Stepping in the Goop: singing the motherhood blues
It seems every four months or so, there is a media storm surrounding some outlandish pronouncement about motherhood and who has it worse. Meaning, who is more harried, hurried, and worried. I am currently standing on a metro north platform as are hundreds of other parents. Many have venti lattes in hand looking like they just got dragged out of bed; while a few others look awake but annoyed. Just yesterday, before even 8am hit, I had already edited three work documents, made breakfast, clothed my son, served (unsuccessfully) as a plumber, ran the dishwasher and completed a few other bits here and there. All the while trying to engage my five year old in conversation and get him to agree to hug goodbye a fellow five year old girl who was leaving school. Is my life, as a mother, any more hectic than other mothers? Perhaps and perhaps not.
This morning, I caught a snippet of the morning news where two anchors were discussing Actress Gwyneth Paltrow’s latest word and woe-is-me vomit. She told Entertainment Tonight, in an extended interview, that motherhood is much harder for her as a celebrity mother. There she went again stepping right into the mommy war frying pan. She noted, that although, she tries to film just one movie a year, it has left her with unrealistic expectations. Furthermore, her long days on sets are really long unlike office jobs that have set routines where you can work all day and then just come home and be with your kids. All I have to say in response is that just because she has played an office worker in the movies does not make her an expert on being a “regular” working mom. Ok, you know what, I have more to say than just that.
First off, I will readily note that differing economic status impacts the day-to-day motherhood experience. Some people can afford nannies that can readily pick up a sick child from school when the school nurse calls. Whenever I am in meetings, I always (or at least I try to) have my cell phone handy in case such a school call comes in. I have some male colleagues that don’t have children who at times get annoyed that my cell phone is handy. Of course, these are the same ones that will readily turn their back on you in a meeting to sew a loose button or who when a media inquiry comes in they drop all pretenses of being interested in what you are saying. However, a phone on vibrate to catch a school call is considered rude. Nonetheless, I will readily admit that as a New Yorker who is the middle class strata (perhaps upper in other parts of the US) I do have a better situation than many other mothers. When my son has half a day of school or no school on a set day, I can work at home. I can even bring my son into work as I gave my own large corner office where I can keep him entertained. However, there have been times when while on a business teleconference he interjects and someone on the other side of the country gets a little annoyed. Taking my son into work isn’t all roses. Yet, I can do that if need be.
Second, what office job nowadays is strictly 9-5pm anymore. Sure, there are those that are and notably those in higher level positions are called upon more often after 5pm. I know that as a vice president, my job is sort of 24/7. I consciously wanted to move up the economic ladder and thus put myself in that position. We can argue all we want about that work/life balance thing but that argument is already so last century. The question is more about how we address work and personal life integration.
Third, I will note it is normal to engage in upward and downward comparisons. Working moms think stay at home moms have it great and stay at home moms note it isn’t all about staying home and watching soap operas all day. When we feel conflicted about our day to day lives, at times it helps to note how we have it better than others who are less fortunate. At other times, we feel comforted by noting how worse off we are than others. It seems counter-intuitive that would make one feel better but it can and does happen. Such upward comparisons can serve as a motivating force to keep one grounded and striving for certain goals. It can also readily lead to one feeling depressed. These type of comparisons require a fine mental balancing act.
Gwyneth Paltrow, who just announced her conscious uncoupling (meaning a separation in the non-rarefied celebrity world), must be going through a tough time. We can cut her some slack for saying what she did. However, she has in the past done her woe-is-me act throwing a lot of mothers under the bus. Consequently, not many may feel her current pain or try to see where she is coming from.
Regardless of environmental/contextual factors motherhood is not easy if you are fully invested in it. A little human is dependent on you. A little human will learn from you. A little human emulates and tests you. Its human nature at its core.
I myself have lamented the fact that I travel a large amount for work and that I work weekends; often feeling tired, harried and worried. Yesterday’s morning tasks were not unlike many other mornings. There are times when I do all that before 8am, drop my son off at school and head to the airport where upon landing I’m immediately embedded in an 8-hour long meeting followed by a business dinner. There are days that never seem to end. However, I always make it a point to check in on my son and tell him I love him and miss him. Occasionally, I offer the bribe of a gift from wherever I find myself that week.
How do I keep from singing the motherhood blues of a working mom? I remember his love. I remember my career trajectory and I realize I have it all because having it “all” is subjective. Of course, I also have a blog that I can use for an occasional put-upon rant and I run on the treadmill to work out my tiredness, anger and anxieties. I also keep photos of my boy everywhere and I make photo collages of him that make me laugh and giggle in long meetings and on my flights.
At the end of the day it’s all good.
And, Gwyneth -hope you weather this storm and come out a with a little more tact.
Inspired by Goop and the Daily Prompt of Singing the Blues
Other thoughts on the blues