How (Not) to Fail Being a Working Mom

I once had separateness in my life.

I saw this posted on a friend's Facebook timeline, and it immediately hit home.

I shared it on our Facebook page, and we over 100 likes and counting - clearly, it struck a chord with our audience too.

Six years ago I made the decision to return to work part-time after my maternity leave was over. There was really no choice - we had just purchased our first home, and I had to be bringing in a salary of some kind. Part-time shifted to full-time after the year at home with my second daughter, and it has stayed that way now for three years.

The conflict between my work life and mothering life is present in every moment of my day - from the time my kids wake in the morning, I am rushing to get the lunches packed, make sure they use the toilet, brush their teeth, and wear somewhat-appropriate clothing. I am hurrying these little souls out the door, when the last thing they want or need is to be hurried.

I am taking phone calls at work telling me that my daughter has had an accident (and can I drop off new clothes); that I forgot to pack a sandwich on the day that I thought was pizza day; that my other daughter has fallen off the slide and, yep, we think she might need to be looked at; reminders from the dentist for upcoming appointments; calls from Public Health that my kids immunization records are out of date; and of course, the daily texts from my husband:

What's for dinner?

Because we're clearly not smart enough to sit down on Sunday night and make the meal plan we said we were going to make, to avoid the exact scenario we now find ourselves in - the scramble to come up with a meal that can be put together in under 30 minutes (and my husband's text is simply a question, not another demand... lest you got the wrong idea!)

Throughout all of this, there is a low level hum at my office of busy-busy-busy. Phones ringing, shrill and urgent, emails pinging, and the knock-knock at the office door from a co-worker who needs to chat about that project. You know, the one that was supposed to get started over 3 weeks ago, but has been delayed by bureaucratic nonsense and, quite possibly, my own lack of focus.

Over the years I have watched co-workers move up, move sideways, shift jobs, and start PhD's. I have sat in meetings listening to impassioned debates over policies and procedures, to "big wig" men on the move, and to trail blazing women who send me emails at 11 p.m. and 5:30 a.m. I have listened in amazement to co-workers' stories of weekend overtime and all-nighters, all in the name of a deadline. My all-nighters are due to nightmares and illness, and my overtime is banked, but never reimbursed.

I once had separateness in my life - the ability to work hard and shut out the nagging personal issues that popped up on occasion. But now my personal issues are actually person issues - small persons, to be exact. And there's no shutting it off. My kids' needs are forefront in my mind at all hours of the day, and yet I must pretend that this is not the case. At the office I must pretend that I am smart, well-rested and worthy of contract renewal. At home I must pretend that I'm not freaking out over that deadline I missed, or the email I forgot to send. I must get on the floor to play with my children, lest they remember their childhood as one with the distracted mother staring at her laptop (which I still am, on many days.)

It's exhausting.

I wish I had some answers for you - a handy "tips" list where I could spout off "10 Ways to be a Better Mother-Worker" Sadly, I have no such tips. Instead, I have some great ways for you to fail - spectacularly - in epic working-mom fashion.

Don't answer that email

Miss that deadline

Go for a walk, alone... without the Pokemons

Drink 5 glasses of wine, and go to work with a hangover

Wear the puke on your shirt proudly

Take a sick day when you're not sick

Buy all the packaged foods

Spend $500 on a new power suit

Let your child spill juice on said suit

Lie down on your office floor and loudly declare that you have given up

Pin a white flag to your office door

Or the best way to fail, out of all the epic fails? Quit your job...

This post was previously published at

 RELATED: I'm Tired. I Make Mistakes. I am a Mom, and I Work.

Misty is a freelance writer with Chickadee Creative and voice for the Ottawa blog Kids in the Capital. A part-time health researcher with the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, Misty manages giant spreadsheets and is passionate about evidence-based medicine. A mother to two young girls and owner of one adopted pug named Moose, Misty shares her life with a beloved husband and partner-in-crime. 

When she's not writing, you can find Misty out in her giant vegetable patch, in the kitchen experimenting with the latest health craze, or trying to unwind with some yoga (a good bottle of wine also does the trick!)