Being a mom forces you to have thick skin and tough it out, even when you don’t want to. From my experience, being a working mom can add another layer of complication because you also have to operate within the traditional parameters of the work force.
Things like never taking sick days for yourself because you know you will need them for the kids. Or for maternity leave. Going in early or staying late to meet a deadline, even if it makes you miss a kid event, because you are a team player at work.
I tend to take this one step further, resulting in my being a straight-up stubborn ox. I am the first to admit that I do not like being singled out, accommodated, or given special treatment. All of my life, I have had an “I can do it myself” attitude. But as I near the end of my fourth working pregnancy, I have come to recognize that sometimes you just have to respect your limitations and accept the help of others.
Respecting Your Limits
When I was 25 and pregnant the first time, I had just started my new field job. I walked long distances in hot weather, combatted hornets’ nests and swampy fields, cows and barbed wire fences. I worked until 2 days past my due date—one giant, sore, swollen puff ball, but otherwise healthy and unfazed. And I took only six weeks of leave, concerned I needed to return quickly since FLMA wasn’t protecting my job at that time.
At 35 weeks into my current pregnancy, I attended a 3-day leadership training at a camp in the woods an hour from home. Not too far from a hospital that I was worried I would be out of luck if something were to happen. But far enough away from home and routine to be tired and swollen again. On this particular leadership training, aside from the classroom work, part of the experience was to participate in outdoor team building exercises and in a high ropes course meant to bring you out of your comfort zone and force you to take big steps, physically and mentally.
Well, clearly this big belly was not going to fit into a Type C climbing harness. So like it or not, I had to respect my limits and accept a support role I didn’t necessarily want to take. This is an extreme example, but it speaks to many limits I have had to respect this time around. Fewer work trips, field trips long distances from hospitals, minimizing my commitments, respecting my exhaustion level etc. We moms are tough, we just don’t need to prove it to anyone.
Accepting the Help of Others
Another area I have had to work at is to be kind to myself when I drop the ball.
Motherhood is hard.
There are all the things you have to remember all the time. If I have learned anything, it is that there is such a thing as having “baby brain.” That sometimes, all the energy you possess is tied up in making a human.
That makes you do stupid things, like put the mayo back in the bread drawer instead of the refrigerator. Or forget your keys at work (I carpool). This week, I managed to arrive home with 30 minutes left to pick up 3 kids at two daycares in opposite directions. Nothing unusual about that until I went to grab my keys and realized I didn’t have them. Or a spare.
Too far to get to both places by any means other than a car and unable to reach my husband for back up, I started to panic. I needed help. Fortunately for me, my brother-in-law and sister-in-law just happened to be on a golf course near my son’s school. They were able to quickly run across and pick him up. I boarded a bicycle and began a cautious (did I mention I am 9 months pregnant?) 1.5-mile cruise to my other kids’ daycare. (If you have ever missed a daycare pick-up deadline, you’d understand the panic).
Giving Yourself Grace
In the end, we checked everyone out before Child Protective Services had to be called. But that didn’t stop me from wanting to beat myself up over it.
I had two choices. I could continue to berate myself. Or I could accept the fact that I am eternally grateful to live in close proximity to wonderful family and friends who are willing to bail me out when the world gets the best of me. After all, my son could have had a regular evening. Instead, he got to enjoy the beautiful weather on the golf course with his cousins. And I squeezed in some much needed exercise.
Life is often reduced to the basics of prayer. Asking for the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can and the wisdom to know the difference.
What have you done lately to cut yourself some slack and accept the help you need?