Today is my struggle and The Truth behind the Mommy Wars …

This year has just not started off on a good wicket.  I ended the year under severe stress from work and what felt like an attack on all fronts.  I limped into this year wounded and bleeding.  The time of rest over the Christmas/New Year period unfortunately did not allow for much in the way of rest, and if anything drained and exhausted me further.

I have started this year of work and kids with next to no reserves of energy to cope with what gets thrown at us – I feel raw and on edge.

I had forgotten that I had experienced a pregnancy and a baby only seven months ago.  The toll it had taken on me and my psyche had not been unaccounted for, especially by me.  I literally forgot I had had a baby to deal with – talk about being removed from your situation!!!  I feel that I do not allow myself the space to really “feel” and “work through” my stuff, so I am dragging hordes of baggage into 2010.

I have felt totally out of sorts this past week – I am in a real funk.  I have been distracted and my mind has just been out of the zone.  I made a few mistakes at work which I have castigated myself endlessly for.  I also forgot things about the kids and their stuff at school – which all adds to the sense of just not finding my feet.  I feel exhausted and drained ….. already.

On Friday we went out to attend a comedy show, and left the children with a babysitter, who I knew, but still did not feel totally comfortable with.  I think if I explained the situation to anyone I would get the platitudes of “I am sure it will be fine..”

Unfortunately in my mind I had her snatching my kids, especially my baby, and making her way to the closest place “where they sell blonde blue-eyed white babies for muti” meeting point.  I am not sure such a place exists outside of my head, but you get the gist of where my paranoia takes me.  I realize how emotional and unrealistic I am being, however it is what went through my head all night while trying to enjoy a stand-up comedy show.  The result is the for the entire evening I was feeling stressed and on edge.  I really wanted the show to end, so we could rush home.

I kept trying to reassure myself that it was probably fine. The key word there is “probably” when in fact I was feeling disturbed and edgy the entire night.  I even opted for a McD drive through dinner instead of eating proper food and a place that served alcohol – one must realize my state of mind to endure McD food by choice!

When we arrived home I flung myself out of the car before it had come to a stand still and raced upstairs to check on my baby.  For some reason this paranoia did not seem to flow over to the two older kids.  I did not feel the same irrational fear for them – though they are all together, and why would harm come to one and not all of them?  And why would my baby be more at risk than all of them?

Saturday : I felt like my skin was crawling in irritation the entire day.  No reason, and thus no solution.  I just felt aggravated and techy all day.  Fortunately my son had a play date out of the house, which allowed a certain amount of peace, but for the balance of the day I just wanted to hide from the masses.

Sunday : Kennith let me sleep-in late this morning.  I lay and dozed while the house awoke and watched BBC’s and had breakfast.  I sort of just lay under the covers and drifted off inside my head.  When I did open my eyes and the family descended on me, I immediately felt that the extra time out had not improved my state of mind

I am busy reading a new book (new to me that is): “The Truth behind the Mommy Wars” by Miriam Peskowitz.  I am about half way through it, and it has enlightened me in certain areas.

There are things regarding being a mom and balancing this off against work and society, that I have been aware of for some time.  Miriam Peskowitz has expressed what I have thought, which is very exciting to read.

I paraphrase, but the gist of the earlier chapters are that women – vibrant, well-educated women who have worked hard for their careers – leave their careers when they have had a child or children, partly because the work place does not support mothers.   It is written from an American perspective, so I am using that as a reference point.  South Africa has another 20 to 30 years to go before we even dare get as progressive as them in terms of protective and social support for mothers.

The author raised the issue that women in the working place, do not have social or childcare support should they decide to continue with their 45 – 70 hour work weeks.  There is little or no childcare support, no option to work part-time, and little support in terms of moms leaving the work place and returning later.  Their only option is to leave thier careers to look after thier babies – so it really is not a choice.

It’s a bit like saying a guy who is on a boat that is burning, chooses to dive into the freezing water where he risks dying from hypothermia.  Sure he chose to, but what really were his options?

She highlighted how hard women from previous generations had fought for equality in the work place for women.  How these women who were lawyers and MBAs were finding themselves in this situation where they had been studying for decades, and been climbing this ladder and now wanted children and the dilemmas they faced.  The issue was not only about hugely successful women, it also dealt with women who had every day jobs.

The issue she raised was that there was this conversation regarding the “choices women had made.”  And what she was trying to convey in this book, that women “choose” to leave positions and careers, and really are not making a choice.  They are doing what they have to do because they have family demands, and it is next to impossible to balance caring for a young child against leaving for work at 7am and returning at 7pm.

I have always felt this way, and it is a real bone of contention between Kennith and myself.  Kennith feels I chose to take a job that might not pay so well to be more accessible to our kids.  I chose to not be so ambitious at work.  I chose not to stay late as he does, and I chose to do what I am doing.

He suggests that if I wanted to, I could choose to be more career ambitious, work overtime, pursue an MBA or an MDP or something of the like.  His feeling is that I have chosen this path and now should not complain or feel dissatisfied in any way.  He feels I had full freedom to make the choices I did.

To say I am frustrated with my situation is probably a mild understatement.  I feel totally exhausted as this internal struggle wages within.

I have three children and desperately want to support them, and be there for them in a “good mother” role.  I want to be more present and more involved in what they do.  I do not want to outsource all the parenting roles to a nanny, the school, and the aftercare.

On the other hand, I want to have a career that drives me and pushes me to excel, and pays me accordingly.  I want a career path and have it mapped out in my mind as to where I am going to go and how I am going to get there.

Unfortunately right now, I feel like I am being a fair-to-mediocre mother.  I feel like I am being a do-just-enough employee.  I feel dissatisfied and frustrated, and pulled in several directions.

I also feel frustrated that Kennith does not hear me. Instead he argues with me like a capitalistic business owner, who wants an employee who arrives and works.  His feeling is that if women want to be treated equally to men, they need to act equally to men, and work as hard as men and not bring their “mother” issues to work.

I am so frustrated I could scream – or at least run away for the remainder of the day.

Kennith can go to work every day.  Shower, dress and pick up his bag and what ever happens with the kids will be sorted out.  His day is not affected.  His argument is that as I am the lower wage earner out of the two of us, my time has a lower earning rate than his, so I can take an unpaid days leave to attend to the kids more easily than he can.

Part of why I am angry is that this entire situation smacks of being unfair, and I am seething. But I cannot find the correct reasoning in my mind to be able to explain why it is unfair and unjust.  I feel pushed and cajoled into this position and the role I hold, and right now very frustrated.

Possibly by the end of the book I will be able to formulate a better argument.  And maybe convince Kennith of the validity in what I am feeling.  Unfortunately right now, I am just frustrated and feel an overriding urge to scream!  I really would like to run away today ….

However my baby is waking up and I need to go attend to her, so its time to switch back to the reality that is my life.

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  1. Oh wow. I am so glad I found your blog…

    “I chose to not be so ambitious at work. I chose not to stay late as he does, and I chose to do what I am doing.”

    I have done exactly that.

  2. Great article. Interesting writing and good info. Keep it up.

  3. Wendy

     /  February 8, 2010

    I can relate so much to what you are saying!
    I have been having stress-related panic attacks for the last year, and have also realised that I am pushing myself too hard – trying to be the best employee, best Mom, best wife, and also be good to myself, is just so much hard work! My husband and I are on the same level when it comes to income, but he also sometimes seems to think that my job is not as worthy as his, and that the childrens needs just magically get met every day. He feels so sorry for himself when he gets home after a hard days work, but he hasn’t had to drop and fetch the kids, make sure there is supper ready for them, bath them, put them to bed (he does help with the older child most nights, credit to him), make sure snacks are packed and that I haven’t missed any messages from their teachers etc. etc. Not to mention the house – dishes, tidying up, prepping for the next day. All he has to do is worry about himself, day or night. I have also spoken to him about it, but he seems to think that because he looks after the garden and house (which I don’t take enough interest in apparently), he brings his side. I think it’s a very common problem, that many women have to face in our modern society.
    Hope you find some balance and peace soon.

  4. reluctantmom

     /  February 8, 2010

    Thanks Tania – I must confess that this blog has turned into a rather therapeutic tool. I have found a real sense of closure being able to jot my thoughts down, and definitely gain so much strenght and insight from other mom’s stories and encouragement.

  5. Tania

     /  February 8, 2010

    I feel you. The article could easily have been my thoughts on paper written by you. As my Baby is nearly 26 months, I’ve managed to get through the stage wherein battling career vs kids. You can’t have both without the 1 suffering. It’s just not possible. Even if you have your own business from home, you just cannot run a successful business and not have guilt about not making enough time for your children and visa-versa. You’re not gonna get the understanding you need from your partner, K, that you so much need and long for, men just aren’t made that way, whether they are 8 years old, or 38 years old, its not not a guy thing. I am definately a man/woman person and a practising Christian and do not condone homosexuality but I can actually understand why many woman choose a female partner and men and male partner, they UNDERSTAND each other. You’ve really opened Pandora’s box with your last few articles and I’m sure many woman have many pieces of information and quirks to add to the pool. I say again, I really feel for you, my friend, but you’ll get through it, just keep reaching out for help, even if its just feedback from other Mom’s, we’ll ALL get through it together, somehow, and find peace with the path our life lead.


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