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.
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."
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.