Monday, November 4, 2013

The Other Side of Mom Guilt

Work has been crazy lately.  As of the first of the year we will officially take on the biggest client we could possibly get (no, seriously, we're pretty sure that for one of our lines of business, they are THE biggest advertiser in the industry), but we are doing a ton of work in the interim to get ready for the switch.  We found out we got the business at the end of August, and it's been pretty much non-stop ever since.  The good news is that it will be a great windfall for the company and proves how good of a company we are.  The bad news is that there won't be any initial financial benefit for us minions, and we will be putting in a lot of work before that ever happens.  And really, that's assuming everyone sticks around long enough, because right now I am a tiny bit nervous about that fact.  Burnout is going to be an issue, no doubt.

While normally my mom guilt rants have to do with how I feel like I can't be there for my kids enough, right now that feeling is dwarfed by my guilt for not being able to do more at work.  Eight years ago I was working for multiple sports teams, putting in work weeks of 60+ plus hours at times.  I knew that with both Craig and me working a schedule like that, there was no way we could have kids.  Eventually I got so fed up with my job that I had no choice but to find a new one (or go insane), which I did.  And when I came here, it was a happy 40-hour per week job, end of story.  No worrying about work while at home, very few extended hours, no weekends.  If I needed to work late to get a certain project done, that was fine, but it didn't happen too often.  My boss has always put in a ton of hours, but a lot of that included travel and weird meeting times, and it was never an expectation to work more than the normal 40-hour week.

Once I had Jacob, it became a little harder to work long hours.  I had to make daycare pickup by 6pm most days, particularly when Craig's schedule was full.  I try to get to the gym right after work one day per week for class, too, and in the end, there just isn't a lot of time to stay late.  And when I do, I'm rushing home to make dinner and spend a small amount of time with my family before bedtime hits.  I don't like doing that but realize that it has to happen every once in a while.

Well, now we have this giant client and we're all way overloaded with work.  I have a lot of related projects coming across my desk at any given moment, and it means that everything that was already on my desk is getting pushed off.  Which means that most of my usual due dates aren't being met.  Which is driving me nuts.  One of my weird neurotic things at work is that I always want to be crossing things off my list, so when I get bogged down with one project while knowing that other quicker ones are waiting in the wings, it bothers me.  So knowing that I have a couple days' worth of various overdue quicker projects that I could get done waiting in line behind "urgent" bigger projects drives me crazy.  Even crazier is when there are artificial deadlines put on longer term projects, and even though those don't really NEED to be met, I'm still being told those take priority over the stuff that really should be getting done now, even though there would be time to do the other stuff later.  Ugh.

On top of that, I'm watching the other members of my department, including our intern, working extra hours to get their stuff done.  While it's not impossible for me to do that, it is very challenging.  As I mentioned, I need to be to daycare at 6pm.  Jacob's afterschool program is also a 6pm end time.  So now, on days where I have to get both kids, I have to be walking out the door at 5:15.  Some people would say to come in earlier, but a) I am always exhausted and getting up earlier is hard; and b) I don't want to have to dramatically change Carter's schedule or leave Jacob and Craig completely on their own.  Other people are impacted by my schedule, and they're not always the most flexible people, if you know what I mean.

I rely on Craig to get the kids enough already, and that's not always going to be an option once his work schedule ramps up.  Add in Jacob's lacrosse practices and my once-a-week workout (which is as much a mental health thing for me as physical), and the flexibility is very limited.  Sometimes people come in on weekends, which I might be able to pull off once in a while, but how much would that stink?  I need my weekends to get stuff done at home, and oh, spend time with my kids who I already don't see enough.  I've decided that one of the fundamental differences between Craig and me (and probably one of the things we butt heads about the most) is that he sees weekends as a time to relax and rest, and I see them as the only opportunity to have multiple chunks of time to get done the things I can never accomplish on weekday evenings.  So where I go into a weekend with a to do list a mile long, the top item on his is usually a nap.  And I get it--he needs it, and he does accomplish other things, too, but the nap is very high on his list.  Half the time I'm lucky if I sit down.

I've said it a million times before--there just aren't enough hours in the day.  I'd gladly work longer if I could still go home and spend the same amount of time with my family and still get a decent night's sleep.  It's not the working I have an issue with; rather, it's all of the other million things at home waiting for me with equal urgency and less hours to do them.  And normally the guilt that gets me is that I can't do those things.  But right now I'm feeling at least as much guilt about not being able to be as helpful at work.  I like the people I work with and don't want to add any stress to their lives.  It was bad enough when I was out on maternity leave and all hell broke loose.  But now that I'm back and can't seem to put in the same amount of time, it's definitely hard.  As much as people go back and forth about stereotypes of working people who have kids, there's no denying they change things.  Before it was just you and maybe your spouse.  You could miss a meal or an event if you had to.  It stunk, but you could do it.  Same goes for a spouse. They're an adult and can manage their disappointment or pick up some take-out.  But with kids, you have a lot more to consider.  You have to work around their schedules.  You have to take time away for doctor's appointments and sick kids.  You have to be cognizant of what events (mealtimes, activities) might crop up while you're unavailable, and how difficult it will be for your spouse to deal with that.  Sometimes you're stuck in an impossible situation and you simply can't do it.  Either way you're letting someone down.

These days I feel like I'm letting everyone down, including myself.  It's been so hard to keep up with everything, and there aren't enough brain cells or bursts of energy to go around.  It's a bit of a switch to feel as much guilt about getting my work done as taking care of my family, but it's no fun either way.  At least I know that investing in my family is worth the effort (in the long run, or so I hear), so that's a good spot to err, but it's still not fun to know that I may be letting someone down. 

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