Wednesday, January 14, 2009

REFLECTIONS OF A WORKING MOM

Yesterday my Max called me Grandma. Max is 4 and he is the oldest of my two little men - Keir is 2. This is not the first time that my sons have called me Grandma. Not sure why - but yesterday this seemed to kind of make me stop and catch my breath. Max stopped himself and laughed and said, "I meant, Mommy - I am just pretending you are Grandma." Not sure which is worse - Max so naturally saying Grandma - when looking for some help, some love, some encouragement or him 'just pretending' that I am Grandma.

Why has this happened? Many of you may think this is proof that I am a bad mother - that I am obviously not available enough to my kids or maybe you may think that they are not my top priority. Don't worry - these are all questions I have had to ask myself.

Here is what I say. I am me. Plain and simply ~ I am a mother, a wife, a physician and owner of two kids clothing lines - which also makes me a partner and a boss. I have thought long and hard about what this all means for me and for my family. I have sacrificed time away from my family so that I can provide them with certain luxuries - a nice home, stability, college savings plans.

I went to school for just about a million years to become an ER doctor. I am proud of my role as a doctor. My patients seem to like me and I feel that I am a caring, compassionate doctor. I only hope that my nights kissing my boys goodnight as I walk out the door will someday be regarded with pride by my boys as well.

I hope that someday they will realise that this has not been easy for me - as I know that this has not been easy for them. I am sorry, Max, for missing your Christmas production 2 years ago. I regret not being there for Keirnan's first step. It is hard every single time I have to kiss you goodnight to go to work. Even if Grandma has trained you to cutely say, "double glove, mom and save lots of lives." Keirnan has learned to say - "How was your work? Are you here now? Did you give lots of shots?" And this is in the morning - as I come home from work and he is just waking up. All at the age of 2 - he is already aware that I am not always home. I am sorry boys for this. I know I am not always the best mom.

I am tremendously, incredibly blessed and lucky that I have a wonderful husband and mother in law to play mom (or I should say 'Grandma' when I am not around to do so). I have justified not being home by saying - at least my kids get this time with their grandma - at least they will have these great special memories of their time with her. This is how I justify my actions, my selfishness with my time - my time to work in the ER and to work on Ooh La La Mama and of course to twitter, to blog and to answer emails.

I feel fortunate that my husband supports me in my various jobs and positions. No - he is not a SAHM - he is my business partner in Ooh La La Mama and also is a full time ER doctor. But, I am sure, he does not worry about his absence from home. He is the man. I love him madly but I know this is still the way of the world. We are fortunate that 'Grandma' (my hubby's mom - who is totally awesome by the way) is young enough and fit enough to juggle to young boys and to be the second mom, or substitute mom maybe? - while I am away at work.

So - not sure where I stand on all this. A bit bummed about being called 'Grandma' but still proud of who I am. Envious of my SAHM friends - who have managed to figure it all out. My hat is off to all of them and all of you who are SAHM and whose children call them "Mom." You guys are my heroines and I am madly jealous of the times you have with your little ones and all of the "firsts" that I am missing.

Max and Keirnan - I love you both insanely and with every single breath I take.

That's it for now. Off to shower and get ready for another crazy night of ER fun. So I am off to start my usual routine: coffee, shower, throw scrubs on and kiss my little munchkin's goodnight while they cuddle up with grandma and to "cozy time" and watch Wow Wow Wubsy and The Goodnight Show. This is the saddest part of my day - but there are really patients that depend on me and who knows - maybe even lives to be saved tonight. But really - I am just hoping for some cute little babies with minor colds. And for all of you moms who take your cute little ones into the ER - just know that when the crazy ER doctor stops and asks your little munchkin for a hug - and you might think that he or she is hugging just a bit too long - or if you think you catch a bit of sadness in their smile - just know - that you are right and that they might just be wishing that this was their little one and please just smile back.

28 comments:

Seriously Mama said...

Cindy - I have been a SAHM since my son was 6 months old and my daughter has only known me to stay home. They both call me Grandma and call my mom (who lives 600 miles) away "mama" all the time. My husband travels worldwide for work and both kids tell me daily that they wish daddy was home instead of me. Hang in there. It happens to all of us! :-)

The Glamorous Life said...

I think you should be nicer to yourself. Nope you are not June Cleaver...and in many ways you are better. Your little guys will grow up respecting their mom for her education, talents and passions. It could be you need to make some changes somewhere. Maybe with oo-la-la or maybe you just need to carve out a slightly tiny time to hang with your boys.....I will tell you that as soon as the boys are old enough for school- you are going to feel much better about all of this. Don't worry all moms- no matter if they are SAHM or WAHM or Working moms....we all think we are doing it WRONG. We all think the other way could be better for our kids at one point or another.....

Deb - Mom of 3 Girls said...

I can sense the sadness in your post - and it's a familiar one. I always worked full-time up until I was laid off last summer - and will be again once I find another job, I'm sure. I always hated dropping my kids off at daycare, and missing out on so much of their daily lives... I don't know what the answer is, but please just know that you're not alone.

Brimful Curiosities said...

Hats off to you, the ER doc and mom. I am sure your kids look up to you, and I bet you are their hero, even if they don't tell you. And, thanks for your service to others...without you all of us SAHM would be worrying our little heads off all the time.

Cindy said...

You guys are all awesome and I cannot thank you enough for your comments and reassurance. This whole mom thing kind of makes me a bit crazy and it is great to know that many moms feel like me! Thanks.

Jo I said...

Cindy,

I agree with the others. Don't be so hard on yourself. As moms we walk that fine line of balance all the time. Sometimes we err one way, sometimes the other. I've yet to find a place where I feel "I have it all right." All we can do is muddle through and rest assured that our kids feel love, even if it isn't because we are SAHMs. I'm not a dr, just a mom-entrepreneur but I feel the tug all the time between work and time with my kids. I've lately started creating more rituals so we can have fun times they will remember long beyond when the rituals are stopped. Someone told me the repetition helps!

SEnding you hugs and balance (send some back to me okay?)
Jo

flowersbyfarha said...

There's a couple ways of interpreting it. Naturally, it hit you where it hurts: right in the mother-guilt-trip solar plexus.

And, maybe being called "Gramma" makes you feel, "Hey! I'm not even part way through being Mom yet, much less ready to be a Gramma!"


Since my 2yr old granddaughter has recently casually started calling me da-da or mama then correctly herself, and I remember times when kids would call their teachers "mom", I am much more likely to believe that your child is experiencing the same thing that we parents do with our kids sooner or later--

We know who we are talking to but sometimes we have to go through the list before we hit on the right name.

If Gramma is a loving, frequent care-giver, calling you Gramma is a compliment. He sees you as a loving caregiver, too, and he's just speaking from habit and using the name as a title rather than as an individual person's name.

My g'toddler for awhile called all men "da-da"... then finally distinguished that "da-da" was a specific man in relationship to her, so all other men became "Jason" (da-da's frequently visiting buddy). She's pretty much picking up on what to call the familiar men in their lives, but still at a loss what to call other/unknown men.

It seems to take a while to learn the names for everything and every person--and with people, to distinguish the name for the person from the name of how they interact with you. (Eg, "Gramma" = name of person who gives food, comfort and plays silly games.)

It's hard being a working mom, yet being a SAHM has it's own/other trials, too. Everyone just does the best they can, doing what they have to do and trust it'll come out ok in the end. They may not understand fully the sacrifice you are making in their behalf until they have kids of their own, but one day they will. In the meantime, just "give food, comfort, and play silly games" as much as you can whenever you can.

And thank you for being there for those who need you in an emergency.

Connie said...

Soon they'll be calling you teacher. It's just a natural thing when they spend a great deal of time with someone else.

As a mom of adult boys, I was where you are 20 years ago (ouch!). If I had to do it all over, knowing what I know now, I would have wanted less and stayed home more.

Sorry if it doesn't seem like I'm being supportive, I am. I didn't think I had a choice and worked full time until both boys were out of high school. I missed so much.

Now that I have MS and have had to quit my full-time job, I realize how much even now they like that I'm available for them and them me and I realize that we can do with less because we've had to.

I guess what I'm saying is, maybe it's time to either let go of the guilt and acknowledge this is what you need for now, or make a change because that little bit of guilt is your minds way of saying it's time for a change.

Whatever you do, know that they will love you always - promise.

Connie

thedomesticdiva said...

I know how you feel. That mother guilt never leaves you...but it is all silly.

I'm sure the boys will look back with a sense of pride to know THEIR MOM made a difference in the world, not only their's.

Keep doing what you're doing. You make the rest of us look on from the sidelines in awe.

With friendship,
Lisa

BrandyEllen said...

I will tell you even being a SAHM is hard. I actually work from home and it's even harder, because I am right here and still feel like I am ignoring my children to work at home. It's hard to work at home or outside the home. But you need to do what is right for you and your family. It sounds like you LOVE your job and that you should! I Miss working in offices, but I just can't afford daycare for three kids. If I had a MIL like yours around I so would possibly be out there working at least part time. I don't have it, so I am happy to hear you are very thankful for your MIL. and I am very happy you have a relative to help you out!

Kudos to you for juggling jobs, and two boys!!

((BIG HUGS))

MJ Tam said...

Society makes successful Women feel guilty. Don't ever feel guilty with your success! Whether you are a sahm, wahm, or working mom - it really doesn't matter.

You seem to have a balance of who you are and what you are. And that to me is a complete Mom. Children needs a complete Mom. :-)

I'm happy to meet successful women such as you ( although virtual)

Anonymous said...

I'm going to voice a rather unpopular opinion on this. Our kids are not going to look back and say "wow I'm so proud of what my mom accomplished". They are going to look back and remember missing mommy, wishing mom was there to sit with them all night when they were sick, to go to those school functions. At least I sure do.

I am a working mother. I too have gotten a lot of education to get to this point, but I work because I am the sole provider. Our "daddy" has not been with the family in over 10 years. I did everything in my power to arrange my life so that I could work from my home and still be there with my children. It wasn't always that way but I have finally achieved that goal and let me tell you how much different my kids are with me HOME working versus gone.

Our kids NEED us. If I was in a two-income household, I would even cut back my work at least by half - maybe even stop altogether until the kids are raised. The most important job we can do in the entire world is to raise our children to know and appreciate family, commitment and to be secure in our presence and love for them.

I'm not making a judgement on you as a person, but I'm just pointing out that the pain you are feeling... that is your conscious. Listen.

Love and light
Dana
http://crazeegeekchick.com

laraencasa said...

Hats off to you! You're doing a great job in both of the worlds you live in. And you deserve to be happy--do you realize that? We moms who choose to work are so often plagued with the guilt of "not enough" (time with the kids, homemade dinners, school performances, but also not enough time for business, our creative outlets, our passion, our talents...).

It's so smart of you to share your thoughts and get the feedback and validation from those who believe in what you're doing and respect and admire who you are to your children, patients, clients, etc.

Now all you have to do is that final push to accept who you are yourself. It's clear you're getting close!

Sending you lots of warm support, appreciation, and admiration!

Lara Galloway
The Mom Biz Coach

Evolving Mommy Catherine said...

I can't say that I know how you feel because I stay home with my dughter, but I feel for you. I do know that it is hard to balance "Mommy" with being and individual. I admire that you have a job that you love, someday I would love to find a career I love and feel passoinate about.

Amy Willard said...

Cindy,

My first question is, When do you sleep?;-)

I do so admire your honesty and transparency. And I can tell that others responded to this as well. I think sometimes as moms we try so hard to look like we have it all together, that we actually end up doing a disservice to other moms out there who feel less than or that they somehow don't measure up.

I've been a SAHM, a part-time work-outside-the-home mom, and now I'm venturing into WAHM, and I can say that nowhere along the way have I felt like I've really had it together.

But what I have noticed is that when I ease up on myself and examine the impossible expectations that I can sometimes have, a bit more self-acceptance comes my way. And when I accept myself, just the way I am, I'm a better mom to my children, no matter what the life arrangements are. And I definitely believe this is true for all of us.

Reading your post brought tears to my eyes. We're all so hard on ourselves. We really need to give ourselves a break and stop being so judgmental. There is no "right" way to do this motherhood thing.

The decisions that you're making today, for how to experience your life, are not set in stone. You will keep evolving as a mom, and as a person. And as another mom commented, acknowledge yourself for doing your best and let the rest go.

All the best to you.

Annie @ PhD in Parenting said...

I think we need to get away from the idea that mom has to be there for everything. I am very attached to my kids and when I am with them, they are the focus of my attention. However, I am also a working mother, so I have built up a network of trusted people that share in raising my child. That includes my mother, my husband (who is a PT SAHD and PT PhD student), and now my son's school teacher.

I try to create special rituals that are unique to me and my kids, things that they only do with me, but I do not mourn the fact that I am not THE person that they are attached to.

I don't think it is healthy for me or for them.

Elaine A. said...

This is such a tough one and a constant internal battle with us moms.

I worked with my first and I felt guilty a lot but knew that is what I had to do for our family at that time.

Now I am home with my boys and I am happy to be but some days I REALLY miss working. And I feel like my education is wasted.

There really is no "right" answer.

I think your career is amazing and that your boys really WILL appreciate what you do. Helping people the way you are is no small thing.

Take it easy on yourself "Grandma!" ; )

P.S. You are SO lucky that your childcare person is your MIL!

Debra Snider said...

I enjoyed reading your post - very honest, and I think you're doing exactly the right thing by pursuing the career you love while also having a family. You're also right about men not worrying that they're somehow doing the wrong thing by working when they have small children. For reasons of economic necessity, most women in the world also expect to have to work and be parents simultaneously. It's not necessary, I don't think, to define career and motherhood as separate, non-interlocking spheres or to feel conflicted about trying to cram both into one balanced life.

I wasn't much of one for worrying about whether being serious about my own career and working so hard when my kids were little was a good thing or a bad thing. As with other child-raising (and life) decisions, at each juncture I tried to do what felt like the right thing, to take what seemed like the best course - for my family and for me. I was lucky, I guess - guilt isn't an emotion I experience properly (as my mother once told me). I don't seem to feel it instinctively, and I've never thought it particularly necessary or productive.

Even so, though, it's awfully nice to see that the results of my child-raising and career decisions are so positive. My husband and I just spent the holidays with our kids - now 26 and just 23 - and were struck, as we have been many times before, by how they are two of the most interesting and convivial people we know. We are constantly fascinated and impressed by how intelligent, thoughtful, funny and easy to get along with they are. It's very, very gratifying to have two kids who are not only self-sufficient, mature, think-for-themselves individuals, but also a complete pleasure to hang with. And to know that feeling guilty along the way wasn't necessary and would have been a waste of time.

Good luck to you as you continue your own balancing act! I'm confident that you're on the right track.

Ashley said...

Please know that you are not alone. No matter which choice I make, I feel like it is the wrong one. I was a college professor, but felt like I was spending too much time away from the kids. I now work from home, and I feel like I'm here but always distracted by work. At the times when I've been on a break from teaching or working, I missed my work and I realized how much I needed that time for myself so that I could be a more patient parent for my kids.

There is no right answer, and we all often feel guilt for our choices. My daughter frequently tells me how much she wishes I would go back to teaching. She loved being able to say that her mom was a professor at such-and-such university. And here I thought I was making a choice in her best interest!

Being a mom is hard -- all of it. But the working part does get easier as the kids get older and are in school longer. I'm glad that I stuck with my work through the hard and often-tearful times when the kids were younger because I love having my career now that they're in elementary school (although it helps that I can set my own schedule, I will say).

Best wishes and many hugs to you.

Tracye said...

Wow. I wish you were the ER doctor that treated my daughter last night... not that he wasn't great; he was. But I really see your heart right now.

I stay home with my kids. I wasn't able to until my daughter finished kindergarten, and my son was five months old. Don't think I didn't feel some guilt when I was working. But you know something? There are plenty of things I feel guilty over now. Like losing it with them after a long day, or spending more time reading to myself than to them, or not feeling like cleaning up puke for the third time in a night.

Don't feel guilty because you're not there 100% of the time. I am, and my kids (both of them!) call me Grandma now and then. And call her Mama now and then. I think it's just a kid forgetting momentarily who they're talking to. My brother calls me his wife's name, and calls her my name, quite frequently. I call my son my nephew's name, and my sister-in-law calls her boys by my son's name. It just happens sometimes.

And if you had asked for a hug from my girl last night, she'd have given you one... and I would have smiled at it.

jen said...

It's tough being a Mom! But it is also the best thing in the world! I was always a stay at home Mom, and even though my two youngest are now in high school, I work part time so I can still be there. They grow up so quick..this time is gone before you know it. I didn't drive the nicest car or have the best house, but I am glad I stayed home. (I finally do have my cool car!) I do not know how you do it all! I was lucky to have my Mom here every afternoon to help me out. I wish you the best!

Judy - MommyNewsBlog said...

You should be proud of all that you have done and you are lucky to have such wonderful family! I have worked outside of the home, been a stay-at-home mom and I now I work from home - every kind of mother makes sacrifices of some kind or another. Don't feel guilty - your boys love you and you ARE a great mom! We all make different choices and your boys will look up to you as a strong woman when are older.

MarlisaOK said...

OMG! That was beautiful, brought tears to my eyes.
YOU ARE, what most women strive to be. (myself included)
You were a woman before everything else. Now you are a Mother, Wife, Doctor, Business Owner, Blogger....
Is there anything you don't do? Is that a cape I see under those scrubs? LOL.
I admire your ability to be humbled by your boys and still be a strong courageous woman.

Mindful Molly said...

Oh, I wanted to cry! You know, any of us moms who have had to work outside the home know exactly how you feel. I am lucky enough to be a SAHM and have my husband who also works at home. Life still isn't perfect, and I still second guess my actions. I do know though, that your boys knowing that you love them, and that you would do anything you possibly could for them, is the most important thing, and the one thing that they can carry with them for the rest of their lives. Your Love, is what means the most. You are a good mom...or you would never have given it this much thought.

Suzie said...

you might just be looking to deep into it. My oldest son who is 4 also, has called me grandma before...it's usually after a day where she babysat them. They just get confused. Plus they are 4 they don't even know what they are talking about half the time...they are just little goofs. If I tried to figure out everything that my 4 yo was talking about I would be brain dead. LOL. Ease up on yourself...I am sure you are doing a great job!!

Linda said...

Hi Cindy:

I am the other "gramma" and Cindy, I can add to the discussion, that as you get older, you look more and more like me...(or like I used to look like)...only you are much younger and thinner - so mayble Max really just thought he was talking to me........This "guilt" dilemna has plagued us moms since the beginning of time. When you and your sister,Wendy were younger, I had guilt ALL the time ....when I was working I felt guilty that I was not at home with my two adorable little girls and when I was home with the two of you and not working I felt guilty that I was not earning money and contributing to the household income....So we really can never win.....We all want to do everything perfectly and be the best at all we do; when we can't do it all - we feel guilty....But I know how much time you spend with Max and Keir when you can and it is always QUALITY time....I admire you so much for all you do, for all you are and for what you have achieved with these wonderful, fabulous two little boys.....So don't be so hard on yourself.....

Love you lots - the "other gamma"......

Helene said...

Ever since I had read this post last week, and @'ed you on Twitter about one of the comments, I've still been thinking about your story.

I'm working full time, finishing my degree, and also taking classes at a local church so as to change religion and become parishoners there, and yet I spend more time with DS than his father does, who doesn't work 40 hrs a week. I can understand *on a daily basis* how you feel! However, I still want to lodge my comment in opposition to the other comment that your sons will only remember missing you. I still don't believe that's true.

My mother was home w/ me but still neglected me due to her own problems. Granted, mine's an isolated case, but when she became well, she went to work, and I was glad for her! I still believe your sons will grow up respecting you for what you have done, and learn a healthy, strong work ethic. So, keep up the good work!

Love your blog, love following you on Twitter!

bayleesmommy07 said...

hey cindy,


i know we just met in the er the other night, i appreciate how you were with my daughter, she normally doesnt react well to new people, you were friendly and you made her feel comfortable as well as putting my worries at ease, not making me feel like i was in a er with a bunch of doctors, ive had others just treat her as the patient and not play with her, hug her, it was nice to see that not all are the same. i was a sahm for the first year and a half of her life i went back to work 10 months ago, it was hard, i felt horrible, i missed not being there like i had before, i went back to being a sahm just yesterday. i appreciate the fact that you are open with worrying about being a bad mom, i struggle with that too, it makes it harder when in this society you are forced into keeping those emotions quite and not making it like your not doing well, when we all struggle with worrying if we are doing good enough for our little ones. i certainly dont mind sharing my little one with someone whom works hard and im sure misses her little ones, when she needs a hug, thats the best medicine when your missing kiddos. thank you for all that you do in making all the babies and toddlers that come through your life feel at ease and not scared and helping the parents feel comfortable too about being in a hospital with things that are foreign and scary. keep doing what you do, it is well worth it. :)


i personally am glad my hubby is supportive of me being home with our daughter, i worry with her going with someone i dont know, plenty of my friends, sad to say have had someone hurt their child in alot of really bad ways due to sbs. another thing that makes me devote as much time with my daughter is my bio mom was never around much as a kid, due to drugs and guys. i want life for my little ones to be different, though i do give respect to the ones like you who do work hard to give their kids the right life, even if you do miss out on a bit, your kids know you love them and that you will always be there, that you did these for the right reasons. well im done for now lol, just know your loved by many! :)