Wednesday, July 20, 2016

the isolation of being a working mom

I feel like I've written a post with a similar tone before, but lately I just feel so isolated. One of the major pros that working moms champion is the adult interaction you get in a work place that is out of the home. While I absolutely agree that this is a perk, I feel like it is often confused with adult friendship.

Sure, I like my coworkers a lot, but we don't hang out. Meanwhile, I am often included on group texts of my stay at home mom friends who are planning weekday play dates and I am reminded that I am not part of that. And it really sucks. Please don't confuse my sadness with the notion that I think they shouldn't have play dates--I absolutely think they should. I would be doing the same, too. It's just hard to feel like you are missing out on your friendships--because you are--and not be able to do anything about it. Play dates don't happen on weekends because the working parent is home and that's family time. I absolutely get it. It's this exact reason that I usually don't make plans at all with friends during weekday evenings or on weekends if I can't have my family there also. I already have so much guilt and sadness about being away from my family during my working hours that it is a huge sacrifice for me to do anything without them when I can be with them. So I totally understand why my friends just want to spend time with their significant other and kids during non-working hours.

But all this mom guilt and feeling like I should never be away from the kids, even if it's to nurture a friendship? It's exhausting. To hear your friends referencing stories and history they've already shared that you weren't part of is lonely. To see all the cute pictures of the kids playing and forging their own friendships tempts me to buy into the antiquated belief that a good mom is home with her kids and not in the workplace (even though we both know what complete and utter horse $*%# that is).

So I've really been struggling to find the balance. I love Jon and he is so wonderful, supportive and emotionally available to me at all times, but I can't always rely on just him. That's not his job and it's not healthy. I've always craved friendship. But I feel like I don't really belong anywhere. Not in the group of my friends who stay home with their kids. Not with my friends who don't have kids--mostly because I'm the jerk who is always declining plans with them since they often involve me not spending time with the family when I can be. And honestly, I don't think I really have many fellow working mom friends who have the typical Monday through Friday 9-5 schedule (I have several working mom friends who are in the medical/hospitality fields and therefore work different hours) so they are able to do the play dates with the stay at home mom group. It's just really lonely.

I'm not sure why I felt compelled to write this. Perhaps it's an apology for blowing off my friends without kids (I really am sorry--trust me, it's me, not you). Or maybe it's a plea to my stay at home mom friends to maybe consider a family-friendly play date on a weeknight or weekend so we can catch up (I've tried to organize a few but few people are willing/available). (It's actually both). But please don't mistake the adult interaction I get five days a week with friendship. Please don't forget to ask me how we're doing every so often since I didn't actually get to catch up with you at the park last week. Please don't be so quick to decline when I try to invite you and your family over for a weeknight meal. I miss you. I just want to be part of your life.

4 comments:

  1. I can definitely relate. I work in the scientific field as well (I think I recall that you do also?). Not long ago, I was looking for a mom group to join that would offer support/advice/ideas, but also give my kiddos a chance to possibly interact with other children. I found a few different options through park districts, city websites, and Facebook groups. The problem? Every. single. group. met weekday mornings, which suggested they were only meant for stay at home moms. Work outside the home moms need mom friends too! (I do have a couple working mom friends, but it's incredibly difficult to get together when weekends seem to be the only option and that's when all the errands, activities, etc. take place.)

    I decided to form a Facebook group for working moms. I know it's not the same as a real life play group (and I hope that we can eventually get to the point of planning outings), but it is nice to have a little space where we can support one another.

    Anyway, you're not alone. **And I'm not implying that stay at home moms don't work, I realize raising children is a lot of "work" and requires an incredible amount of responsibility, compassion, etc.

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    1. Yes! I am an engineer. :) I will have to see if I can find any local working mom groups on FB! that is a great suggestion - thank you so much for it. I hope you are able to connect with some mamas soon. It is so hard and it would be so nice to have encouragement/people who are going through the same stuff as you in this season of life.

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  2. Hi Danielle
    I really relate too. When I came back from China to the UK I was shocked at how few women were working at all or full time after their 2nd kid (or even first). It's a fully valid choice not to work or work part time- just not one for me. it left me feeling very alone or even odd: the vast majority clearly had made a choice I hadn't made. Why were their reasons or situations so different to mine that we took such different decisions? Partly cultural norm, partly I still don't know what else but maybe my drive to be a professional over a professional mum- which I recognise stay at home mums become: proficient professionals in their 'deployment' of parenthood!
    Anyway - this was a particularly tough realisation because as we were relocating we had no circle of friends locally and needed to start one- except the cultural norm was for women to hang out with each other during weekdays while they would fiercely protect family time at the week end.

    I also never really met any new people because the meeting points were school / nursery gates and neither me nor my husband socialise there and if we even turn up at these gates, we zap by as quickly as we can.

    Eventually I decided to start a Facebook group for full time working parents in my area. I can't say it has brought up friendships (in fact we have never met in person yet) - but when the going gets tough I reach out to this group for their tips/ perspective etc. it makes me feel less alone against a universe that seems to be set so differently to the way I have choicefully decided to engage with it

    I also lead a women network within my organisation to ensure women have fulfilling careers and opportunities. The beauty of this network is that it has brought friendships because it cuts across all departments and rallies us and our allies on the basis of shared perspective on gender opportunities

    Recently I attended a leadership development program at UCLA where I spent a whole week with 50 ambitious women aspiring one day to be on boards - the learning was fantastic but the best was finding my own kin, feeling ok with my choices, meeting other women in successful careers with up to 4-5 kids! How inspiring!

    There is safety in numbers and finding those networks has helped me. Hasn't filled the diary with play dates at a time convenient to me but has brought a sense of less self inflicted isolation by just knowing I was not alone to make these choices.

    Finally and this may be the harder part to digest - you may need new friendships. Some that will look at you as a professional and a mum - rather than make you feel odd for not being there whilst the old circle meets ; new friendships that are more synchronous with the rythm of your family life & activities

    I don't know if that means discarding all the old ones; I don't think it has to come to that; but sacrifices must be made both ways. I am sure you try as best as you can to fit in their schedules wherevee possible; do they? Those that don't even try for you? What does that mean?

    Helene

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    1. Helene I can only imagine what it feels like to be on this side of things PLUS in a new country. I will definitely look towards Facebook--have any tips for keywords I could search?

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