Pssst... Savannah! Welcome to the working mothers' club. I'd show you the secret handshake, but I haven't had a manicure in months, there's something sticky on my hands, and honestly I forgot the secret handshake... sorry, sleep deprivation.
But I will tell you some secrets. To be clear, these are not “Lean In” type secrets for career success, and they're not “Pinterest” secrets about how to bake a 17-layer gluten-free cake that looks like Elsa's ice castle.
No, these are confessions. Many will apply to stay-at-home moms too, because we have way more in common than we have differences. (Please see #9.) Many apply to dads. Some may apply just to me because I'm weird. But I hope a few of them strike a chord, because it helps to know we're not alone.
To my childless colleagues, brace yourselves for the truth:
1. There’s spit-up on me. Or worse. When you’re a parent, getting another person's bodily fluids on you is like having a piece of lint on your sleeve. No biggie. If I can blot it up or scrape it off with my fingernail and keep going, I will. I manage to get to work looking somewhat pulled together and professional... just don't look too closely.
2. Personal hygiene standards are really more flexible than I previously believed. In other words, I haven’t showered in four days. My hair is in a bun because it’s filthy, not because I’m being trendy. Sorry, cube-mates, hope I don't stink.
3. When I reach into my purse or briefcase to pull out a pen or a business card and it takes a few seconds, it’s because I’m rifling through three mismatched baby socks, the shards of a cheap plastic birthday party favor, a half-eaten fruit roll-up and a spare diaper (hopefully clean).
4. On the plus side, I always have a wet wipe on me. Always.
5. Doesn’t matter how many people I’m the boss of or what the org chart says. I report to my nanny, baby-sitter or child care worker. If she’s not happy, I’m not happy.
6. Sometimes I breathe a sigh of relief when I get to work on Monday. I hope that doesn't make me a terrible parent; I think it just makes me human. Being able to sit down, drink a cup of coffee and finish a thought? Yes, please. At least at work, when the crap hits the fan, it's not literally. No working parent should feel guilty for occasionally thinking "TGIM."
7. I’m so sleep-deprived that I recently tried to use diaper cream to brush my teeth. I regularly lose my keys only to find them in the front door lock or in my actual hands. I sometimes struggle to remember my own birthday. And yet I’m writing a marketing plan/managing a payroll/making decisions like a boss. Because you know what…
8. I’ve discovered inner strength and power I never knew I had. I didn’t know if I could do this. Some days, I still don’t know. But I am doing it; I’m taking care of my family and I’m taking care of business. And I’m proud of myself.
9. I have nothing but love and respect for stay-at-home moms. Mommy Wars? Pshaw. You do your thing, I’ll do mine; as long as we love our kids, that’s what matters. Also, thank you so much for volunteering to organize the school fund-raiser, make 142 cupcakes for the bake sale, and chaperone the class trip. You rock!
10. Here is the cure for mom guilt. When guilt rears up, and it will, ask yourself: "Will my children ever doubt that I love them fully and completely?" Is the answer no? Your children are loved, and they know it? Then kick that guilt to the curb. You're doing fine, mama.
11. This too shall pass. Most days, I feel bone tired and overwhelmed. As one of my working mom friends says, we are having it all so hard right now. When it's too much, I try to remember that one day I won't wake before dawn to a piercing little voice calling "MAMAAAAAAA!!!" No one will bother me while I drink my coffee. I will do my entire morning routine two-handed, without a toddler on my hip trying to grab my lipstick. No one will hug me with little jam-covered hands or need me to find their homework or Taekwondo uniform.
It will be so peaceful, calm and quiet. And I will miss these crazy days. I'll probably miss them so hard.