There are moms who stay home with their kids as the primary caregiver, and that has got to be one of the hardest jobs there is. I wouldn't know, because I'm not brave enough to try it. There are moms who work outside their homes, but not in an office. And there are moms who work remotely from their homes.
I work in an office, and when 5:00 p.m. rolls around, I start to get a bit of a sinking, guilty feeling.
Even though I've been away from my kids all day, and have missed them, I've also had peace, quiet, and time to think in my own physical and mental space. Other than their photographs and drawings on the walls, there are no signs of my Number One Job here.
My things are the way I like them and left them. I've had adult conversation and the intellectual stimulation of my colleagues and my work. I've eaten my lunch, walked outside for coffee, and generally went about my daily business uninterrupted by fights, noise, and demands. My office work is often stressful in its own right, but it also provides an unlikely sanctuary.
In the late afternoon, I start to get a feeling that says something overwhelming is coming. A feeling that says from now until bedtime, it's on. It's only three hours, but it can feel like 30. And at the end of it, I still feel like I did a crappy job by losing it over homework, broccoli, or bedtime and ruining all the "quality moments" I tried so hard to cultivate in the last two hours and 59 minutes.
In my office job, accomplishment can be measured in finite metrics, like meeting deadlines or winning cases. I can actually be "done" with something there. But I am never "done" as a mom, and accomplishment is a subtle, prolonged, and elusive thing. I might not recognize it when I see it. And even if I do, I never know if I'm supposed to take credit for it.
My commute is mercifully short. Fifteen minutes door to door, and I'm home. In those fifteen minutes, I usually listen to music and zone out in my beat-up car. I remember my life before the vulnerability and crucible of motherhood, when the hardest thing I had to do after work was run on a treadmill and decide what kind of takeout to get for dinner.
When I pull into the driveway of my house, I shift into park and turn the key. I sit there for a few seconds in silence; thinking some more, staring off into space, and gathering up the energy to do this thing again.
After I hug and kiss my kids hello, I usually jump right into a searing hot shower. I've found I need those ten minutes to transition from one job to the next. To get out of my lawyer clothes. To wash the makeup off my face. To get into a new mindset. To feel physically and mentally ready to do my Number One Job.
I can hear my kids clamoring over the sound of running water. They're competing for my attention, and they need it--and deserve it--right now. I take one last glance at my iPhone and silently promise myself and my kids that it's the last one for awhile.
As fast as I can, I grab my yoga pants and a faded old T shirt from another lifetime off the floor of my closet.
I throw them on, and I get to work.