Embrace The Reality That We Can Not Have It All By Writing Your Own 'Departure Memo'

4 years ago

On weekdays, mothers and fathers arrive at my house after battling to get their children ready and out the door to drop their kids off at my home-based daycare. When they get here I can see the conflict in their eyes. They hate saying goodbye, but they have to work and most have to prepare to battle their next barrier of the day – traffic.

I sympathize with the parents because I have been there. I remember all too well how stressful my commute with multiple drop-offs was for me when I worked out of the home. I was hardly ever on-time and I hated driving in traffic just to sit behind a desk and do what I knew could be accomplished from home.

It is not easy. For anyone.

So, I probably should have more sympathy for the mother who wrote the widely circulated and discussed departure memo that details her long day as justification for resigning from her “big time” law job in Washington DC.

But, truthfully I found her memo, which first appeared in the legal blog Above The Law, annoying and unremarkable. She excruciatingly details her day, which begins at 4 am with a crying baby and ends trying to play catch-up with work at 1 am.

Her memo wasn’t a call to arms message for her employer. Nor was it even meant to champion on behalf of working mothers everywhere (she had no idea it would go viral). This memo was simply a way to justify her decision.

Most mothers I know feel at times like they are simply treading water. We take on too much and place unfair expectations on ourselves to “do it all.” No one can do it all. Not well anyway. You don’t have to be a big time lawyer to understand how difficult it is to find the balance between work and family.

But, a privileged big time lawyer should know better than to complain about how hard she has it when so many other mothers are managing and sacrificing so much more just to put food on the table for their family.  I suppose this is the crux of the issue for me.

Unlike many women, this mother has choices. Lots of them. She could hire more help (with her big time lawyer salary), get a new job, quit her job (as she did), or like one of my favorite bloggers Wired Momma points out in her blog post today – stop trying to control everything and actually make her husband step-up and divide the child rearing responsibilities a little more evenly.

I’m not trying to belittle her feelings. I can tell she is overwhelmed. But, life is about finding that balance. Sometimes you have to let things go. Sometimes you have to ask for help. Sometimes you have to accept that change is needed. The ideas and plans you have for yourself, both professionally and personally, are constantly evolving.

To prove that you don’t have to be a “big time” lawyer Mom to have days like the one she outlines I encourage you to write your own memo. Perhaps this will give you some insight into where you are spending your time and how it compares to this mom's hectic schedule.

Maybe we can start our own new Mommy battle where the winner is the one working the longest hours and experiencing the biggest hardships. I have a feeling though that the winner wouldn’t be me, or that big-time lawyer. Instead, it would be the single Mom working three jobs just to pay for gas and groceries who does not have the time to outline her day – much less read blogs detailing how hard we have it.

Since no one asked, I’m including my Memo below (although I warn you it is also excruciatingly detailed).

The Tiny Steps Mommy Day in the Life Memo

  • 5:45 am – Get up and make breakfast for my 13-year-old who catches his bus at 6:30 am. Make and pack three school lunches. Run the dishwasher. Fold clothes in dryer and move load that sat wet in washer all night long to the dryer. Feed and let out dog. Set-out clothes for two middle children.
  • 6:30 am – Tip toe by baby’s room as not to wake her. Brush teeth, shower, and change.
  • 7 am – Open for business and start greeting children with hair sopping wet (no time to blow dry). Make and hopefully drink coffee. Battle with five and six-year-old to get dressed and eat.
  • 8 am – Serve daycare kids breakfast while greeting others that arrive one-at-a-time (sometimes pulling children from their parents and using my distraction techniques to settle them in).
  • 8:15-8:30 am – Yell Kindly ask my five and six-year-old to brush their hair, and get their shoes and coats on to catch their bus multiple times.
  • 8:30 am – Thank the stars that my assistant has arrived, so I can put my kids on the bus and get my 18-month-old daughter out of her crib (on days she actually makes it that long).
  • 9 am – 10:30  am – Have circle time with preschoolers and start them on activities, put babies in their beds for nap, resolve conflicts, soothe crying babes, change diapers, wipe noses, and try to ignore a couple of tantrums.
  • 10:30 am – Realize that I haven’t used the bathroom since 5:45 am or had anything to eat or drink other than coffee. Take 10 minute regrouping break before starting to make lunch for kids – thank goodness for an assistant. Spend 30 minutes one-on-one with my youngest daughter upstairs while I make lunch.
  • 11 am – 12 pm – Serve lunch, change more diapers, read stories, get ready for nap time.
  • 12:30 – 3 pm – My assistant and I take turns caring for the infants while the older children nap. Eat lunch, check my social media sites, return calls from parents looking for daycare, try to edit a blog post, start dinner in slow cooker (when I remember). Fold more clothes. Try to put babies down by 1:30 pm, for some whole house quiet time. Afternoon assistant arrives at 2 pm.
  • 3 pm – 3:30 pm – Wake children. More diapers, power struggles, tantrums, and nose wiping. Oldest is home from school and I try to take a few minutes to ask about his day (usually his response is monosyllabic).
  • 3:30 pm – Snack time
  • 3:45 pm/4 pm- Husband is home from work. He greets five- and six-year-old from bus and helps them with homework. I quickly kiss them all and try to get them to tell me about their days (more monosyllabic responses).
  • 4 pm – 5:30 pm – Free play, outside time, pick-up time. My afternoon assistant then cleans and vacuums the daycare area while I change my clothes.
  • 6 – 7 pm - Head to gym for workout while husband serves kids dinner that I made.
  • 7:15 pm – 9 pm – Eat my dinner alone, play with kids, spend some time with my oldest, and share in the bedtime routine with my husband.
  • 9 pm – 11 pm – Get on computer. Write, read articles, check social media sites. Maybe squeeze in a recorded Grey’s Anatomy episode or spend some time catching up with my hubby.
  • 11 ish pm – 5:45 am – Sleep, but wake at least twice thanks to kids trying to crawl into my bed, or baby deciding not to sleep all the way through.

So, if you actually read through my entire day, what do you think? I think I’m blessed and I wouldn’t trade even one minute. BTW, did you notice that I couldn’t do any of it without the right amount of help?

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