I'm a working mom, and I'm exhausted. This is all the invisible work I do.
- I work full time, am married, and have three kids under age 4.
- On top of my actual job, I do tons of invisible work related to my children and their well-being.
- Like many parents, I'm at a breaking point because of the coronavirus pandemic.
- For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.
The other day, as I was answering the simple question of "How did your day go?" which my husband always asks as we pick up our kids from school, I went through the list of all the things I had done for work. It was a lot and still didn't feel like enough.
Then I paused and started listing all the things I did outside work, and it was even more.
I changed three kids, packed three lunches, fed three breakfasts, loaded everyone into a car, and put away laundry for five people, all before 9am. Then I edited other people's stories, wrote two pieces, and corresponded with at least 10 people over email. During my quick lunch break, I called my doctor to schedule a yearly checkup for me and my husband.
After work, I went with my husband to pick up the kids; entertained them while dinner was getting ready; ate two nuggets standing up while one of the twins yelled in my ear; changed everyone into pajamas; read the kids about three books; and put everyone down to bed.
Once they were asleep I picked up all the toys, helped my husband with the trash and the dishes, and cried.
Parents do so much invisible work
I'm not the first to voice how working parents in the US during a pandemic are at their wit's end. It's been covered. It's been talked about at length. Tweets have gone viral. But this is not what I expected working parenthood to be.
Right now it feels as if I have three full-time jobs. My actual job, taking care of my kids, and taking care of the house.
I'm an only child, and my mom had copious amounts of help while also being a stay-at-home mom. Both my grandmothers came over regularly to take care of me, and they had live-in help. When I try to convey to my mom that both my husband and I are hanging on by a thread, she doesn't get it. We don't have grandparents around who can tap us out, and we can't afford more help than what we've got.
The worst part of it all is that we don't have it that bad. We have someone who comes regularly to clean our home. Our three kids are able to go to in-person school. I love my job and can work from home. Most important, I have an involved partner who does equally as much, if not more, of the child-related tasks.
None of this is new, but also we need to keep talking about it
It's hard to articulate all this to child-free people. First because, yes, I chose this life. But also because time is not mine anymore, and that is a concept you don't truly get until you have a baby. There is no downtime when you have kids.
You are always on edge about something (maybe they coughed while napping and now you're googling Covid-19 symptoms) and always planning the next thing - a doctor's appointment, or soccer practice, or family photo. You're constantly trying to get them fed, bathed, and changed.
Earlier this week, I woke up at 4:30am because one of the twins wasn't feeling well. She proceeded to wake up the entire house with her screams, so my day and list of invisible work got longer.
I had to walk up and down our street with a baby strapped to my chest while she took a nap at 8am before I even checked my work email. And I genuinely can't tell you when I most recently showered.
We, as a society, need to keep talking about this - not only to get actual change for working parents, especially moms, but also to keep expectations realistic for those who are thinking about having kids. The world has long expected parents to work full time and raise children without a safety net. The pandemic just put it in front of everyone's eyes.
Get the best of our site emailed to you every weekday.
Go to the Business Insider front page for more stories.