Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Domestic Enemies of the Working Mom

We've covered a lot of Domestic Enemies in our time and now we're setting our sites squarely on those enemies that seem most determined to furck up the program of those moms who work someplace outside of their houses (in addition to the full time job that is taking place inside of their houses).  Both Kate and Lydia have been both full-time working moms, part-time working moms and stay at home moms.  All three are completely exhausting and bring with them their own distinct piles of crap. 

There are issues like germs and night waking and meltdowns that every mom deals with.  And there are a couple, like daycare and co-workers who don't get it that are unique to the working mom. Many thanks to our friend Gertrude for sending us her thoughts on some of these concepts.

Childcare: The working mom's life may seem well-organized and smoothly run but in reality it is all a house of cards for one reason.  It doesn't matter if it's an in-home daycare, a center, a nanny or a Montessori, when when your childcare situation falls apart - it all comes tumbling down.  Because as much as you may think you work for your boss, you actually work for whoever is taking care of your kid while you're at work.  You are in the palm of their hand and if they decide to make a fist, you will be squished to jelly.

Your babysitter gets the stomach flu and misses three days of work? The new teacher doesn't believe in toys from home and now your son refuses to go to school because his bear can't come too? TFB, mommy, it's not about you or your job or your pesky need to meet your financial obligations.  It's about keeping your childcare provider happy so they will continue to take loving care of your precious offspring.  And let's state this for the record: It's not that they don't deserve a metric f-ton of respect and consideration.  It's the hard to swallow fact that your daycare provider has all the power in your relationship and all your money.

Every once in a while it gets all kinds of whack, and that thought crosses your mind that, "hmmm, maybe I can make a change." Let's just stop right there. Finding new childcare is perhaps the third deepest pit in hell.  Except it's a lot more expensive and the waiting lists are longer. And it takes forever and requires you to use up all your vacation days.  And of course its incredibly hard on your kids and causes enormous amounts of The Guilt to creep up on you and kick your ass sideways. We're also pretty sure The Guilt has been taking extra sideways ass kicking lessons, too.

The Guilt: Every mom is well acquainted with this but working moms get it bad and all the time.  And it's a sneaky thing, it creeps up on you in a sneak attack and stabs you with a shiv in the kidney when you're supposed to be keeping it together and wearing your big girl pants.  You lost your first tooth?  I forgot it was library day? I was the only mom not at the awards ceremony? Cue the anxiety and the feeling like schmidt and the desperate thoughts of "What would it take for me to quit my job so I could be there all the time? I would be willing to sell my hair and the other unshiv'ed kidney and downsize to a single-wide..." And then you realize that every choice represents a sacrifice that your poor child will ultimately have to answer for and you sob in the car by yourself because you're the worst mother ever and f*cking Sarah McLaughlin came on the radio.

Co-workers who don't get it: You know what's lamesauce? When you're trying to deal with a sick kid, The Guilt, problems with daycare, your husband being surly because you can't miss your 10am meeting so he has to stay home and you're trying as hard as you can to act like a grown up and do your job and then one of your co-workers decides to be an ass hat and make some comments about how some people always have to leave early.  Hint hint: You. Because your children have to get picked up by 6:30 or your daycare provider will flip the flip out and that can't happen.  It doesn't matter a whit about gender, age, marital status or if the co-worker in question has kids or not.  Either they get it - or they don't.  When they don't, they make a bad situation infinitely worse.  And you can't throat punch them because apparently that's "creating a hostile work environment". Whatever. It's only hostile for a second. And then you get to go to a nice, nurturing, non-hostile hospital. See? Win-win.

Time: Public enemy number one for the working mom. Getting ready in the morning? A daily cluster of Gaaaahhhhhhh!!! that never gets better no matter how hard you try. Because there's never enough time. Example? Take last week when there was one of those rare warm, early Spring days. All afternoon the beautiful sunshine made moms everywhere dream of being The Greatest Mom Ever and taking the kids to the park. But wait - you don't get home until 5:30 and herding them to the park is typically an escapade of at least 30 minutes, which means you won't get there until almost 6.  But then there's dinner. Which means you're eating dinner at like 7:30 and that's if you stop on the way home and get fast food or a rotisserie chicken.  And then the kids have to go to bed by 8 or they morph into wailing, whining banshees. And there's bath time, which you could skip but then they won't go to sleep because the routine is messed up.  So it's be Greatest Mom Ever for an hour (because you know once bedtime is announced the title becomes Meanest Mom Ever) and deal with the insanity afterward...  Or just go pick the kids up and stick to the routine because everything flows better and besides it gets dark by 6:20 anyway. Thanks, Weather. Thanks a lot.

Germs: We all hate being sick and having sick kids. But children always seem to get sick during a week when mommy has a bazillion other commitments at work. And then the phone rings and it's the school nurse on the other end -- on speakerphone, of course -- saying things like "fever and puking" and "lice" and then your whole office starts scratching and demanding that you leave. Immediately. The upside? When you have a crapload of work to get done, just say the word "impetigo" -- no one will bother you. Which leaves you plenty of time to debate with your husband about  whose job is more important today and toss a coin to decide who gets to stay home and clean up puke all day, and who gets to deal with the crazy people at work.

Well, right up until one of you gets sick.


(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2011

50 comments:

  1. Holy crap this is so wild!!! I was just thinking the other day that you needed to conquer this domestic enemy!! I even thought of these exact.same.topics. But I was too damn busy with a puking/fever kid and husband all weekend to send you my ideas!

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  2. Hard to read this particular blog post without feeling sad for all the parents out there who are trying so hard and yet clearly appear to be losing ground as the reality of life in the 21st century tightens around their necks. There was a time (and it was not long ago) when a working class family could buy a home, take a decent vacation each year, educate the kids through college, afford health care, have enough to pay for a baby sitter and go out two to three times a month, and then retire, enjoy some travel trips, with confidence that later needs for the sunset of life would be adequately covered ... all of this on one income!

    The stress from the circumstances faced by today's working parents is almost unimaginable; if the family is comprised of a couple of kids being cared for by a single parent then the stress is enough to make you sick and/or to shorten your life. To say nothing about the impact on the children.

    While is it important to hear about the situations as described in the post, what is missing is any mention of the possibility of solutions. Secure, professional child care has long been available in many, many countries with generous home leave offered to new moms and dads, effective and complete health care benefits, with flexible work time arrangements and as little as 35 hours a week required for full time workers. It is increasingly common here to find people putting in 50/60 hours a week plus being locked through their Crackberry into weekend work tasks and even during the short vacations they may have.

    The isolation and fragmentation of the lives of working moms and dads is something that needs expression, so thanks to the blog for making some of the dilemma so clear. Taking things to the next step would be more beneficial; suggestions and even rants about how to reestablish the conditions that made the "American Dream" somewhat of a reality a few decades ago, so that moms had more support in the incredibly important job they do and their children would benefit from having calmer, healthier, and more available parents.

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  3. And then there's being a SINGLE working mom oh please oh please kill me now before The Guilt and The Perpetually Broke and The Doing Nothing Well And Everything Half-Assed catches up and does me in.

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  4. Well written. I was writing something like this in my head last week. I had a paragraph titled "Fun Homework Assignments That Aren't Fun." And another one about sports practices that starts at 5pm or dance class that starts at 4:30.

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  5. Great post. I have so much respect for moms everywhere, with a special place in my heart for working moms. You hit the nail on the head with this one, ladies!

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  6. Ahhh and then there is the Teacher - Working mom...you get all this and a whole bunch more :)
    I was actually just thinking about when this post might come.
    Well done!
    You left out the "judgement" - the SAHM who point out (when you are on your last nerve and stressed beyond belief) that you "CHOOSE" to work.
    My husband doesn't make enough for me to stay home, feed everyone, pay the mortgage and the student loans....I don't choose to work, I just to be financially stable.

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  7. Let's face it, being a mom is difficult. I have SO much respect for women who stay at home with their children because I consider myself fortunate for my daily break at work ;) It's that constant pull we feel between always needing to be with them (and them wanting to be with us) and wanting to get the heck away from them. It's a lose-lose. If we focus our lives around them, they reach an age where they want us to get a life. If we don't, they say we're not there for them. In the end, they'll blame all of their problems on us anyway. After all, we are the mothers.

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  8. Knocked it out of the park, ladies! Thanks for thinking my rant was worth sharing with the world. ;)

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  9. Wow - well put! I always felt in awe of the working mom " oh...it must be so glamourous, nice to get dressed up and leave the house" (yes....I'm an asshat, I know) - but let's face it, the grass is always greener, right?

    Definitely always had respect for the plight of the working mom - have even more now

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  10. I'm with Amy M.! Being a single working outside the home mom blows. I am currently in the midst of moving and choosing another daycare which in turn is making me want to blow my brains out. The Guilt comes when trying to choose and approve another stranger to care for your sweet offspring. I love you ladies and thanks Gertrude for a great post!

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  11. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  12. Great post. All the reasons why I FINALLY quit my job last fall. It has had amazing benefits to my family! And the budget has not been as scary as I thought it would be on one salary. Thank God. The stress roller coaster of it all was killing me and my husband. I wish everyone who wants this could find a way to do it.

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  13. Definitely hits home for me. I'm tired of being made to feel that I'm suppose to be Super Woman or constantly having to prove that I'm not a stupid idiot just because I'm a SAHM (not by choice).

    For all the naysayers who obviously have no idea what their talking about - "GO SUCK IT! JACKHOLE!"

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  14. Love, love love. Ohhh... the guilt.

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  15. AMEN WORKING MOM SISTER! You speak my life!

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  16. Maybe I should do one for the "disabled mom"? LOL

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  17. This is my life. To a T. And it never gets better, I just cycle from one enemy to another.

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  18. Domestic Enemies of the SINGLE mom (not just the working single mom) really should be written!

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  19. how about daycares that "request" participation from moms to wash communal items on a weekly basis? AS IF we don't already have enough to do!!!

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  20. This is all too true. We had a great child care provider that we ended up leaving for various reasons, mostly that I was petrified relying on a single person, but the GUILT about that almost killed me. I could still cry thinking about it. And the guilt from missing things with my kids "Mommy, why can't you come and help in my class when everyone else's mom does?" I also love the "dance" of who will stay home with the sick kid this time (answer is usually me). I am lucky in one way and that is that my coworkers and work environment, in general, are super supportive because most of us are in the same boat. I wouldn't trade it though, my work is fulfilling to me in a way that motherhood isn't and it also allows us financially to do more of the fun things we love to do.

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  21. Yep, yepper, and yeppest. I am an outside of the home working mom of nearly 2 year old twins, and an 11 year old. There is also a working dad in the house, which balances things out. And we owe our sanity to the nanny...the one who has all our extra money, who spends the day making sure our children don't grow up to be crazy people, and that they actually still love their mom and dad at the end of the day. But, I have to say, it's hard to hear my little girl say our sitter's name as much as she says "Daddy" and "Mommy". However, it isn't worth the sacrifice of health insurance and $$ to purchase diapers, food, in addition to day care, to have assurances that my kids can say my name regularly. As someone put it above, I may "choose" to work, but it means that we can have food on the table, clothing on the children, and gas in the car so we can go to the doctor's office when necessary--which the insurance through my outside of the home job covers.

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  22. Now I want you to think about the mom who not only comes home to take care of her two year old everyday because dad works nights, but who also goes to school all day and has LOADS of homework to do everynight so she can finally call herself a college graduate. Oh don't forget the husband to take care of becasue we all know they can barely wash their own bodies everyday, let alone make themselves breakfast in the morning or lunch for while they're at work, and the two dogs who have to be taken on a walk every day, or run in the back yard, otherwise they go just as stir crazy. Never enough hours in the day...

    To all my friends that think that I have it easy being a student.

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  23. The Guilt made me cry, because so many times I have felt the way you describe. You got everything right in this post. And thank you for not telling the us all that it will get better as the kids get older; because now in place of daycare worries, I have worries that my teenagers are HOME ALONE after school!!!!

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  24. aaahhh, the GUILT! I was feeling this last week after my son lost his fourth tooth in a month's time and of course, I was in the middle of packing boxes for our move (which happened this past weekend) and completely missed the memo that the tooth fairy was supposed to leave some money under the pillow...SIGH. Great blog!

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  25. I can relate to all of these, especially today. The Guilt is eating away at my being, telling me of course I should stop being an attorney and should stay home with my children, so I can be the one to greet my 3 year old when she gets off the school bus. But then, I realize we would have no home for her to come to :(

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  26. Snow days and 2 hour snow delays. Not to mention school half days, teacher in-service days, conference days, and random days off. Why yes, I really did want to use 1/2 my vacation time on this.

    Also, when the afterschool teacher forgets to "call homework" and my 1st grader doesn't start any of her homework before 7PM.

    Totally agree about the TIME thing. The GUILT totally kicks in when we can't break from routine on an unexpected beautiful day or the first sledding snow of the year.

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  27. I am disappointed with the Judgey McJudgerson comments here and there. "Waited to have them like a GROWN UP?"
    Come ON. Not one person who is under 85 is grown up enough for kids.

    And even then.....

    If you're gonna be a poop, be a poop with a name.
    --kate in michigan

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  28. Bravo!!

    I'm technically not a "working" mom. I'm a full-time grad student (<5 months until graduation - then I get to work. Ha!) But all of these apply. From my sitter not getting that I have no control over the admin saying I need to have an intern inservice on my normal day off (the one day a week I actually get to spend with my child) or the GUILT that I'm missing her most formative months and years or the GUILT when I hear her screaming in her father's care when I'm trying to study for my final the next day. Yeah.

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  29. New follower here and LOVE this blog! You speak my language....Guilt, Shiv, the pic is brillant!
    Glad I found you....

    CHEERS!
    htpp://shallowocity.blogspot.com

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  30. Hello ladies of RFML,

    I am a pre-school teacher. Specifically a teacher of all of your 2 and 3 year olds.

    I want to point out that on our end we know its hard to call you every time your child gets sick. So we don't call until its absolutely necessary. And at that point we've already exposed ourselves and all of the other children in the classroom to the illness. And we can't call in sick. There aren't many preschools that have subs. Its not like the school system. Fortunately, most teachers have very good immune systems because we are constantly exposed to everyone's germs. But we feel even worse for all of the other kids. Because then over the next few days, even though your child has come back, we now have to send 5 other children home, pulling 5 other mommies out of work. We do our best. And its not easy. Although it sounds like some of you have had not exactly pleasant experiences with child care, we have to deal with just as many parents who are upset at us that we can't let your child bring toys to school because then the rest of the class will bring toys to school "cause its not fair" and then heaven forbid one of us teachers cannot find it at the end of the day. We get chewed out. We do have parents who understand that their child strips at school and we lost a sock. But the majority freak out! Its not easy being a single/stay at home/working mom. Or just a mom. But its not easy being a teacher for your children either.

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  31. @Smismar - congrats on almost being done with grad school.

    I a WAHM, AND a grad student (74 days until graduation!!!!!!!) You want to talk about GUILT. I have told my poor daughter so many times, "I can't snuggle with you, go to sleep, I have to go do homework" that she now says that to her dolls. Add in the work commitments with the other domestic enemy - the 5PM Conference Call - really people on the west coast, just because it's 3pm your time doesn't mean it is on my coast. I don' see you agreeing to come in for a 5AM conference call. Grrr!!

    Anyhoo, thanks for the laughs. As always, this blog brightens my day.

    Sabine in Georgia

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  32. I, too, am disappointed to see comments that underscore the very "enemies" that this post described. I was 35 years old, married 9 years, owned a home and was financially stable when I had my only child... about as grown up as you can get. And now I'm not married, still own the home my child was born into, and get sporadic and minimal support from my now non-working ex who has also since moved out of state.

    I understand that I can't be a full-time parent and also work full-time. Ergo, The Guilt. I also understand that someone has to pay the mortgage and buy some food, and last time I looked around, I was the only one here of legal working age (the other one here is an IHP who can't even legally ride a roller coaster yet). So I do the truly grown-up thing: I do my best, knowing that my best will often fall short and will certainly -- unfortunately -- be judged by others. I gotta say, though, I didn't expect those others to be here.

    That said, this post made me say, "Yeah!" and reminded me that I'm not the only one... heck, I'm not even the worst off, given that my coworkers and my job of 15 years are about as awesome as they come. Thanks again for what you do, Kate & Lydia.

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  33. We removed the judgey-mcjudgerson comment because it's not consistant with how we roll here in MommyLand. We are so sorry for any feelings that may have been hurt.
    xo, Lyd & Kate

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  34. Sports, you forgot to add the Kid's Sports schedule into this list. There's nothing like a good hard week at work and then being hit up by your kid's coach about a new competition at a higher level so you have to figure in added practice time to an already crammed schedule.

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  35. Quite possibly the funniest, truest blog post I've ever read.

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  36. It's hard to be a working parent, but try to remember what it's like to be the co-worker who is trying to hold it together in the office when she is only one of a team of three there because its a snow day or someone has a sick kid and some one else had child care issues and some last minute crazy request comes in. To be the one who has to stay late or come in early because after all she doesn't have any children so she couldn't possibly have any other commitments. Because she's really trying to be supportive, but is also really tired of picking up all the slack, with out notice or thanks.

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    Replies
    1. umm.. I had it the opposite, they knew mother of two mrs.responsibility would pick up their slack while divorced/no kids weekenders were living it up and letting their work pile on to me...guess it can work both ways, including their snide remarks when had to bring the kids into the office, but overall they were good to my kids despite always asking ""wheres this kids mother" even though I was at the next desk..we laughed a lot over the cheap shots, even if it was in jest, I got the message: people with kids are dweebs and thats why I got picked/dumped on.

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  37. Oh, you had me at "The Guilt"! Sing it sistah.

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  38. I applaud this post! As a working mom - the GUILT is constant! I missed her first steps, her first "joke". But with 23,000 left to pay in student loans, one income will not do it. My loan payments are as high as a mortgage payment most months.

    There will always be the battle between the SAHM and the Working Mom - who's life is harder. Being a mom is hard. Period. Whether you work outside the home or stay at home things get hairy and you just have to do your best to get through it. Being judgey towards either camp is not helping anyone. Just support each other - that's what all of us need!

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  39. Guilt is the number one (and only reason) I have ever thought about quitting my job and being a stay at home mother. Two days ago, I watched as my 8 month old crawled towards the door after me as I had to practically slam it in his sweet little smiling face because he just doesn't understand why mommy can't stay home and play.

    That being said, I love my job. I love being a mom. When I was going back to work, I had a few moms (ones who stay home) that kind of tried to lay the guilt on me about going back to work. It nearly killed me because going back to work after maternity is one of the hardest things I ever had to do so I really had to think about it. In the end, I decided it was going to make me sad to let someone else spend their days with my sweet little boy, but it would have made me just as sad to let someone do a job I love and that I'm really good at.

    Thanks so much for this post. I follow and read regularly and somehow I completely missed this episode of the series of "domestic enemy" posts. So glad I read it!

    And hey...let's be honest, it doesn't suck to have someone else change the diapers for 8 hours? Amiright?

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  40. Best Blog post.Ever.
    My favourite is when you get the "oh..I could never do that" comment in response to holiday programme/after school care/going on a plane to Grandma's on their own. It a badly veiled "Oh I love my kids more than you do..".
    It's wrong and it sucks!

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  41. Amen to this! This is so true! And the other post about a Stay at Home mom. I agree that both are tough! I work full time and then i get to come home, clean, do laundry, get dinner ready, give my daughter a bath, get on pjs, settle down and then go to bed! It is very hard juggling the time. Its let dishes sit in the sink for the night (or 2) LOL, so i can play longer with my sweet girl! Or listen to her stories about how much fun she had or didn't have today! When you work, you wish were a SAHM, when your a SAHM, you wish you worked, lol. i just started school to get my degree, so i am sure i will have a hard time between working full time, going to school part time and still making all the time in the world for my daughter. But i also think of it like I will be able to give her the things she needs when she needs them, she will see me work and go to school and I hope that it will make her want to do the same things. Belive me, if i could stay at home i would. I know a lot of people that stay at home, but they also receive help from their parents and such. I guess my husband and I are a little more grown up in that matter. If you are old enough to have kids and a nice house and nice cars then you should be old enough to pay for them! We never have anything given to us, and if we do it is something we absolutley need, and always pay back. We would never expect our parents to give us money every month to pay our bills. My husband and I both work and it is tough still to make our bills every month. Good luck to both sides =) I absolutley know the guilt of saying "bye, bye" to my child every morning so that I can go to work and try to succeed! It's a terrable feeling but also a really good feeling!

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  42. "If you are old enough to have kids and a nice house and nice cars then you should be old enough to pay for them! "

    You are not what you own. The nice house, nice cars are not what it's all about; for me I choose to work part time and have a nice enough house but we have cheap nasty cars that pretty much go forward and are theft proof! I have moved from the UK where the lifestyle was competitive (the kids need to be doing sports/music/scouts etc or the guilt would get me for letting them down, to Australia where we have taken much less on)dont get sucked into the rat race. Now my kids have time to just be and I can just be with them too. We are not as financially comfortable as we used to be but much happier

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  43. you forgot the other part of the GUILT...the i have to work nights and don't get to help with dinner, bathing and putting my child to bed. My husband gets to do all that. I just try to make sure I have dinner ready before I have to leave my house at 2pm.

    At least he really loves his babysitter. :/

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  44. Screw the guilt - I work because I don't want to live with my mother in law, and that's what we would have to do on my DH's salary.. I go to school (online) because I love to go to school.. making more money is just lagniappe.

    DH works because he only has five years left till retirement, then he's going to be a SAHD. LOVE IT!

    I'm fortunate enough to work outside of school hours so that I can participate in school activities, and 'vacations' don't kill me - I just pay for it in lost sleep... but hey, what mom doesn't lose sleep for their kids, right?

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  45. Omg someone once said to me "if you didn't
    spend your money on Starbucks all the time, you could probably stay at home with your kids instead of working everyday"

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  46. I feel like after one baby when I went back to work I didn't get judged so badly. But after TWO kids, I got a lot of comments. If I could afford to, I'd stay home although to be honest, staying at home on maternity leave was harder than any stressful job I've ever had. I don't admit to many people but going to work is kind of a break for me.

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  47. I work/ed because am darn good at what I do...but the closet queen in the office hated being upstaged so he would go around remarking "you must be raking it in, ya whore" and laugh his evil queen laugh...good grief its 2013 and women in the work place get hostile treatment for any little perceived thing cause god forbid we there to make a meaningful contribution. Nonetheless, I got sick of dealing with envy queen and found a new gig, the pay was more and closer to home, the queen called someone he knew at that job and filled their head with lovely things which she repeated to me she knew what he was like from working with him at previous jobs he harassed women there too! Is there is no criminal law on the books to instantly end hostile harassment via 911 arrest? Apparently not or that nut would of been taken away in a straight jacket long ago...a huge sigh of relief in the office would of been heard, the same that occurred when women designers were finally "allowed" into fashion design world to design real clothing for real women.

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