The Totally Unfair Truth About Being A Married, Working Mom


Much of the parenting conversation has centered on the notion of having it all, but anyone who has even some of it knows that it’s less about “having” and more about “doing.” In our series Mother's Day, we ask some of the most highly functioning parents we know exactly what they fit into a typical day, and how the hell they do it.

For Angela*, 35, a physician's assistant in an oncology department in Chicago, a typical day also sounds like a very difficult day. To keep her family of four afloat, she says she has to be "100% mom and 100% employee" (which, yes, adds up to two entire people), while it's "okay" for her husband to just be the one guy (and he still has time to go to the gym). Angela's literally trying to cure women's cancer at work, and she's facing antiquated gender roles and unfair standards at home; her husband doesn't do enough, and she's tired. Her job can be gut-wrenching, but she says her two boys save her life every time she walks in the door. Read on to see what this mom fits into her day — and what she does for a paltry 20 minutes of peace at the end of it.

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Job: As a physician assistant, I work with a team of doctors. I can diagnosis, treat, and prescribe medications. I spent five years doing Ob/Gyn for an underserved community; now I'm at an academic medical center in gynecologic oncology. I have always worked 40-plus hours a week. I was able to take 12 weeks of maternity leave for each kid — not nearly enough time, but don't get me started!

Parenting with: Rick, my husband. He works in retail management and has a slightly more flexible schedule than me; he's home with the kids one weekday (with help!) and works one weekend day instead.
Morning Routine
Brady, my 4-year-old, often wakes at 5 a.m. or so to get in bed with me. Not a big deal during the week, but on weekends it stinks. I can never sleep with him in the bed. My husband is always knocked out cold. No fair. The alarm goes off almost immediately after the little bug jumps in, and I hit snooze.
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When I wake up, B's often curled around me, which sounds sweet but I've already missed out on an hour of sleep at this point with him kicking and nudging me. Our 2-year-old, Jack, is a rock-star sleeper, so at least we have that. I am also so fortunate to have an amazing nanny who works 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. (yes, 12 hours) three days a week, and she's always on time to get me on my way. (I have asked her to be my wife but she pointed out that I am already married, and her boyfriend said no.)

I have to be at work by 6:45 a.m. every day, so I spend next to no time getting ready — I would rather sleep. Before kids, I always looked fairly cute. After one kid: still presentable. After two? I could care less. I wear a white coat in front of patients, anyway.

I usually don't eat anything or drink coffee until 30 minutes or so into my work day. I have to make sure no craziness is happening first.

I would gladly trade money for more support.

Right now, Rick doesn't have to deal with morning duties, but when Brady starts pre-K this fall he will need to drop him off. Now, he goes to the gym every day, while I head to work. Let's just say I am a little bitter.

I have to be at work before Brady will be up — I told Rick either he does Brady's morning, or I quit my job. I have chemo infusions and prognosis/diagnosis meetings that are happening at 7 a.m. He has the gym. Without going on and on, I am pressured to be 100% mom and 100% employee, when it's "okay" for Rick to just be 100% at work. I earn slightly more than he does, and from my perspective, he's trying to work harder outside the home to make up for the fact that I do everything for the household and still pull my weight financially. But I would gladly trade money for more support, help, and his QT with the kids.

Pre-baby I didn't care if Rick was at work all night and worked out every day for three hours. I loved my independence, my space, my free time. Now I just feel like a single parent.
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Brady is in summer camp from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. every day; the nanny takes him, and then stays with Jack. Once Brady heads to pre-K, we may not keep the nanny, and panic will set in regarding after-school care. A 5:30 p.m. "late" pickup will not cut it for our work schedules.

I eat quickly and do these things by phone; it's amazing how much you can accomplish!

My gig never really stops. I need to be available at all times during my work day for medical emergencies. I eat while doing charts or reviewing results, etc. Occasionally I can squeeze in an Amazon purchase or pay a bill from my iPhone.

I think about the boys all the time, but there are moments when work is so crazy, and patients are so sick, that I miss calls from the nanny or forget to check in. I have missed calls about my son being ill because I am taking care of ill people at work. It's the worst.

Even so, I make all the kids' doctor, dentist, haircut appointments. I do all the school, camp, and class registrations. I arrange all the playdates and trips to the zoo, water park, and museums. I plan all the parties; I buy all their essentials. I manage all of their illnesses, including medication schedules, etc. I usually eat quickly and do these things by phone, mostly while working; it's amazing how much you can accomplish!
Evening Routine
My kids save me every day. Before kids, I would stress (and at times straight-up obsess) about the day's events and that one sick patient I couldn't reach. These days, regardless of how crazy and sad the day has been, I find myself picturing my kiddos' faces as I head home. By the time I walk through the door, I am Mommy and no longer a Gyn-Onc PA — not that I forgot about my sick patients or the stuff I need to catch up on, but I put it on hold. For someone who tends to always be worried about something, this is a big accomplishment. And yet it came totally naturally. Motherhood is quite a strong phenomenon!
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I race home to relieve the nanny. Jack is usually still napping, so I can jump in the shower quickly, while Brady plays. I then get their dinner together and feed them both (sometimes one at a time depending on when Jack wakes up). Then, I feed myself and clean up the kitchen and bathrooms, vacuum, and get Brady's stuff ready for camp (while TV is watching the boys). Whatever time is left, I play with them. Rick is usually home by 8 p.m.

Things will not be perfect and that's okay. Your kids will love you anyway.

I always make sure Rick has something ready to eat when he gets home. Whether it's a home-cooked meal, leftovers, or carryout ramen. I only cook two to three times a week at the most. Somehow, the 4-year-old is super picky (Cheerios for days) and my toddler will eat whatever I eat.

I give the boys baths while Rick eats, and then he will get them dressed for bed. I usually escape for 20 minutes or so to have a glass of wine and put away laundry with Bravo on in the background. Then I put Jack to bed and get Brady ready — Rick puts him to bed most nights now. Someone has to lay down with Brady to get him to go to sleep; this, of course, used to be me — until I was about eight months pregnant with Jack and I couldn't stand it any more. I insisted on doing the bedroom-locking thing, but Rick thought it was too mean, and the rest is history. Another sort-of ultimatum I had to give Rick to get him to participate. Jack, my textbook second kid, is an amazing sleeper.
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Now, it's my turn to sleep.

My husband hasn't modified his life like I have. Should I fault him for that? Maybe not, but I do.


I absolutely can’t do it without... Our nanny. Wine. Hugs from my boys. Clean toilets.

My biggest struggle right now is…
Not resenting the fact that everything is on my shoulders all the time. Kids, work, house, family — resentment is an understatement, actually. The one thing I have learned is that I am the one who has changed. I became a mom and take that the MOST seriously. I will always be a physician's assistant, and I will always work my ass off to care for my patients. But I am a mom above all. My husband is the same as always; he has not modified his life like I have. Should I fault him for that? Maybe not...but I do.

How do you feel about your body now, and how is that different from your self-image pre-baby?
Immediately post-baby I tried to stay away from the camera. Now, I know my body is different, but I am proud that I carried and birthed two babies. I am owning my body these days.

What postpartum symptoms are you still dealing with, or did you struggle with after having your children?
I definitely suffered from postpartum depression with Brady but recovered, thankfully. I felt much more myself when Jack was born, and I thank my nanny for that. She worked part-time hours while I was on maternity leave to help out — we couldn't afford it, but did it anyway. You have to prioritize making sure you are okay, for yourself and your family.

Have you come up with a parenting hack that changed the game for you?
Work hard. Play hard. Moms have to get out and do things for themselves to feel normal.

What have you felt the least prepared for so far? Anything you think working moms NEED to know?
There are not enough hours in the day. Especially if your spouse expects you to figure everything out and handle everything at home every day. Accept that things will not be perfect, and that is okay. Your kids will love you anyway. Also remember that it is okay to escape for a few minutes to drink wine and put away laundry with Bravo on.

Ed. note: Names have been changed.

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