THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS A PART-TIME MOM

THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS A PART-TIME MOM

From Chicken Soup for the Working Mom's Soul

There’s No Such Thing as a Part-Time Mom

When my oldest children, Jennifer and Tiffany, were small, I agreed to work three mornings a week at their preschool. This meant the exhausting routine of having two small bodies in the car and ready to go by seven forty-five on these mornings. Still, the preschool let out at eleven thirty, so I happily thought there would be plenty of day left to get everything else done.

It wasn’t long until I realized a fly was in this sweet ointment. What worked so well in my head, soon paled in the face of reality. Working part-time took more time than I’d planned. There were meetings at school and preparations to be made for the next day. We rarely left the school before noon.

I thought it made sense to go grocery shopping on the way home from school. The children had eaten a midmorning snack, and I assumed it would hold them through an hour of shopping. What I didn’t ask was what would hold me through an hour of shopping?

I’d spent three hours with lively four-year-olds. I was tired and hungry. Now I’d dragged along two tired children who took up half the grocery cart and wanted everything from toaster treats to corn dogs. Those sounded pretty good to me, too. Unfortunately, my budget bit the dust as did my waistline.

My oldest girl loved to “mommy” her sister. On one fateful trip, I unloaded the girls at the checkout and fixed my attention on the groceries. In less than a minute, the two-year-old began to wail, and I turned to see her clasped in a bear hug.

“Let go of your sister,” I told my four-year-old.

She sighed, looking as though I was making a big mistake. “She wouldn’t leave the candy alone.”

She let go, and Tiffany gnawed through a chocolate bar, which was added to the tab.

On the next trip, I bought them gumballs from the machine. My oldest daughter loved to put in the money and take out the balls. This time her small hand proved unequal to the task. Of the two large balls, one rolled across the floor.

“Oops,” she said, “Tiffany’s is gone.”

Tiffany wailed. We got more gumballs. An unequal number was the result. I had to chew the third to avoid more tears. My jaws were locked for a week.

By now, I was smart enough to know I had to adjust my thinking. I didn’t tackle the store on the way home from school anymore. We shopped on one of the mornings we had story hour and playgroups. Life was busy.

That left my other day off for cleaning. The girls knew it was coming. We did it every week. Yet every time, it came as a surprise. I told them to pick up their toys and be ready by the time I got to their room. As I vacuumed the hall, coming ever nearer their doorway, the screams would begin.

“Hurry! Hurry! She’s coming,” Jennifer would yell.

Tiffany would cry and crawl atop the bed.

I felt like Attila the Hun.

I’d turn off the vacuum to find they’d been playing the whole time. The room was a mess, toys scattered all over the floor and Jennifer trying frantically to rescue them at the last minute from the noisy jaws of death.

I’d sigh and give them a little longer to clean up.

Three mornings a week had sounded so reasonable when I signed on. What I hadn’t counted on was that whatever time I spent at work had to be made up at home. I spent the girls’ nap time on lesson planning, so we did things together when they awoke.

Gradually, I learned to work the job around my family.

And that’s what I’ve continued to do. I’ve discovered, whether through part-time or full-time work, families are a full-time job.

The kids are older and the activities are different. And somehow we have adjusted, some days more smoothly than others. I work full time now. Yet I know when I get home, there will be full-time parenting and full-time housework.

Forgotten notes for cookies come at the last minute, and driving lessons conflict with work schedules. Yet it all works out.

Moms have the incredible ability to morph to meet the needs of their families. Perhaps it’s magic. Or perhaps it’s determination.

Whatever it is, it lies in the soul of a working mom.

Karen Cogan

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