"Breakfast Television" news anchor and co-host of the podcast "Moms in the Middle" Melanie Ng, with her son Josh and colleague Dina Pugliese. All photos courtesy of Melanie Ng
Someone once referred to me as a “supermom.” I think they were under the impression that I had perfected the juggling act that is full-time work and raising a toddler. I guess I put up a good front! But I think a lot of working moms do.
The fact is, being a working mom is really hard, but a lot of us act like it isn’t. I think if we could drop the act and be a lot more open about it—scream it from the rooftops, even—we’d all be better off.
“If I don’t say anything, my family just assumes I’ve got it all together,” a friend and mom-of-three told me recently. She’s right. Sometimes we think it’s easier to take it all on—saying “yes” takes precedence over saying “help.” I struggle with this too. I’ve been known to turn down babysitting help from my mom, for example, because I don’t want her to think I can’t handle it all. I mean, she had four kids, I have one—this should be easy, right? And I don’t want to inconvenience her. But here’s the thing, as another wise friend told me: “People in your life actually want to help.” But they might not think to offer if we all continue to act like the grind isn’t getting us down.
A female co-worker once asked me, “Where do you get your energy? When do you ever sleep?” I laughed it off and then later realized that she may have actually been concerned rather than impressed. A lot of working moms don’t want colleagues (especially men) to think of them differently just because they have kids, as requiring flexibility to deal with daycare pickups and sick kids can seem like a weakness. You worry people will be thinking, Will she be able to take on this project with everything on her plate, or should it be given it to her male or childless colleague? It’s easy to feel stressed and discouraged, worrying people are thinking this way, and let it affect your work. It's possible someone is thinking it, but it's fruitless to worry about it. You can’t control how others view you. I found that once I acknowledged that, it got easier. You may even surprise yourself by what you’re able to accomplish.
Social media can be a working mom’s worst enemy. We’ve all been there—scrolling through pictures of the smiling families, the matching outfits, the spotless (and perfectly decorated) homes. How did they manage to coordinate all of that—plus bake those homemade muffins—while also holding down a full-time job outside the home? I’m wiped by the time I get home from a long day and feel like a horrible parent checking work email when I’m supposed to be building a fort with my son. But those social media posts? Say it with me: They’re. Not. Real. Life.
I wish more moms would post about the imperfections, the bad days, the mom guilt. Those social media accounts are out there, so seek them out.
“When the balancing act becomes overwhelming, we can take solace knowing we’re not the only one,” says a friend of mine, a mother of two. This is where I find my comfort. The sisterhood of superwomen is truly powerful. Sometimes, just the simple act of talking about the chaos makes it somehow better. Maybe even reading a parenting book or podcast is your escape. Look to your roster and tap into their strengths. Who can make you laugh? Who can give you solid advice? Who can just be there for you to let out a scream or a good cry? We’re in this together. But we don’t know that unless we’re all more open about how hard the struggle can be.
A lot of moms feel pressured to always speak positively about parenthood. I definitely feel that, because it took me and my husband more than four years to have our son via IVF. Am I thankful? Yes. Do I feel blessed to have him in our lives? Yes. Do I feel guilty if I have a tough day and want to vent? Unfortunately, definitely yes. A mom friend says she feels the same way: “If we say something that resembles complaining about our kids or saying it's tough, we often feel the need to put a qualifier on it, like, 'Of course I'm thankful to have them but…’”
I think working moms need to flip the switch and the dialogue. Will it help? 100 percent yes.
This article was originally published online in January 2019.
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