Trying to balance the responsibilities of being a wife, a mother, and a full-time employee can feel downright impossible at times. I find that I am always coming up short and wondering if what I am doing is good enough. Wondering if I am good enough.
I’m sure that I am not alone.
Are you a working parent? What causes you the most frustration and heartache? Because these are my top struggles:
1. The daily daycare hustle.
Nothing feels worse as a parent than having to rip your babies out of bed before they are ready. Then, having to rush them through breakfast, if there is even time to sit and have breakfast (on bad days, my kids eat mini-muffins in the car on the way to daycare), before wrangling them into clothes, coats, boots, and a strapping them into car seats.
Once we make it to school, it is a mad dash to drop each child in their classroom, change them from boots to inside shoes, unpack cold items from the lunch boxes, give snuggles, and run from the building to the car in order to make it back to my desk by 9 a.m.
If I’m lucky, like really lucky, there is enough time to stop and get coffee. There is something magical about coffee prepared and served to you by someone else. It just tastes better, and days when I get to savor it, while listening to pop country on Pandora, alone, are pure bliss.
2. Vacation time? Wait, what is that?
Like most people who have a nine-to-five job, I am allotted a certain amount of earned time or ETO. I fantasize about how I will use this time, but the reality is, I have two kids in daycare. If one isn’t sick, the other one is, and once one is better, the other one has caught whatever the other one had.
My vacation time is used predominately for sick time, usually not my own. I am not upset about it — family always comes first — but the daydreams of how I could spend this time are usually quite enjoyable.
I dream about how nice it would be to take a trip to some tropical island and drink “dirty banana” smoothies (the alcohol variety) with my husband on the beach, while watching our children frolic in the sand, catching waves, and collecting seashells in a bucket.
I dream about how nice it would be to take a day off to do something for just me. I’d loved to actually Netflix and chill for hours on end without someone asking me for a string cheese, applesauce, or to wipe their bum.
And I dream about how nice it would be not to stress about how many days I have left when I am the one to get sick and need to rest.
Instead, I usually push through the sinus pressure, nausea, or cough that makes my coworkers cringe, in order to save my time for when my babies need to be home for extra love and snuggles. It’s hard but so worth it.
3. The dilemma that is dinnertime during the week.
There is nothing more stressful than getting home at 6 p.m. with kids whose tummies are telling them they are “SO HUNGRY” and knowing you have an hour and fifteen minutes before the first one needs to go to sleep.
I try to make a variety of things for them to eat, but the reality is that they rarely eat those things. The last thing I want to do after not seeing my children all day is fight with them about how many bites they need to take of a dish they clearly hate.
I’ve literally watched my 3-year-old chew the same piece of chicken for 20 minutes and not be able to swallow it. I’m not a great cook, but I swear it can be swallowed, and sometimes, on rare occasions, even enjoyed.
During the week, I try to minimize the torture and make meals that I know they will eat. This limits the options to these things: Pizza, mac ‘n cheese, hot dogs, chicken nuggets, cheese quesadillas, and on really rushed evenings, cereal. Yep, I serve cereal for dinner. I’m not proud of it, but it is tasty and my children are happy and go to sleep with fully bellies. I consider that a parenting win. You should too.
4. The guilt of still wanting time for myself.
Most of the time I would give anything to have more quality time with my children. I feel like the time we do have together is rushed and usually not the best for any of us.
We are tired and cranky from being on the go all day. Even though I literally can’t wait to pick them up from daycare every day, by bedtime, I am tired. I want them to go to sleep so I can sit in silence with a glass of wine and watch the new episode of Scandal.
As I rush my children through dinner, bath time, bedtime stories, and leave them snuggled in their beds with their favorite blankets and stuffed animals, I feel two things: love so fierce that my heart could literally burst, and guilt. The guilt comes from wanting them to go to sleep, even though I’ve barely seen them, so that I can be alone for just a few minutes.
I envy stay-at-home parents for all of these reasons. I’m not saying they have it made by any means, but truly, I just want a little more time: for them, for me, for all of us.
For more from Jenna Stewart, visit Motherhood with a Twist of OCD and her Facebook page.