When I was a child, my parents’ roles were clear-cut and well-defined. Mom managed the family and Dad paid the bills. But just 30 years later, my own family structure hardly resembles that one. Both my husband and I work while also raising our 3-year-old daughter. Although I wouldn’t sacrifice my career or my family, my blended role is completely different one from the separate ones my parents held. Here’s what my mom never had to do:
1. Miss school events, parties and celebrations. My mom was at every school function and served as class mom. This year I traveled for work during my daughter’s Halloween parade … and sobbed for an hour.
2. Cram a week’s worth of personal time into just one weekend. My mother shopped for groceries, cleaned the house, did laundry and had coffee with friends at her own pace during the week. I, however, have to jam all of that into two days a week.
3. Fear losing her job. No matter my mother’s performance, her position as Mom was pretty secure. She wasn’t nervous about getting fired or losing her ability to pay the mortgage.
4. Only see her child awake for two hours each weekday. I’m sure my mother was tired after spending all day and night with me, but the other extreme is just as unfair. I only see my daughter a little in the morning and a little before bedtime during the week.
5. Constantly worry about childcare. Mom was almost always there, but on the rare occasions she wasn’t, we had others to help. As a working mom, I panic when my daughter is sick, stress about who will take her to and from afterschool activities and anxiously watch the clock when I have to stay late at work.
6. Be told she isn’t raising her children. Staying home meant my mom raised her children. But if I believed comments from social media and strangers, daycare is raising my little girl. Apparently, daycare also tucks in my daughter at night, lets her puke all over them and instills my values and morals in her.
7. Earn a salary. My mom’s role was to take care of me. She was to love and nurture and support. Making sure we had enough money to live comfortably was my dad’s job. But now it’s mine as well.
And my father never had to:
8. Pump in a dusty closet. In case you weren’t sure, my dad didn’t breastfeed. I, on the other hand, expressed breast milk in a tiny, old closet and had to excuse myself early from meetings because I was leaking.
9. Experience sheer exhaustion. My stay-at-home mother let my father sleep through colicky fits while she tended to me. Since I was nursing, I found myself napping in my car during lunch breaks to make up for my sleepless nights.
10. Manage the household from the office. When my father was at work, he was at work. He wasn’t trying to find time to make doctors’ appointments, go grocery shopping or plan birthday parties in between meetings.
11. Manage the household at home. When my father was at home, he got to unwind. I, however, am still primarily responsible for cooking dinner, cleaning the house and organizing our social life. My husband helps, but it still requires my overall direction.
12. Worry about traveling for work. My father didn’t travel often, but when he did, the household saw little disruption. When I have to travel for work, I have to prepare everything for my absence—from my daughter’s wardrobe to frozen meals for my husband.
13. Wonder if they were good parents. Being at work meant my father missed out on a chunk of my childhood. But I doubt he ever questioned whether he was a bad dad because of it. As a working mother, however, I wonder every day if having a career is worth the time missed with my small child.
14. Do the “mothering.” My father’s role was to put a roof over our heads and clothes on our backs. Packing our lunches, making our Halloween costumes and singing us lullabies was my mother’s. And no matter what my title is at work, society still implies that my role as a mother is way more important.
But despite its struggles, I’m proud of being a working mother. Like my DNA, it evenly reflects the two halves of my parents: the working from my dad and the mother from my mom. But I still hope that one day, we live in a world where we won’t need any titles at all.
Nicole Beniamini lives in New Jersey with her husband and daughter and works as a Director of Research at Edison Research.