I went back to my job in May. I feel as though I have been running a marathon for the past nine months. A frustrating, high-wire, stressful, never ending marathon.
I was prepared for most of what was going to be thrown my way when I had a baby (as much as that is possible). I knew that my husband and I would change, our relationship would change. I knew that we would have to have different relationships with our parents. I knew I would be tired (OH SO FUCKING TIRED). I was reasonable person and I was pretty well prepared (except nothing can prepare you for the brutal baby bootcamp of the first couple of weeks). I was woefully unprepared for the realities of being a working mom.
I say this with a lot of respect for those moms and dads who stay at home with their children. That is a different kind of marathon--one I am not entirely sure I could run. But trying to run a household and a family and have everyone get what they need while still doing my actual for-pay job has beaten me down.
I commute two hours a day or more. I get up before 5 each morning. Our schedule is held together with paper clips and chewing gum and if the bus is late or there is bad weather then the whole day goes into the shitter. Last Tuesday my bus was very late and I could feel myself just drowning in anxiety even as the rational part of me is thinking that half an hour should not ruin your day. But when every minute is scheduled the thing that gets scrapped is me. I skip lunch, I don't leave my desk. I run out the door to try to make a bus without waiting even a minute. I get home and play with the baby while I pee. I try to make dinner while reading her a book. It's just running, running, running and there is no break.
Lest anyone think that J is sitting around doing nothing, his schedule is just as hard. He has to split his time at work so his mom can get home early enough to sleep. The reason I need to get home by a certain time is so he can turn around and go back to work. I may to bed time (and the early morning wake up) every week night. But he gets her up every morning. The division of labor is fair--it just fucking sucks.
What I do know is I am not alone. There are millions of us in this situation--actually I would say I am one of the lucky ones. My childcare comes to my house. It never calls in sick or snowed in. We don't have to wake up the baby or pack her meals for the day. She doesn't even have to get dressed. And still it is this unrewarding and relentless hamster wheel. Just running and running. And millions of families do it every day. None of us are alone.
But I am pretty sure we all feel like it.