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A Day in the Life of a Working Mother

Zoe Hilton
Penetanguishene ON Canada
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 23 No. 2, March-April 2006, p. 71

I drag my already aching body through the front doors, stylish briefcase replaced by a breast pump kit slung over my shoulder. Everything seems busier, brighter, faster, and more challenging than it was when I used to sleep at night. I nod at all the friendly greetings. "Back already?" I know that people are sneaking a peek at the waistband that is still too tight for my figure. I'm not sure if I'm smiling or gritting my teeth when other mothers cheerfully sympathize and say, "Don't you feel guilty for being at work?" Trying to relieve my guilt, I post pictures of nursing mothers and children on my office wall. I declare my space to be the first breastfeeding friendly office in the building (never mind that no children are allowed on the site).

By the afternoon, my office mate has grown tired of me muttering, "I left my children for this?" I blame my stress on the work, and decide I need to change jobs. I dust off my resume and experiment with how I can use my parenting skills to my advantage. I'm an "excellent team player" and can juggle child care schedules with my husband. I know I can "work well under pressure," especially when using the bathroom with children banging on the door. And as for "multitasking," I can breastfeed a newborn while diapering a squirming toddler, shopping over the phone, or tossing chicken into the slow cooker for dinner. I also have a way of making "no" sound like the answer that you wanted all along. In my workplace, this is a highly valued skill we call "empowerment."

Suddenly, I have only 12 minutes to get to the daycare center, so I drop everything and make a dash for the car. I race across town to find that my children are the last ones waiting to be picked up. I look exhausted and forlorn, my son is refusing to talk to me, and my baby acts like she's forgotten me already. I zip them into their snowsuits and then wrestle with a car seat. Ready for adventure, we set off for the store.

I approach the checkout with two jugs of milk under one arm to counterbalance the weight of the baby under the other. My eye is drawn to the women's magazines on display. One of the glossy headlines promotes 10 ways to cut down housework. To my disappointment, I find that I'm already doing nine of them. At least I don't have to worry about dusting—I can't see any clear surfaces in my house, ergo, nothing to dust.

I finally pull into the driveway over an hour after I used to before I had children. I rest my head momentarily on the steering wheel to prepare myself for the second shift of this day. After the children are fed, cleaned, and in their pajamas, I say hello to—oh yes—my husband as I pass him on my way to flop into bed with my baby.

I listen to my daughter's noisy guzzling. When her tummy is full of my warm milk, she rests her fat cheek on my arm and sucks dreamily at the air. Now I have a half hour to myself. I spend the time wisely, knowing that whatever I face tomorrow, I have gazed upon the face of a little angel tonight.

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