The Split Personality of the Working Mom

Guest post by Andrea Eaton

Duality (noun): an instance of opposition or contrast between two concepts or aspects of something. The state or quality of being two or in two parts. The term itself–“working mother”–denotes dualism.

The woman with a career plus the woman who mothers. The woman who shows up to the office looking (relatively) professionally polished plus the woman who, minutes earlier, had a breakdown at daycare or desperately dabbed spit-up off her shirt.

If you are living or have lived this, you know exactly how Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde or Superman/Clark Kent can feel. But you know that each persona is one you grip to, a precious part of you. Equally critical and non-negotiable.

You also know that the job of “mother” is the most stressful and seriously exhausting one there is. Angelic as your babies may be while you’re imagining them from the safety of your cubicle, let’s be honest: a few hours earlier there was at least a tiny part of you counting down until that moment you’re commuting … alone. This is not because you don’t love your kids. It’s because you do. You love them so very much, nothing is more important to you than how you care for and shape them. Their lives are literally depending on it. It’s a heavy load that you feel all the time but especially when you’re with them.

Sometimes I giggle to myself about how the “working” in “working mom” is the part that most implies duty yet feels most like a vacation. A respite from that all-consuming responsibility of rearing. Arms empty. Minds free to muse. Quiet.

Plus, we need to check in with the people we were B.C. (Before Children). A ritual of mine is to do this with the music–my music–cranked as I cruise to the office. We do it in meetings when we offer up our brilliance (which does actually extend beyond remembering to pack everyone’s hats, mittens and snacks). We do it in the hallway or kitchen when we compliment a fellow mom’s shoes. We do it when we tap creativity to help a client (which is similar to concocting an acceptable dinner out of only what’s in your fridge but different).

Schizophrenic as it may feel on our worst days–when we fantasize about how a singular focus would slash stress–“working mom” is a title we don with pride. It’s not easy. It’s a life smeared with spit-up, peppered with forgotten snow pants, injected with bits of independence and intellectualism … and riddled with rewards. “Carves some calmness out of what is mostly lovely chaos” is just part of the job description.

Andrea Eaton is a mother of two boys, 4 and 6 months. She has built a career in sales and marketing in the software industry.  Her “spare time” these days is spent playing with her boys, in class to become a certified yoga teacher and fantasizing about an alternate reality where she enjoys fame and fortune as a fiction writer.

andrea eaton

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3 Comments

  1. Yes, there is definitely an element of Jekyll and Hyde in working motherhood 🙂 I wrote a post recently about how I’ve integrated my kids and work life, and how it feels right: http://www.workingmomsagainstguilt.com/2014/01/family-friendly-workplace/

    I think a lot depends on your work environment. Do you have to keep the mom part of you separate, or does your work welcome the “whole you”? Makes a difference.

    Reply
    • That’s a very valid point. Depends on the workplace, the employer, whether your colleagues roll your eyes when you mention your kids or complain about you leaving early so as to not incur childcare fines for being late. I am lucky for have a very family-friendly employee and colleagues but I make sure that I am visible and accessible from the moment I am awake to the moment I go to bed to counter any potential backlash.

      Reply
    • Andrea Eaton

       /  February 18, 2014

      Thanks for sharing your post, Susan. I could especially relate to how you want your kids to see their mother as a role model… working, earning, achieving. And I, like Samantha, am lucky to have an employer that embraces family in ways like offering a lactation room for nursing moms or encouraging us to tak our time getting to the office on the first day of school. Certainly makes a difference. But, as the name of your blog implies, there’s also the guilt we tend to place on ourselves when we leave work early for a kid’s dr. appt. or Christmas concert… Or alternatively, when we can’t be the one to kiss our child goodnight because we’re away on a business trip. So much of the Jekyll and Hyde is artificial or self-imposed! I try to constantly stay in tune with that and not let guilt creep in! Some days are easier than others. 🙂

      Reply

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