I know it's not the time in the office but rather, the time we spend together.  I cherish that time.  And I cherish a break from it as well.  And I suppose that's why, for now, I am A-OK with being a working mom.

3 comments: said...

dear kerry, was excited to discover your blog through motherlode, and your piece which i LOVED.

I'm a mother of 6, but even though I'm a SAHM rather than a WM like you, I ALSO feel overwhelmed and like I rarely do things as well as I would like to.

Sorry you got some comments like that, I thought your piece was one of the best-written things I've ever read on motherlode, and I am really looking forward to following your blog from now on.

Branded Single said...

Read your post and I must say juggling work, children, hubby and a home is must be exhaustive but very rewarding. I liked where you wrote about sitting on the toilet without having anyone on your lap.
I usually had my son on my back at those toilet runs, usually middle of the night trying to get him to sleep. African method is putting a baby on the back ( at the appropriate months) sends them to sleep in a jiffy, but some nights I would be roaming the corridors consoling a bad dream.
I applaud you with hands and feet.
Not sure why readers thought the father's role and acknowledgment paragraph would mean the job was any less straining.

Looking forward to reading more.

Tragic Sandwich said...

I'm a regular reader and commenter (under a different name) on Motherlode, and I was really struck by how many people snarked about your husband's involvement. To me, your piece clearly read as your perspective--and an overview, not an all-encompassing tome.

And I will admit to being one of those who asks "How does she do it?" I have a full-time job out of the house, one child, a super-involved husband, and extremely helpful in-laws--and I feel like I flounder an awful lot of the time. (Not at work, but I've been doing that longest, so I've had the most practice.)

Your piece on Motherlode led me here, and I've just subscribed to your blog. I look forward to reading more.