Work Life Balance

To My Mom, Who Always Worked

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All moms judge themselves worse than anyone else. As a mom who has parented in all ways — stay-at-home, working-outside-the-home and working-from-home — I can tell you that I judge myself no matter my situation. I am and always have been able to find faults with my parenting and the way I split my time between work and the kids. I know now looking back the reason I am so critical of myself. It’s because I grew up with the unicorn of mothers. She worked full-time my entire life, only retiring last month, but my brothers and I never felt her absence. I’m not sure how she did it but I know I’ve spent my time as a mother trying to emulate her and probably falling far short. So this is to my mom, who always worked.

As I mentioned, my mom retired recently. She worked for almost 40 years, counting her job in college, with only her maternity leaves and vacation weeks as a “break”. Unlike myself, who took a few years off to stay at home when my kids were babies, she worked straight through up until now. Though she always worked long hours, at home, we never knew it. At home, we were all treated to an oasis of cleanliness and incredible home-cooked meals. She routinely used up her vacation time to take us to doctor’s visits, go on field trips, spend our school breaks with us or stay home when we were sick. I’m not sure she ever looked at it as “her” time off and giving herself a break was not really on her radar. She did it all for us.

I’m not saying my mother was a martyr. She never made us feel guilty for the way she devoted herself to our family. We just grew up knowing, without question, that we were her top priority. We never wondered if work would come before us because she never even made it a possibility. At home, she was Mom. End of story. I never had a sporting event or musical performance where she wasn’t smiling in the front row, even if it was incredibly boring and drawn out. Even if she had just rushed off a 9-hour day at work so she wouldn’t be late to support me. Her love for us and her commitment to always being there never wavered.

The reason I’m writing this now, other than the fact that she recently retired, is that my kids are now the age where their commitments are starting to infringe on my time. While I mostly enjoy seeing them do their activities, I won’t lie — I do get a little bent out of shape at the fact that it eats away at my precious few non-work hours. And this is only the beginning! I know how busy my brothers and I were as teens and how hard it must have been for our parents to juggle it all. Yet, they never discouraged us from signing up for anything and were nothing but supportive. Looking back at all they did for us, I am overwhelmed beyond words at how much they must have loved us to do what they did. I strive daily to be that kind of mother and I only feel that drive because I HAD that mother and I know what it did for me in the long run.

When my mom’s employees threw her a retirement party this past weekend, I ended up giving a brief speech. Of course, I was in tears as I told them all how lucky my brothers and I were. That through all of their speeches about her, hearing how devoted they all thought she was, that they might not have known that she was equally devoted to us. That she somehow split herself in two and made them feel like they had 100% of her and made my brothers and I feel that way too. She is one in a million and yesterday, like on so many Mother’s Day’s before, I made a feeble attempt at letting her know how much I love her and how much we appreciate everything she’s done. I hope she feels it since nothing I could ever say would get it across. It’s my goal that she will see it in my kids as I try to be the same kind of mother to them that she was to me. We all love you, Mom. More than we could ever possibly express.

(Image: GettyImages)