Position Available: Candidate will be required to work ±119 hours per week, Monday to Sunday. Lunch breaks are not regular and may be required to be taken on the go. The candidate will be to be on call throughout the night and must be able to carry out tasks with very short notice or lead times. Days off are not part of the employment package. The successful candidate will be responsible for dealing with unreasonable demands, managing a busy schedule and coordinating multiple projects simultaneously. You must have excellent communication and organizational skills and be willing to work in a chaotic environment. Responsibilities include chauffeuring, cooking, cleaning, counselling and training.
For the majority of women this a position is their dream job. It’s the hardest job in the world – the job of being a mom.
Often the successful candidates of this job choose or are expected to make this their full-time job. My mom was one such mom. The mom who put her career aside to focus on the kids, put her ambitions aside to let her husband focus on achieving his. She was the mom, who planned day trip after day trip during school holidays, who read my Afrikaans set workbooks for me, attended every horse-riding lesson and show, cooked a separate meal for me cause I only really ate grilled chicken and mashed potatoes and who did probably a million invisible things every day just to make my life run on schedule and keep me compliant. Like many moms, she has a love/hate relationship with her lifelong job title but for the most part, she claims to have loved it.
But then you get another group of women who choose or are expected to take on this full-time job whilst retaining their paid job. Some of these women are lucky enough or maybe sensible enough to work part-time or flexi-time in their paid job. Then there are the others who try to juggle their full-time professional career with their full-time mothering career.
I am one such mom. The mom who thinks that she can do it all, be it all, have it all (insert smirking face emoji here).
But I have come to the realization, for me personally anyway, that it is not humanly possible unless these other moms have a secretly invented the time machine that has allowed them to create more hours in the day. I feel quite safe in saying that they have not, which means that all moms on planet Earth are operating within the same number of daily hours – 24.
Now math is not my strong suit, but if a mom is working a “day” job that requires 8 hours of her daily time and her second job – the mom job – conservatively requires roughly the same amount of time, that adds up to 16 hours of working time. When you subtract the hours needed for sleep, then things get interesting. According to the Sleep Foundation, adult human beings need at worst 6 hours of sleep per night but preferably 7-9 hours to function optimally. So, let’s be realistic and work on 7 hours of sleep, 24 – 16 – 7 = 1 slightly sleep deprived hour per day for mom to do anything else not relating to her “day” job and not related to her child-rearing. In a day of 1440 minutes, she gets just 60 to bath herself, dress and undress herself, read a book, watch a TV show, talk to her husband, go on Facebook, apply and remove her make-up, shave her legs, Skype her bestie overseas and make a poo. And this is if (and this is a big if) she only spends 8 hours of her 24 hours mothering.
This equation can work as a sliding scale – less sleep means more time to do stuff for herself or for her kids. But less sleeps mean less energy to do said stuff and less ability to do said stuff well. For these moms timing is everything, time is always on their mind and never in their grasp.
This brings me to the number one challenge all moms’ face: Heart-aching, brain draining, bone penetrating EXHAUSTION.
To illustrate here’s an exchange I overheard at work: Mom #1, “I think I have lost my mind.”, Mom #2, with whistful seriousness, “Hmmm that could nice. A trip to the sanatorium would be even better than going to Mauritius. Never have to change out of your PJs and bathrobe, sleep whenever you want, other people feed you, you can stare at nothing, think about nothing, eat jelly and not have to talk to anyone, except the shrink who just wants to know about how you are feeling and how your day was. What a pleasure.”
This exhaustion is an affliction all mother’s experience, but for a working mom this affliction is compounded as we are not just trying to keep all the home balls in the air, we are trying to keep all the work balls in the air too.
Read more about working mom’s “second shift” here: Working moms cannot do it all.
There is a term I recently learnt that describes precisely why moms are so exhausted, why the fog of preggie brain never seems to lift, that explains why we have to-do-lists for our to-do-lists. It is called “Mental Load”.
This is the invisible workload of a mom. Because for whatever reason – society, conditioning, unconscious gender bias, or bad habits – moms are the ones who notice, the ones who manage, the ones who schedule, the ones who organize. Our brains never switch off, we are always thinking about a million things, trying to remember a trillion things and planning a bazillion things.
While hubby is contentedly watching “Criminal Minds” with not a care in the world (that’s unfair, men often have many worries, but more often than not they are able to compartmentalize) my mind is stressing about how to get out of a meeting tomorrow that coincides with my daughter’s ENT appointment, planning to get to the shops as we have run out of the animal shaped crackers that are the only thing the kid will eat at school, reminding myself to remember next week is Grandparents day at school, reminding myself to remind myself to remind said grandparents that its grandparents day next week and then last but not least I am internally screaming – “why does no one else notice that the toilet paper has run out!!!”.
The worst part is that men are more than willing to help do the chores racing around your head, you need only ask, but herein lies the crux of “mental load”. When men leave it to the women to ask, they position mothers as the managers and themselves as the underlings. He is, in essence, refusing to take on his share of the mental load, as we now need to also manage him, in addition to the kids and your “day” job. Moms are still left holding the bag, having to remember everything that needs doing and who to tell to do it. And the remembering, the constant, pervasive remembering is what exhausts you. The doing is tiring but the remembering is unrelenting.
Flook me, I am tired!
A prime example of “mental load” is when mom needs to leave children alone with husband for a day or a weekend or even just a morning. How many of you moms out there have experienced writing out a schedule that details and accounts for every waking minute? How many of you have gotten the frantic phone call from a semi-hysterical husband asking a question you know was listed on the schedule? How many of you have ended up WhatsApping reminders and helpful hints throughout the duration of your “break”? That ladies is what we in the biz like to call “mental load”.
So, moms share the load, do not allow your partner to opt out their share of the mental load, divide the remembering equally between you both and stop micro-managing him and you will find he is perfectly capable of figuring it out for himself, if only you leave him be. And if the grandparents forgot grandparents day at your kid’s school, then that is on them, not you.
You cannot take everything on.
Do not let the load grind you down.
Leigh Tayler is a writer, a Leo, a feminist, a fan of The Walking Dead, a lover of all things unicorn and nearly succumbs to rage strokes on the daily. Oh, and she also happens to be a mother to one small feral child. She wears her heart on her sleeve and invariably tells it like it is, the good the bad and the ugly. She juggles her writing, her family, her sanity in-between a demanding career in advertising. She has no shame in sharing her harebrained and high-strung anecdotes on her experience of motherhood, no sugar coating, no gloss, just her blunt truth with a healthy side order of sarcasm. Find her on her blog, The Ugly Truth of Being a Mom.