She’s five minutes late. Again.
Her hair is hastily pulled back into a clip. Makeup sloppily applied at stop lights on the way to work. You recognize that dress – it’s started to pill a bit. She’s had it as long as you can remember.
As she collapses at her desk, you find yourself wondering – what happened to the professional young woman you hired?
Trust me, she’s wondering the same thing.
After feeding the baby at 3am, she tries to force herself back to sleep as quickly as possible knowing the morning will be here before she knows it. She wakes up to her husband getting ready for work – he has to be out the door by 7am. She realizes she doesn’t have time to make him breakfast, and she feels a pang of guilt. She pulls herself out of bed, and tries to do what she can to help make his morning as stress-free as possible – she knows the challenges that await him when he arrives at work. Her two oldest wake up and watch SportsCenter with Daddy as she makes her coffee. Before she knows it, he’s out the door – and she’s wondering how long she has before the baby wakes up and needs to eat again.
She turns on PBS Kids and hopes Wild Kratts will keep her 3 and 5 year old entertained long enough for her to take a shower. She grabs her cup of coffee and takes it in the bedroom, sipping it quickly as if it’s her life source. In some ways, it is. She stares at her closet, wondering what to wear. Just six months post partum, half of the clothes don’t fit and she’s starting to wonder if they ever will again. She tries on two different skirts, both with the same maddening result. Not yet. They go back in the closet. She sees a stretchy black dress that she has worn too many times, but it fits. It’s comfortable. And it’s passable for work. She ducks into the bathroom and takes a quick shower, all the while listening for the baby monitor. As she dries off, she hears her big kids, “Mom, I’m hungry!” She throws on her clothes and rushes out to make their breakfast. Honey Nut Cheerios it is. Again. As she pours their milk, she hears the baby start to cry. His pajamas are wet. Time to move up to the next size diaper? Either way, it’s time to wash the crib sheets. She throws them in the wash while he’s crying, waiting to be fed. She’s trying to breastfeed as long as possible, but she’s wondering how much longer it’s going to be feasible. She finally sits down to nurse him, all the while trying to referee her “big kids” who are engaging in a shoving match as they eat their breakfast.
The baby’s done eating so she lays him on his playmat and implores the big kids to get dressed. “Mom, I want to wear my Optimus Prime shirt.” Of course he does. Is it in the dryer? She hopes so. She goes into the laundry room and sorts through the clothes. No luck. She loads them into a laundry bin and dumps them on her bed to sort through them again. Success. She hopes her husband will understand why their bed is covered in clean laundry. She realizes there are clothes in the washing machine that need changed over. Done. She catches a glimpse of herself in the mirror. Yikes.
“MOM! The baby spit up!” Yes, yes he did. Time to clean the carpet. And the baby. The big kids aren’t dressed yet. “Please get dressed and brush your teeth.” They start to move, slowly, distracted by the tv. It’s not worth the fight. She goes back to get herself ready.
She quickly uses the hair dryer – not enough to finish the job, just to make sure her hair won’t be dripping wet. She pulls it back into a clip. She grabs her make up bag and realizes she doesn’t have time. She throws the bag in her purse. And guess what – the kids still aren’t ready. Frustration overtakes her. She turns off the tv and they spring into action. One needs help putting her shirt on. The other can’t find his shoes. One goes to brush his teeth – she’ll realize after she gets to work that she’s not sure the other one ever brushed her teeth. Oh well.
It’s late. Later than it should be. How does the time fly so quickly in the morning?
She grabs her purse. And her computer bag. And the diaper bag. She wonders what she forgot to put in there for the babysitter. Too late now. She rushes the kids out the door – but first, they want to grab a toy. Of course they do. And of course sister grabs brother’s toy. And a fight ensues. She plays referee again and they’re out the door. She feels like a pack mule as she carries the three bags, and the baby in his car seat, out to the car. Gone are the days of professional-looking pumps – she would likely break an ankle on the way to the car. She feels professional in her wedges – and hopes others will see her that way too. She hastily applies her makeup at the stop lights, noticing the new wrinkles appearing around her eyes and mouth. Where did those come from? A little extra concealer around her eyes. Feels like the coffee hasn’t fully taken effect yet.
She drops her kids off with the babysitter and instantly feels the guilt of leaving them. She gets so few hours with them, and the hours she gets seem so chaotic. She fights the traffic, watching the clock, knowing she’s cutting it close. Too close.
And that’s when you see her. Rushing through the door. Collapsing at her desk. Five minutes late.
And now, as her employer, you have a choice.
How will you respond?
You could reprimand her about being late again. You could comment about her somewhat disheveled appearance. You could give her a disapproving glare.
Or you could bring her a cup of coffee. You could compliment the work she accomplished yesterday and validate her as the professional woman she still longs to be.
This is a season, and it will be over before she blinks. These days are hard, but they won’t last forever. Be kind. Be understanding. And I promise that the professional woman you hired will rise to the occasion. She is strong. She is intelligent. And she is a force to be reckoned with. You are lucky to have her on your team. Make sure she knows that. And I promise, it will pay dividends beyond your expectations.
Don’t compare her with the fresh-faced twenty-something in her brand new Ann Taylor wardrobe with her hair perfectly coiffed. She had that wardrobe once too, with the coordinating Coach purse. That was before daycare bills. Dentist bills. A mortgage. Back when she slept through the night, had time to go to the gym in the morning, and could make herself a healthy smoothie before work. You know what she has that the recent college grad doesn’t have? Experience. Resilience. Dedication. And a solid dose of determination that gets her through the long days and long nights. And guess what? When work gets hard, those are the qualities you want on your team – even if they arrive five minutes late.
Every Working Mom