Once upon a time, I was one of the youngest employees at any location I worked. An adorable little baby ready to change the world! Ugh, my God, someone go back and make sense of it. But I digress …
What I mean is that I have worked with a lot of moms over the years. My career in managing nonprofits means that I have worked with a lot of women, as the nonprofit deck is made up mostly of women. And while it goes without saying that these working moms were absolutely awesome, there were a lot of things I didn’t realize until I became a working mom myself.
I saw working mothers arrive pissed off at 8 a.m. and didn’t realize the battles they had already fought that day to feed, clothe the kids and get to school on time .
I watched working moms hang silly artwork their kids made without realizing that a little human at home said, “I did this for your office mom”, and it was in fact the most beautiful work of art they have ever seen.
I’ve watched working moms go to meetings that could have been handled by email, work on projects colleagues took too much time on, and read intolerable memos with the grace and patience of a queen. . They knew something that I didn’t know, nothing that happens in the office is as important as what happened in their life at home.
I watched working mothers count until 5pm and rush out the door as if their pants were on fire. I had no idea they were just starting the second half of their day. No idea they were analyzing if they were going to get to daycare or daycare on time before the late pickup fee started. I had no idea they would end up in traffic and start figuring out how long to get there, how many minutes before they got home to cook dinner, do their homework, take their baths and go to bed. Little did I know that driving might be the only lonely moment they would have for the day and that they would have to actively stop from work mode to mom mode.
I didn’t know they would feel guilty for wanting a career, or not caring about their career anymore, or being good where they were because a promotion could tip their boat upside down.
I have seen working mothers smile at me when I was incredibly rude and couldn’t care to remember their children’s names, even though we’ve worked together for years. I politely smiled at her cute little stories, but didn’t realize how full her heart was with those special moments.
I didn’t realize that for working mothers, an “advantage” was going to the bathroom alone with the door closed.
I’ve seen working mothers call (and later send emails and texts) to say their child is sick and will be away. And could I cover this? Or could someone call to reprogram this? I had no idea how much guilt they had struggled with, how exhausted they were from being up all night, and sometimes how relieved they could be to be home for a day. Even if that meant cleaning up the vomit.
I invited working moms to parties my friends and I would throw that started incredibly late at night. I laughed when they said they couldn’t come and told them there was something missing. I didn’t know they weren’t.
I had no idea that a call from school could panic them and that most of those calls actually start with someone saying, “Your child is fine but …“ and then explain a number of incidents that have occurred that they would have to deal with later.
I had no idea that some work days were a break after a rough night at home. And some days of work took them away from the best night at home.
I had no idea they had no idea how well they were doing. That most of the time they rocked the work and came home and rocked the motherhood. And that they would never think that. And they spent the night wondering how they could do better the next day.
This article was originally published here.