Work vs. Motherhood

Just after Valentine’s Day I discovered I was pregnant.  After two years of trying to conceive, this is a welcome blessing. My husband is elated, my son is very excited about his soon-to-be big brother status, and I am filled with emotion. Damn hormones.

I’m so happy that I’m expecting, but I seem to have forgotten what it’s like to be pregnant. The exhaustion, the food aversions, the food cravings, the weeping, the moodiness… the exhaustion. Sleep is my middle name these days, and it’s taking it’s toll on me. Being wife, mother, working woman and pregnant all at once is more than a full time job.

I thank my lucky stars every morning for the ability to work from home. And I’m very grateful that Dawson is in preschool two mornings a week. The uninterrupted two hours (and 15 minutes!) is wonderful because my day runs a little smoother when I’m not constantly refilling juice cups or putting toys away.

While my work life is running beautifully, my domestic duties are falling by the wayside. Clean laundry piles up waiting for someone to put it away. The vacuum hasn’t been used in almost a week. My son’s room is the equivalent of a tornado’s aftermath. The only chore I’ve managed to accomplish is doing the dishes after my husband cooks, and that’s only because we have to eat and I don’t believe in using paper plates. We’re trying to be more green, you know.

I’d like to say that I’m just so busy with other things, and that’s why I don’t have time to do everything. But the truth is, when I’m not working I’m probably sleeping. Sharing my body with another little being sure is exhausting. And I still have seven months to go!

The irony of it all is that when I was pregnant with Dawson, I worked full time outside of the home and never felt like a slacker more than I do now. Is a second (or third? or fourth?) pregnancy really that much harder than the first? If this is true, how in the world has Michelle Duggar endured 18 pregnancies without losing her sanity? (Okay I know she had twins in there somewhere, but I imagine housing two babies is twice as exhausting.)

My husband says it’s all about balance and knowing how to prioritize, and I understand his point of view, but when he goes to work he goes to work. He isn’t working and doing laundry and rearing children. I’m not trying to say that he’s got it easy. He works hard to support our family and when he’s home he does what he can to help out with the housework. I’m a lucky woman, indeed.

The real issue is that working men and working women are bound to different expectations. Perhaps society still thinks of men as the primary breadwinners, even though more and more women are in the workforce, many of which bring home the bacon while their partners stay home with the kids. Maybe it’s the way our culture pins women to motherhood as if it’s the only role we are capable of. This is a myth and I truly think this is why so many of us suffer the mommy guilt. We want to be successful in our careers and in motherhood, but too often we’re made to feel that doing well in one role takes something away from the other.

Before I had a child I didn’t pay much attention to the way mothers are treated in the workforce. Soon after Dawson was born I realized that my colleagues and my boss saw me differently. No longer was I the woman who managed to get her job done efficiently. Instead, I was the new mother who needed to be cut a little slack. It was as though management believed that childbirth had stolen my brain, and I was given a pass because I had a baby.

With this pregnancy, I’m not working the 9 to 5 in an office downtown. I won’t have a manager making me feel inadequate simply because I’ve birthed a child, but so many women in the workforce are made to feel this way and it’s unacceptable.

As I process these thoughts, I realize I began this post whining about my own feelings of inadequacy as far as motherhood and my work are concerned. Perhaps I was hoping to get a pass simply because I’m growing a child in my womb. But now I realize how that notion perpetuates the stereotype I despise.

What are your thoughts? Can working women escape these stereotypes? How do we handle careers and motherhood successfully. Does it really come down to balancing priorities?