How do you balance it all? It’s a question people ask often, and they tend to not like my answer, “Oh, I don’t have balance.” I mean, why pretend?
Balance is an illusion. It doesn’t exist, at least for me. I have smoke and mirrors, and it’s my mask in the race to get it all done as quickly and efficiently as possible while (hopefully) not going bonkers.
Here’s what that looks like:
It’s my first day on the job with a new client—a big one. My first engagement after having my nine-week-old daughter. I arrive to the office with my game face: I’m calm, confident and (appear to) have my shit together. Who has three kids? Not me. I am corporate career, badass, professional today—not a mom in sight. This used to be imposter syndrome. But I’ve had five years to learn to fake it, and now I’m starting to believe my lie.
The morning of the new gig, things are going great. I wake the kids up, successfully get us all ready for our day and out the door to school. Two kids down, one to go. As I pull into the driveway of my son’s school, the last stop before work, he vomits. A lot. It misses me in the driver seat, but it hits all three car seats in the back of the car.
Stay calm, I tell myself. And then I realize I have one hour to get to my first day at my new job. And I panic. DAAAMMMNNN! I was so close.
I pray to the job fairies or angels or gods—or whoever I need to pray to—to let this day work out. By some miracle, by some job fairy god, my mom is home and available (this almost never happens). Flash forward through distracted driving, tossing barf-covered car seats out of my car, wiping off the stress sweat from my forehead, borrowing a shirt, and racing toward my new job with the windows down and the AC on full blast to keep the smell at bay.
I arrive to my new job with five minutes to spare.
I smile and greet my new colleagues. I sneak texts from the women’s bathroom to check on my little guy. As I pay attention to the office orientation and feign excitement for a new project, I am simultaneously entrenched in guilt for leaving my son when he wants his mom most. For prioritizing my work—again. But I suck it up and maintain my game face because my job, at any job, is to make this look easy.
Smoke and mirrors is a working mom requirement.
That’s what smoke and mirrors looks like. And it’s a requirement of working moms, the unspoken bullet point in every job description. Especially if we want advancement. Career moms are required to appear to operate seamlessly in the chaos, to get it done. But behind the curtain, it’s a real shit show. Is it worth it? Yes, if you want a career and a family. But is it easy? No. It’s complicated AF.
Here’s to all the working moms out there, to the hustle, to balancing nothing, to being a good parent, but never feeling like it. Here’s to doing our best to bring it all together and to sticking together amidst the diapers and memos and takeout and sick days and deadlines and blow outs. Here’s to the rockstar working moms. Here’s to the smoke and mirrors.