“Hi Julia!” I hear across the grocery store. I look up to see a woman addressing my six-year-old.
“Who is that?” I whisper to my daughter as we turn down another aisle. “That’s Riley’s mom,” she replies like I’m supposed to know. But I don’t because I’m never in the schoolyard at 3:30 pm when class lets out. I don’t know the other kids, let alone the parents of the other kids.
Welcome to the world of being a working parent. One who drops their kids off well before the school bell and races home from work to make it just minutes before the 6 pm daycare deadline.
After six years, three types of childcare and two kids, here are some of the hard (and not so hard) realities I’ve learned.
The Hard Truths of Being a Working Parent
1. The first 18 months of daycare will be filled with more fevers, colds, viruses and flu than you ever thought possible for one person to catch. And you’ll likely get every single one of those illnesses too.
2. You’ll pretty much be on your deathbed before you dare take one of your sick days for yourself. You need to reserve those suckers (see point 1).
3. At the hint of a fever you’ll administer a dose of Advil/Tylenol and pray it gets them through at least the morning because you know you can’t miss another full day of work. But in your gut, you know that phone call is coming at some point that day.
4. You’ll hand your screaming child off to a daycare worker and run out the door hoping the crying will subside before you leave the building. This will happen more times than you can count.
5. Despite your best intentions, you’ll spend at least two hours getting out the door every morning. And one bad traffic jam or transit delay will mean you’re late. Again.
6. Some days it will feel like you’ve gone to battle before you’ve even left the house. You’ll daydream about your childless co-workers’ leisurely mornings of workouts, coffees and strolls to the office.
7. There are nights you won’t sleep more than two hours, but you’ll function surprisingly well and no one will know the difference except you and your barista.
8. You’ll raise your voice to get your kids moving out the door, then you’ll cry on the way to work thinking about the look on their little face when you yelled.
9. Every day you’ll question your choices, but hope that you’re giving your kid a strong role model of balancing a career with parenthood.
10. You’ll worry you’re messing up or shortchanging your kids of an idyllic childhood with a stay-at-home parent. But you know you’re actually a much more patient parent because you don’t parent 24 hours a day. (OK, maybe this one is just me. But after two 12-month maternity leaves, I know being a SAH parent doesn’t bring out my most patient self.)
11. You won’t know many of the other parents in your kid’s class because you rarely get to do school drop-off or pick-up.
12. You’ll see moms in their workout gear in your neighbourhood and dream about your life including one daytime workout (or any workouts at all).
13. At least once a month you’ll do the math to try and figure out if there’s a way to work less and be home more. But the truth is you love your job and know that it gives you a different kind of fulfillment that (hopefully) makes you a better parent.
14. Weeknights will suck. You’ll rush home from work only to rush your exhausted cranky little people to bed.
15. But weekends are epic. You’ll savour those slow Saturday and Sunday mornings with your crew. And the simple act of eating pizza and watching a movie on a Friday with your little one will give you more fulfillment than any night on the town could ever offer.