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The highwire balancing act of a working mom

The highwire balancing act of a working mom

photo credit: rankun76 via photopin cc

When Monica first asked me to write about the balance of a working mom, my first reaction was, “Balance? What is that?”

The more I thought about it, though, I realized my entire life is a balancing act – the kind on a high wire stretched above a three-ring circus where the girl carries a gigantic stack of plates that wobbles precariously. Or maybe she’s juggling the plates, hoping they all don’t come crashing down.

Basically, I’m your typical working mom.

I have a 6-month-old, Liam. He has regular doctor’s appointments to check the helmet he has to wear for plagiocephaly (better known as a flat spot). I work full-time. Until very recently, my husband commuted an hour and a half each way.

A good day means I’ve had four straight hours of sleep.

A good day means everyone makes it out of the house without needing to change clothes at the last second.

A good day means I get to spend the entire workday actually at, well, work, and that if I happen to doze off at my desk, no one notices.

A good day means picking Liam up in the same clothes I dressed him in that morning.

A good day means Liam falls asleep in his car seat and stays asleep long enough for me to go to the bathroom and throw a load of laundry in when we get home.

A good day means he’s content to play in his high chair or his walker, and I don’t have to strap almost 20-pounds onto my torso while washing and making bottles.

A good day means my husband gets home in time to make dinner and we don’t eat a frozen meal or takeout. (I have yet to figure out how to cook when I’m alone with the baby.)

All of those things happening on the same day? That’s my birthday, Christmas and Easter all rolled into one.

However, throw one thing off and, like dominoes, everything crumples. For example, there recently happened to be a hazardous material spill on the road I take to pick Liam up from daycare. We ended up getting home an hour late and my husband was at a work function that night. Loosing an hour from the busiest, most stressful part of my day with no help in sight? Not good. I barely cuddled my son. I didn’t play with him. I didn’t sit down for two-and-a-half hours. I didn’t eat my frozen pizza dinner until 9 that night. I have absolutely no idea how single mothers do it.

That’s my daily balance. Don’t get me started on work-life balance. That really is almost nonexistent.

Like most women, I need a 30-hour day. I feel like I’m failing every single day, at both my job and at being a mother, as I rush from one place to another, from one chore to the next. I’m constantly playing catch up at work as I try to make my deadlines, even though I may have missed half the week because Liam had a fever and couldn’t go to daycare, and at home, as I try to keep the house reasonably clean and stay on top of the laundry. That alone could be one of Hercules’ 12 labors.

But then I get a wide, gummy smile from my baby, the one with two teeth just peeking through. My heart melts, I hug him and I kiss his oh-so-chubby cheeks. I forget all about the laundry.

I have plenty of time to figure out this working mom balance thing.

The highwire balancing act of a working mom


Elizabeth M. Collins is an award-winning defense writer. She has essays in two new anthologies, Destinations & Discoveries and Through the Hourglass.

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