Recently, a co-worker who is fairly new to our staff here at the Courier made a comment that sent a wave of various emotions crashing over me.
My colleague apparently had taken note of the inordinate amount of time I spend in the office and asked, “How do you work so many hours when you have a baby at home? You’re always here!”
I didn’t know how to answer her. The inquiry actually made me slightly uncomfortable. I’ve always told myself that I do an OK job of balancing work and home life, even though I realize that’s not technically true. I’m good at ignoring evidence to the contrary. But knowing an associate I just met could plainly see that I spend too much time at work has made it hard for me to keep telling myself that I log enough quality time with my family.
I admit — at first, my co-worker’s question and observation filled me with pride. I can’t stress enough how important a good, solid work ethic is to me. That — combined with a sense of personal responsibility, reliability and dependability — are, by far, the traits I most value in any human being. Knowing that my hard work, grueling hours and dedication had been noticed by another employee in my office — and a fairly new one at that — secretly thrilled me. I was flattered.
Almost immediately, though, that swell of pride was replaced by sadness. My husband frequently tells me I work too hard trying to live up to high standards that I’ve set for myself, and then I get upset when no one notices. He claims it also causes me to be resentful when others on staff don’t live up to my impossibly high benchmarks. I’ve always taken his theory with a grain of salt, not wanting to believe he actually had hit the nail on the head.
Honestly, I don’t spend enough time with my daughter, and I rely too heavily on my husband to handle things I should be present for. Not only did my co-worker’s comment drive that fact home for me, I actually stumbled upon an example of it Monday night.
After working from 7 a.m.-7 p.m., I walked wearily through the door at about a quarter to 8. I immediately perked up, though, when the delicious aroma of the dinner my husband had cooked wafted toward me. I walked farther into the house only to find my husband preparing our daughter for her nightly bath. The two of them had already eaten, and my husband had placed my plate in the oven to keep the food warm, which I greatly appreciated. I didn’t blame them one bit for enjoying their meal without me — it was past dinnertime, they were hungry and the food was hot and ready. Sadly, it wasn’t the first time that has happened.
I regularly miss dinners, baths, doctor’s appointments, parties and special parent lunches at my daughter’s school, walks, trips to the park and lazy Saturday afternoons spent playing “tea party” on our living-room floor. I hate that I’m gone so much, but I remind myself that’s the reality of being a working mom. Truthfully, though, that’s not the reality. In all honesty, I could do a better job of being there for my daughter. Sadly, I’m just not sure how to do it.
I had a career long before I had a child. Working hard is what I know. Being a mom still is new to me, and I haven’t completely mastered it. Who am I kidding? I probably never will. But I know I can do better — not through the choices I make, such as what Reese eats, plays with and wears, but by just making myself available.
I shy away from making New Year’s resolutions because I — along with most other Americans, it seems — don’t do well with seeing them through to fruition. However, I know I need to make a change in 2014. My daughter deserves to see me as much as my co-workers do, and I will do everything I can to make that happen. In the meantime, though, I’m open to suggestions from any mom who has figured out the age-old home/work life balance problem.