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.

Courtesy of Creative Commons
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"Around the world, women have stepped up and found ways to help where it is needed most," says Tory Burch, an entrepreneur who started her own business in 2004.

Burch knows a thing or two about empowering women: After seeing the many obstacles that women in business face — even before the pandemic — she created the Tory Burch Foundation in 2009 to empower women entrepreneurs.

And now, for International Women's Day, her company is launching a global campaign with Upworthy to celebrate the women around the world who give back and create real change in their communities.

"I hope the creativity and resilience of these women, and the amazing ways they have found to have real impact, will inspire and energize others as much as they have me," Burch says.

This year's Empowered Women certainly are inspiring:

Shalini SamtaniCourtesy of Shalini Samtani

Take, for example, Shalini Samtani. When her daughter was diagnosed with a rare immune disorder, she spent a lot of time in the hospital, which caused her to quickly realize that there wasn't a single company in the toy industry servicing the physical or emotional needs of the 3 million hospitalized children across America every year. She was determined to change that — so she created The Spread the Joy Foundation to deliver free play kits to pediatric patients all around the country.

Varsha YajmanCourtesy of Varsha Yajman

Varsha Yajman is another one of this year's nominees. She is just 18 years old, and yet she has been diligently fighting to build awareness and action for climate justice for the last seven years by leading school strikes, working as a paralegal with Equity Generations Lawyers, and speaking to CEOs from Siemen's and several big Australian banks at AGMs.

Caitlin MurphyCourtesy of Caitlin Murphy

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Simone GordonCourtesy of Simone Gordon

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Victoria SanusiCourtesy of Victoria Sanusi

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Do you know one? If you do, nominate her now. If she's selected, she could receive $5,000 to give to a nonprofit of her choice through the Tory Burch Foundation. Submissions are being accepted on a rolling basis — and one Empowered woman will be selected each month starting in April.

Nominate her now at www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen.