Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Working Mom

I feel like I need to preface this post with a magnitude of disclaimers. Truth be told, discussing the issue of a mom working outside the house is an extremely controversial one. I am not wishing to stir up any strife, or state how I think everyone should view this touchy topic. No, I am merely using my blog to express some tumultuous emotions that I have been experiencing of late.

I have started to write this post many times, and then backspaced through it as I thought of people who might read it...judging me.

But this morning, I have decided that I need to post this. I need to discuss logically how I am feeling and see if I can find an empathetic soul who perhaps has felt this same way and has some advice/words of encouragement for me.

Here's the deal. I work outside the home- part time as a high school instrumental teacher. This is my third year teaching. I am at work every other day (M,W,F one week T,Th the next)

The schedule is actually a really great mom schedule. Ideal, really. It gives me the chance to do something that I love to do (and have two degrees for) and yet still spend a substantial amount of time with my baby.

The problem is- this past year has been so, so stressful. The heart surgeries, the doctor's appointments, the therapy visits, the lack of hope, the joy, teaching Addison to eat on her own and getting rid of a g-tube, adjusting mentally to the fact that my life has taken an unexpected twist through the child that I was given. That list could really go on and on.

The physical and emotional energy that I have given to Addison since she was born to us last Feb is everything that I have.

The weird thing is, now that things are calming down with her health- she doesn't have as demanding of a doctor's schedule- it's like everything is catching up with me from the past year.

Everything that I went through this past year as a new mom, I did it with a smile and got through it because I had to. I had to be there for my daughter.

But now, it's like everything has hit me for the first time. I am paralyzed with stress. Everything I look at or attempt to do, makes my heart start beating faster and I feel my pulse start to race. (this is so odd to me. why is it just now hitting me hard? addison is now healthy.)

I sat by while my daughter was being operated on three times this past year, and felt pretty much no stress. I guess I just knew that everything was going to be OK. I knew that God had the surgeries under control.

But now as we have fallen into our family's new normal, I find my own balance tetteering out of control. My desire to do different things has shifted to wanted to help my daughter in every way possible. My passion for music has changed into a passion for being Addison's mom.

The reason I am posting this is because I am desperately trying to grapple with why I am feeling this way. Why for the past month or so, I have been so extremely stressed at the slightest thing. Why the things that I used to love to do now seems insignificant to me.

Why I feel that perhaps the working mom thing isn't for me. If I had had a "normal" child without the physical and developmental difficulty, would I feel differently? Perhaps. I don't know.

But here's the problem. Over my break, I have come to this conclusion. Addison takes all of my emotional energy as well as recovering from the stressful past year. I feel like I have nothing left to give to my job.

But I have to keep working to carry our health insurance.

How do I compromise these things? I feel like I need time to just figure out myself again. I need to somehow get rid of this giant weight of stress pressing down and threatening to crush the life right out of me. I know that sounds ridiculous, but I honestly have been struggling with this.

It's not that I'm feeling guilty for leaving Addison with our wonderful PCA on the days that I work. No, I feel guilty that after I come home from work I have nothing left to give to Addison.

Being a teacher in a young music program is extremely stressful. Especially with talk of such extreme budget cuts for the next year. I find myself swallowed up by a magnitude of stress every time I just walk in the doors of school. Is it as stressful as I am making it out to be? Not sure. I just know that everything that I view now is viewed through stress colored glasses- no a stress colored magnifying glass.

Please don't judge me. Please don't post placating remarks if you have no idea what I'm talking about.

But if you have experienced emotions like these- how did you work through it? How did you drum up the emotional energy for a special needs child as well as a demanding job?

How do you give them both the attention they need without feeling like a failure at both at the end of each day?

I know I usually don't post such a needy post, but for me to past on a smile and pretend like nothing is wrong would be me lying to myself.

Also- apologies for using the word "stress" so frequently in this post. I know good writing means mixing up the words used, but the melody of my life seems to revolve above a drone of stress.

Any and all encouragement would be appreciated (except for the forementioned placating ones)

Thank you in advance.


  1. while I don't have children with special needs, I can empahize completely with how you feel. I was working full time when I had athena, and was able to drop my hours when I went back to work, but still, it was the hardest thing I had ever had to do, and if I could change it, I would. I feel as if her and I do not have the bond that caleb and I do because I want her primary caretaker...my mom was. and as thankful as I am that it was my mom caring for her, the two of them have the bond that I wish I had with my daughter.....you cant get back those beginning years. I was blessed to have a great part time job when I had caleb and only worked 2 days a week...that was ideal. Now I have been home with the kids since moving and it has been great, BUT my personality needs that "break" that I had when I was working part time...which is why I am looking for a part time job.
    Each mom has to do what is right for them and their kids. Not what society, or people in your church, or even family members tell you you SHOULD do....it is not an easy decision. I have also been the one who has held health insurance so I understand that burden as well!!
    Praying for you, and feel free to email me if you want to "chat" more.
    Hang in there! and remember no matter what happens you will always be addisons mommy, and she will always love you! :)

  2. I completely understand the sudden lack of desire to have a profession. I have two degrees and wanted to get my doctorate...until I had my baby. Now I don't want to be a professional as much. It isn't as important. That's how God made us, I think. We are born with a desire to mother. Don't feel about how you're feeling. Do what is right for you, and don't feel guilty. It's your life, your family. And ask for help if you need it. I'm sure there are people out there who would be totally willing to help.
    Praying for you.

  3. Ok, I have read through this twice and I just want you to know I really, REALLY, feel for you!! I am trying to think of what I can say that wont piss you off, lol...
    I havnt been in the EXACT sitution as you, but one similar to it, so I can totaly understand how you can be feeling this way. In my situtation I ended up having to quit my job because I did not have the physical or mental energy to do both...But my decision wasnt as difficult as yours because of the health insurance issue...Thats a tough one. I dont understand the American Health System, but is there any way you can take some sort of leave of absence or break for a month or so and still be covered? Sometimes all a person needs is a small break and then they find their balance again.
    Its easy to see why all of this is hitting you just now...All year you have had to be strong and brave and hold it all together for your daughter and now that she is doing great and healthy your body is suddenly realizing exactly what it has been through all this time and it is now starting to process everything, and maybe now that you dont feel like you have to hold yourself together and be strong, it feels like everything is falling apart...That probably doesnt make sense...I know what I am trying to say but cant explain it the way I want....errrr.
    Anyway, Deanna I admired your strength...I wish I had some great advice or words of wisdom for you, but I guess I dont. Just know I am thinking of you my friend, and hoping you get through this ok.

  4. Deanna--
    I have no children but have worked full-time my whole life because I am single. I have shared feelings about this dilemma with numerous former students who are Moms. You will have to do what is best for you. But a couple of things:

    --Do this one day at a time. God's mercies are new every morning.

    --When you teach, think about that you are doing thing because you LOVE music and iti is a gift God has given you to share.

    --If you can hire someone a couple of hours a week or every other to help do some basics at home, that can help.

    --Remember lots of us are praying for you. I'm sorry I can't stop by, clean the bathrooms. load or unload the dishwasher, and put you into a tub of warm bubble bath and put you to bed early.

  5. I'm probably not going to have the best advice because I haven't been there....but I will say that I worked hard for my degree and now I could care less if I ever use it. I'm happy being at home and being a mom....however I wasn't the one carrying the insurance. If I was I would have had to go back to work or find something to do from home that would at least cover the cost of an insurance policy for my family. I think that over the last 10+ months you have been running on adrenalin and it's what's kept you going and now that things have settled the adrenalin rush is gone and so you're slowing down and feeling stressed. This may sound a little dramatic, but you could also have a little post traumatic stress syndrome??? Not know if your baby is going to live would be stressful for anyone and can build up and fester over time. Maybe you can find a good Dr who you can talk too....maybe they can get you on medical disability for the remainder of the school year and you can start fresh next fall? I'm not sure what the rules and laws are there, but my friend who is a teach had all of last year off, she kept her job and her benefits and returned to work once her dr. released her....just an option.

    Whatever you do, give yourself a break and don't be too hard on yourself. You have been through more than most mom's will ever go through and Addison isn't even 1. Big hugs and please know that you'll never be judged for anything you say....at least not by me!

  6. I am also a part-time-working mom (though I think as a mom, you're ALWAYS working!), and I understand your dilemma. Though I don't have a special needs child, I do have 3 children under school-age, so time becomes a real factor. I feel like I am often doing 2 things poorly, and I HATE that. I want to do it all, and I want it ALL to be excellent. I still struggle with this, but have come to the place where I just have to know that, though I am competent to do my job, I'm not going to be at the top of my professional game again until they are older. I think it really is a sacrifice for me to "stay home" because I enjoy what I do professionally, and would miss it if I didn't have the opportunity to work part-time. But I do understand how it is to be stressed and stretched thin, and I have to trust that I am doing the best I can with my circumstances.

    PS It took me 30 years to realize that no matter what, people will judge you one way or the other. You can't please everyone (and sometimes ANYone) so just be yourself and let that be enough. :-)

  7. You said, “Why the things that I used to love to do, now seems insignificant to me.” I relate to that statement quite well. God has changed my value system, especially in the last few years. Music is still important to me, teaching music is exciting; yet it all has taken on a new hue. Music has a different role in my life. Instead of it being the definition of me, music is just a tool in my hands for a higher purpose.
    For you, Addison has been and is a much higher purpose than your job. (Though for now, God has necessitated employment in your life.) He will give you the strength for the present as He has in the past. It is just a different set of emotions to get used to. God is growing you. It is only in the midst of obstacles that our growing muscles are exercised. Addison is growing and so is her mom. I’m proud of you Deanna! And I am especially proud of Chubbs.
    Your band director dad

  8. I have to agree w/ your Dad, Deanna......these are growing pains.....and you've done an immense amount of growing in the last year and a half. Now you have to learn to function in the new you. This is something you and Aaron have to work through. I also agree w/ Doc.....God's mercies are new every morning, we just have to claim them for each day. Sometimes we get so caught up in the day-to-day, then looking at the immense future, that we forget to claims God's promises for this moment.
    Love you!!!!

  9. I was just having a conversation with my husband about work. I too am in a school. I am off on maternity leave for the whole year and go back next fall. I work 4 days/week. I have my Master's degree. I am a school counselor and love helping people. However, I am already unsure of how I am going to do it. I have 3 kids, all under the age of 5. My LO with Ds is 5 months old. My husband carries the insurance. He also travels. How am I going to do it? I struggled with the emotional part of this the most with my first. I was sad. I would lay in bed and tell my husband "I am sad. I want to be with him." I still feel the same, but not as much. I hire a housekeeper to come in every other week. I do not leave the boys on weekends or evenings like I do now (not all the time, but more without as much guilt cuz I'm with them during the week). This is such a hard thing. I honestly feel like most mom's should be with their kids as much as they can (as much as they can!). This is a balancing act. I'd say give it the rest of this school year. Have summer break. Think about the future. Do you want more kids? When your LO's are in school, do you want the school schedule? I mean, your .5 time is awesome!! This is a hard time of year and even more so with a kiddo. She will not resent you. I'd venture to say if you like her provider, then it's a good situation. Yes, your heart is for her, and that is how it should be. I heard something once that I liked: "Being a mom is a priority for me, but it is not my only one". Best wishes figuring this out. If you decide to stay home, that is a good choice as much as deciding to work outside the home.

  10. I hope that made sense. I think what you are doing is great. If you were gone every day until 6pm, I'd say it might not be the best for her. But, that is not your case. By the way, I did the math once and figured out if I worked 5 days a week, all year (at my 80% school schedule), then I'd only work 7 months of the year. That is 5 months off every year! For you, it would be more like working 5 months of the year and having 7 months off! That is really good. Does that help? Maybe your point is just that you're not emotionally in to it because you'd rather be a mom. I get that too. That is something I wrestle with. Aren't we blessed to have the option?

  11. I so understand...When Claire was really small there was constant stress. Her NICU stay when she was born and first heart surgery, RSV and that hospital stay, OHS...and through it all I was calm and together. Her cardiac surgeon was a little worried about me, I think, because I wasn't freaking out. I knew she would be fine though.

    I too work part time, 3 days a week, and also bring work home with me at least once a week. These days I'm so incredibly scattered. Not stressed really, but I don't feel like any part of my life has my full attention. Claire suffers, hubby suffers, my house suffers, work suffers, I suffer...but for me, I NEED to work. Not financially, but mentally. I would not be a good stay at home mom, and I know that, and I'm good with it.

    I'm a slacker with Claire's therapy, so I don't think a "normal" child would help. I think it is truly just adjusting to having a child and balancing work, home and baby. I don't have a magic answer for you, but just want to say if you love your work, and I think you do, that you may regret it if you don't stay with it in some way. That doesn't mean you have to stay with your job if its stressful, but I don't think you should lose yourself to take care of Addison.

  12. Hi Deanna, I believe you're right on schedule, and right where you should be. You've certainly experienced more in the last year or so than you could have ever imagined; are you surprised that you've changed?

    Here's my story. I was 39 when I became pregnant, and was convinced I'd go right back to IBM after my daughter was born on 2/7/99, feeling ever so grateful just to be pregnant. After she was born, I returned to work in June, able to cut back to four days per week. But several months later my position changed and I had to work every day - the kind of work where you stay at it until the job is done, not the kind where you go home when the clock says so. Then I needed to travel overnight too. I did it once, and I took my mother and daughter with me.

    By then I was terribly unhappy, and either my daughter or I was sick all the time it seemed, and I was worn out. The final straw was when a day after staying up past midnight working on another "important" work thing that I didn't finish, I found out my daughter had double ear infections. Boy, I was lousy at everything I was doing; no longer good at my job, and anguishing over not providing proper care for the daughter I loved so dearly. (Note also that she didn't seem to mind going to daycare; it was me who hated leaving her there.)

    After one year of trying to do it all, I left IBM. I'd had a very good salary and benefits there, so I took a leave of absence secretly hoping I wouldn't have to return. We made some major financial changes, but we've survived.

    Now, with my daughter approaching 12, I am so grateful to have spent those early years with her. Being an older mom, I don't know how much of our life we'll get to share, so those years together were priceless. I also used that time to explore other interests and will always think of that time as some of the most fulfilling years of my life. I put on hold some activities I enjoy but added others instead. My priorities changed, and still do today.

    There came a time when my daughter and I needed time apart. We probably were too dependent on one another. It was very hard sending her to pre-school and on! But I had to for her sake, and mine too. I was more rested and ready to work, but my interests and passions had changed, and I did not return to IBM.

    So I don't know if it helps to hear my story. But I think you need some time to rest and rejuvenate. Your fight-or-flight instincts were in full gear, and now that things are settling down, you're EXHAUSTED!! Accept help from others. If teaching part time on Red days isn't the right fit right now, something else will be when it's supposed to. Have faith and trust in yourself and others; you're extremely talented, and an excellent writer and more.


Thanks for reading about my Everything and Nothing. I would love to hear from you!