Work + Motherhood = Happiness
I love being a working mom. I just thought I’d state that for the record. It’s kind of fashionable in my crowd to talk about how hard it is to juggle careers and children—how little sleep you get, how you’re always behind at work, and how you never have time to exercise or see your friends anymore. This is all inarguably true. (In fact, I have been known to write about some of these challenges myself.)
A fascinating report from the Pew Research Center recently highlighted just how difficult it is to balance work and motherhood. Among their survey respondents, the majority of working mothers said that their own work-family balance was less than ideal and identified some other model as preferable. And 40% of working moms reported feeling rushed all the time, as opposed to only about a quarter of the overall public. Whether the moms worked part-time or full-time had no impact on how rushed they felt. (Interestingly, working dads and at-home moms were no more harried than everybody else.)
The fact that working motherhood is tough is no news to me, or anyone else I know who’s doing it. But here’s the thing that doesn’t get said enough—my life is more joyful and fulfilling right now than I could ever have imagined. When my husband picks me up after work and my daughter catches her first glimpse of me walking toward the car, her whole face shines and she literally dances in her carseat. It is impossible not to be cheered by this welcome at the end of a long day.
My dad said an interesting thing to me recently. It was during a phone call in which I’d been running through the usual litany of daily chaos at our house—deadlines and chores and colds and decisions. He’s retired now, and he said that from his vantage point it’s clear that the stage we’re in now—just establishing our careers, and our family, and our home—is really the most compelling epoch of a lifetime. Other times are more restful, more settled, maybe easier, but never are you more deeply connected to the work of building a life than we are right now.
It’s true. I know what he means, and I feel it. It’s easy for that feeling to get swamped by the tide of everyday details, but I try to pay attention to it. In the midst of the clamor and the mess, I will sometimes pause and notice how happy I really am—how much I laugh these days, and how much hope I have. These moments fill me with gratitude and humility. I hope I can hold onto them, like photographs, to look back on in later years.
Hardship is always easier to talk about than joy, and working motherhood is no exception. It’s not easy to stay afloat in this busy life of ours, and there are times when I gripe about it, but I know just how lucky we are, and I wanted you to know too.
Hat tip: Nataly of WorkIt, Mom! for the Pew study.