To my childless boss:
No. You DON’T understand.
You don’t need to say it, I just need you to know it. You bust your ass at work. Girl- I see that, and I appreciate it! But you are working ONE full time job right now. With my children at home with me, I’m working 2 at a minimum. School is starting soon, so for some of us, that may add “Teacher” to: cook, hostage negotiator, counselor, nurse, waste manager, laundress … I could continue, but chances are good that this list is making you tired just READING it. This has been my reality since late March, and all the while, I’ve been meeting YOUR deadlines, too. That’s why I may log on a little bit late. That’s why I have to stay on longer than I should. That’s why I feel I’m never done, or what I am able to accomplish is not up to my usual standards.
I also am struggling to understand why you are trying SO HARD to pretend like we are all in the same boat. Honey, you’re on a spacious ferry and parents are on a sinking dinghy. You impose the same restrictions of time on me as my childless (or with grown children) co-workers. You say things like “we ALL have a lot on our plate” that seem to, whether intentionally or unintentionally, negate my particular struggle. My plate is different than yours. My boat is different. My load is different.
Up until maybe early July, I kept feeling that once school started, everything would click into place and things would slide back into normalcy. I had NO IDEA how guilt-ridden I would feel about any decision I could make. Childless friends post scathing comments on social media about how school shouldn’t drive the economy, and if I send my child to school, I am sentencing some poor teacher to death.
I float between anger and fear. I’m not sure what to do or which to choose – my family’s stability and mental health, or the lives and fates of the whole world – because even though the “economy shouldn’t rely on school,” everyone feels the need to weigh in on what parents choose to do –
And you ask me what MY plans are.
It would be laughable if it weren’t so maddening. MY plans? I don’t decide here. Leaders who have everyone’s best interest at heart but have as much training at dealing with pandemics as the rest of us (read: 0) are hemming and hawing over MY plans. I have to do what they say, I don’t have a choice.
I love my job, and it goes without saying that I love my children. I am proud to work and provide for my family. I want my children to see their mother choose to work because she likes it and she’s good at it, not JUST for our survival. I want them to miss me when I’m gone and ask me how my day was. Every snarl to keep quiet, every door I slam in their faces to prepare for a meeting erodes the healthy attitude about work that I’ve managed to build. Every evening they tiptoe into my office to ask if I’m done yet – because they know I should be done by now- maybe is planting a seed that work is more important than them. Or that they, too will have to burn the candle at both ends when they enter the work force. I don’t want that for them. I am disliking the example you are making me set.
For parents, there’s always the regular work/home life balance guilt, too. Sideways glances and snide statements are made about how nice it must be to have your children close. No. It’s not nice. I have not chosen to be a stay at home mother, I have chosen another profession. It has been forced upon me, concurrent with my “regular” job, my paycheck job. I SHOULDN’T BE MADE TO FEEL GUILTY about wanting to do one job at a time.
Of course, I am aware that none of this is your choice. These circumstances are not – but compassion COULD be. You COULD actually be concerned for my family, take an interest, express gratitude.
But if you can’t do that, just please do me a favor and stop saying that you understand.