Some motherhood real talk:
Last Thursday was the first time Littlest One went to daycare and joined Biggest One. It was gut-wrenching, but not nearly as bad as the first time I dropped off Biggest One at daycare. That day, I sobbed for about half an hour and welled up again as soon as I ran into a friend and she innocuously asked, “How’s it going?”
Thursday wasn’t so traumatizing, because I’ve been super lucky to have a friend nannying Littlest One in our home, while I’ve been working part-time for the past few months.
Although now, it all feels rushed. After dropping them off, I felt bereft. And free.
Being a working parent is like peeling and cutting a pungent onion. There are lots of tears, it overwhelms the senses, and if we’re not careful, we may be at risk of losing some precious flesh. Talk about the many layers of complicated.
These arrangements are nothing new. I mean come on, I just watched the original “Mary Poppins” tonight. Being a working mom is nothing new. But damn, it’s hard.
I love my job. I love the people I work with. I love what we do. I also love these two little firecrackers who have my eyes and their daddy’s mischievous smile.
I spend nights calculating childcare hours and worrying if I’m doing this parenting thing right.
These are the moments when I feel most tired. Not the all night nursing sessions, or fending off my sliver of bed and rumpled sheets from a marauding toddler, or hoisting a 33-pound toddler in one arm and a 19-pound infant in a 20-pound car seat in the other while navigating across an icy driveway, or singing myself to sleep against a stuffed animal strewn toddler bed with “one more sunshine song Mommy,” or pacing around the house because baby just wants to be Ubered for the day, or attending board meetings, negotiating CEO contracts, and scheduling well-baby and well-child exams, or making yet another meal when I only want to eat popcorn, or realizing I have no clean underwear because I’ve been washing everything else in the house, or thinking about all the thank-you notes I set out to write nine months ago, or trying to figure out how my heath insurance is getting away with not covering prenatal care, labor & delivery, and all those well-child visits.
I’m exhausted because, we as a society, don’t appreciate families.
We like them in theory. We like the idea of children. We like to tell others, “But think about families! Think of the children!”
But as a society, we don’t.
I was at a “Livable Communities” conversation last week with Littlest One, and guess how livable the community space was? No changing table (in either bathroom). In the middle of a community conversation about how we need more parks and safe bike lanes and activities for children, I had to change Littlest One on a narrow wooden bench—which isn’t the worst place I’ve changed a baby in a publicly owned facility.
Adequate parental leave. Childcare assistance. Basic healthcare. A work-life balance that allows a family to thrive, rather than be wedged into the cracks with a crowbar.
Littlest One was born in the middle of the night. My husband was on a work call first thing in the morning. As a contractor, he had no leave and no benefits. Yeah, flexibility is great. Working from home is great. But not at the expense of being at home.
I’m working to pay for childcare. Read that again: Working. To. Pay. For. Childcare.
We need to value the paid (and predominately unpaid) work that goes into having a family. It’s basic economics. Society needs citizens. Preferably healthy, well-adjusted ones who contribute to a stable market. Adequate parental leave, childcare assistance, and public healthcare are basic necessities that enable families to thrive.
I’m tired of waiting for my country to catch up with basic family needs. Basic societal needs. Ask a weary working parent what they need, and I’ll guarantee it isn’t something extraordinary. Most likely a sleep vacation and a reprieve from trying to be everything and do everything without help.
I want my society to be better. To do better. To lift up families.
It’s an exhausting wait.