It never gets old seeing people’s eyes widen and their jaws drop when I tell them I wake up at 2:30 a.m. for work every morning. I explain to them that in TV news there aren’t that many “normal” schedules. Before switching to early mornings, I worked the completely opposite hours of the day, 2 p.m. to 11 p.m. When I had kids, I decided a tired mom was better than a mom they barely see at all.
These are the choices all parents make. I’ve asked many moms about this. A business owner with grown children told me she managed by doing her payroll at her daughter’s ballet lessons. A lawyer with younger kids says she works long hours, but at home she’s 100 percent mom. No checking emails.
What I realize from these stories is that balancing work and parenting is different for all of us, depending largely on the type of job we have, the age of our children, and our individual personalities. What works for me, waking up at 2:30 a.m., probably wouldn’t work for everyone, so I’m not sure you can learn much from how I manage. But we can understand each other because we are alike in many ways; we love our children and want them to succeed. We work out of necessity and hopefully some personal fulfillment.
The other thing I know we all experience is guilt. I sometimes wonder if my kids would be better off in after-school programs, especially on the days when I snap at them more because I’m tired and irritable. At ages five and six, they’re starting to notice when I’m not paying attention to them. As I worked on this article at home my daughter screamed “You love your computer more than you love us!” She was just mad because I wouldn’t let her eat marshmallows for dinner. See, I’m a good mom!
I suppose one thought I could share that might be helpful is that there’s no point in trying to carve out a schedule that works for your family if it’s going to make you miserable. If you aren’t taking care of yourself, if you aren’t sleeping, if you aren’t happy with your job, then you should reevaluate what you can change in your life to make it better. I am counting the days until August when my youngest will be in kindergarten and I will get to take a nap every day! Just two little hours in the afternoon and I know I’ll be a new person, right? I am okay with things not being perfect right now because I know that none of this lasts forever.
I’m not sure I’ve achieved balance, but I do accept that some days will be better than others and I don’t beat myself up about the bad days anymore. Accepting this has made me more empathetic. I not only relate to working moms, but with stay-at-home moms who have made just as many sacrifices. I don’t judge anyone anymore. I never assume I would be any better than anyone else when confronted with hardships life can throw at you. My job has exposed me to an ugly side of humanity at times, and even then, I try to remember none of us ever know the whole story.
So I don’t know what your daytime job is, or how adjusted your children are, or how great your marriage is, but I know if you are reading this you care and you’re trying your best. And please, take my own experience for whatever it’s worth to you. If nothing else, at least maybe your kids don’t eat marshmallows for dinner.