Working mom's viral letter highlights how hard—and controversial—work-life balance can be

They say motherhood is a full time job, and as a mom of three, I can attest to that. Especially when kids are little, being a mom is a non-stop marathon of nurturing, feeding, cleaning, organizing, transporting, comforting, counseling, and educating on constantly changing terrain.


Throw in a full-time career on top of that, and WHOA NELLY. The words "tired" and "busy" take on entirely new meanings. People who love their kids and love their work—or who don't love their work but need it financially—often struggle, feeling like their attention and energy are constantly being pulled in two directions.

But that tension between work and family life doesn't make someone a bad employee or a bad parent. It just means there has to be some flexibility and grace on both sides of the equation.

That's what blogger Jamie Johnson was getting at with a letter about what life looks like for her as a working mom. Originally posted on her blog with the title "Mom Guilt: From One Full-Time Working Mom to Another," the letter was picked up by Love What Matters, where it has gone viral.

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Johnson started by explaining that she's aware of how being a mom of small children can impact her job at the office:

"Please stop judging me for leaving the office at exactly 5 p.m., but my kids are waiting to be picked up from the sitter.

I know I'm missing this meeting, but my kid's preschool graduation is more important.

I know I was late today, but I can't drop the baby off at daycare until 7:45 a.m.

I know I seem distracted, because I am distracted. I have a sick toddler and I am waiting to find out when I can get him into the pediatrician.

I don't want to look exhausted when I show up to the office, but I have been awake since 4:30 a.m. with an inconsolable kid.

I know my eyes look glazed over, but I spent the last 12 hours trying to soothe a baby to sleep.

I didn't mean for my email to seem snippy, but I have a 5-year old who cried this morning because he didn't want to go to school, and I am worried about him.

Yes, I just banged my head against my desk. I received a text message that my kid has pink eye and I have to leave to get him even though this report is almost due.

I know my eyes are very swollen right now. I spent last night crying because I am exhausted, never get to be alone and haven't taken a hot shower in five years.

Sorry that I was short with you, but I spent the last hour arguing with a toddler over the necessity of wearing pants to the babysitter.

I know I am supposed to leave my personal life at the door when I come to the office, but when you are a mom to two small kids, that is hard to do."

Then Johnson thanked the people who have given her grace during the five years she has been a working mom:

"So thank you to everyone who has given me grace over the last five years.

I could probably stand to give myself a little.

Being a full-time working mom with young kids is not easy.

Thank you to every boss who has let me leave for doctor's appointments, unexpected sicknesses, preschool graduations and school lunches.

Thank you to all the people who turned their heads when I was pregnant and had to run out of a meeting to go puke.

Thank you to everyone who has let me know they also had a hard time juggling their work/life/kid balance.

Thank you to the people who ignored my swollen eyes, exhausted face, and the spit-up on my blouse.

Thank you to all the other moms who slay it each and every day and motivate me to keep going.

Thank you to the people who encourage me to keep going even though I can feel defeated at times.

Thank you to all the co-workers who have picked up slack for me because I had to make a quick exit to solve a kid emergency."

Finally, she gave a shout out to the other working moms of the world who are going through the same challenges and who do their best to make it all work:

I know I am not the only working mom in the world, but I am a working mom and I totally understand what you are going through.

I understand you feel like you need to overcompensate because you get to work just on time and leave the minute the clock strikes 5.

I understand when you eat your lunch at your desk because you have to leave early to get a kid from the sitter to the doctor then back to the sitter and then get yourself back to the office in time for your 2 p.m. meeting.

I understand sometimes you show up to work looking like you were attacked by a flock of geese because the kids couldn't find their shoes, you gave someone the wrong color bowl and then forgot to take Sleepy Bear to the babysitter.

I understand you are tired. Exhausted, probably.

But I also understand you are capable and worthy of so much more than you realize sometimes.

You don't have to choose between two worlds that you love. You can have them both. You can have a family and a career. It's not easy, but it is possible.

Yes, the worlds might collide sometimes and make life much more complicated, but it's worth it.

So don't stop. Don't give up. You've got this.

And P.S. – Not everyone is going to understand. And that's OK."

That P.S. at the end is no joke.

Johnson says she's been overwhelmed by the responses she's gotten to her post. "I absolutely adore and love all the support this post is getting," she told Upworthy. "I am floored to be honest. Thanks to all the working moms and dads that have shared their stories with me. It also brought me to realize that I am so lucky to have a flexible employer. And I am extremely thankful for that."

However, she's also received no shortage of negative messages, which is unfortunate but not surprising. Some people genuinely don't understand, either because they have no idea how much having kids impacts your life or because they think her description of her reality makes her sound "entitled."

"Just because I'm a working mom and I leave the office once a month to eat lunch with my kid at school, does not mean I am a bad employee or a slacker," says Johnson. "I work my booty off and work from home, pull late nights, etc. to make sure I am caught up on all work. My boss, who is the CEO of the company, would not be so flexible with me if I wasn't a dependable employee."

Johnson added that people should realize when they leave comments that they do get seen by real people. "I am no way entitled and don't think I am better than anyone else," she says. "Everyone has commitments. I know by putting my life out on the internet for others to see means I am opening it up for commentary, but maybe think twice before tearing someone down without knowing them personally."

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I've been a mom for 19 years, and I've seen how nasty the discussions about working mothers can be. Some people don't believe moms should work outside the home, period. Some think that moms with jobs outside the house have it easier than stay-at-home moms, and vice versa. Some believe that working moms shouldn't be given any special treatment because they chose to have kids and we all have to live with the consequences of our choices.

What we could all use is a little more of the grace Johnson wrote about in her post. It's not about giving moms special treatment; it's about employers and coworkers recognizing that working parents thrive when they have flexibility in how, when, and where they get their work done. It's not about "excuses," but about the very real struggle of trying to be there for your family and be there for your job at the same time. It's not about "entitlement," but rather understanding that giving working parents flexibility actually makes them better employees.

Here's to the working moms out there striving to do their best on the homefront and the jobfront, and to the employers doing what they can to make that feat easier to accomplish.

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
True

When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

Freya from Maya Higa's YouTube video.

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Thanks to one YouTube poster with a passion for animals and an endearing sense of humor, all questions shall be answered. Well, maybe not all questions. But at the very least, you’ll have eight minutes of insanely cute footage.

In a series titled “Tiny Mic Interviews,” Maya Higa approaches little beasties with a microphone so small she has to hold it with just her thumb and forefinger. And yes, 99% of the animals try to eat it.

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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
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The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

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