Stressed Working Mom Resigns With Painfully Poignant Memo & We Can Relate

Heartbreaking 23

working momPeople throw around the term "mommy wars" a lot, but as a mom for more than nine years now I've never felt any of the fire. Oh maybe someone's comment about their choice to stay home makes me feel a little guilty about my choice, but cowardly anonymous internet attacks aside, I don't feel like it's mom vs. mom that's the issue -- it's moms vs. working life in general that's the real problem for most of us.

My sister, an attorney, sent me this departure memo that appeared in Above the Law from a mom who was trying to juggle a law career and her family and decided it was just too much. In it she outlines a typical day, and concludes that she just can't do both anymore so she is leaving the practice. I've read it countless times, and it's haunting and heartbreaking in its familiarity.

She wrote:

4:00am: Hear baby screaming, hope I am dreaming, realize I’m not, sleep walk to nursery, give her a pacifier and put her back to sleep
4:45am: Finally get back to bed
5:30am: Alarm goes off, hit snooze
6:00am: See the shadow of a small person standing at my bedroom door, realize it is my son who has wet the bed (time to change the sheets)
6:15am: Hear baby screaming, make a bottle, turn on another excruciating episode of Backyardigans, feed baby
7:00am: Find some clean clothes for the kids, get them dressed
7:30am: Realize that I am still in my pajamas and haven’t showered, so pull hair back in a ponytail and throw on a suit
8:00am: Pile into the car, drive the kids to daycare
8:15am: TRAFFIC
9:00am: finally arrive at daycare, baby spits up on suit, get kids to their classrooms, realize I have a conference call in 15 minutes
9:20am: Run into my office, dial-in to conference call 5 minutes late and realize that no one would have known whether or not I was on the call, but take notes anyway
9:30am: Get an email that my time is late, Again! Enter my time
10:00am: Team meeting; leave with a 50-item to-do list
11:00am: Attempt to prioritize to-do list and start tasks; start an email delegating a portion of the tasks (then, remember there is no one under me)
2:00pm: Realize I forgot to eat lunch, so go to the 9th floor kitchen to score some leftovers
2:30pm: Get a frantic email from a client needing an answer to a question by COB today
2:45pm: postpone work on task number 2 of 50 from to-do list and attempt to draft a response to client’s question
4:30pm: send draft response to Senior Associate and Partner for review
5:00pm: receive conflicting comments from Senior Associate and Partner (one in new version and one in track changes); attempt to reconcile; send redline
5:30pm: wait for approval to send response to client; realize that I am going to be late picking up the kids from daycare ($5 for each minute late)
5:50pm: get approval; quickly send response to client
6:00pm: race to daycare to get the kids (they are the last two there)
6:30pm: TRAFFIC with a side of screaming kids who are starving
7:15pm: Finally arrive home, throw chicken nuggets in the microwave, feed the family
7:45pm: Negotiate with husband over who will do bathtime and bedtime routine; lose
8:00pm: Bath, pajamas, books, bed
9:00pm: Kids are finally asleep, check blackberry and have 25 unread messages
9:15pm: Make a cup of coffee and open laptop; login to Citrix
9:45pm: Citrix finally loads; start task number 2
11:30pm: Wake up and realize I fell asleep at my desk; make more coffee; get through task number 3
1:00am: Jump in the shower (lord knows I won’t have time in the morning)
1:30am: Finally go to bed


First of all, good for her for knowing she can't keep doing what she's doing, and good for her that she can economically make that choice to leave her job -- not everyone can. But it's incredibly depressing to me that she has to make this choice, that it has to be this hard.

We were raised (and are raising our daughters) to thrive in school, to climb corporate ladders, and go out and conquer the world. And so we do as society cheers us on with a resounding echo of "you go, girl!" ... until we have children. Then all the cheers are replaced with guilt trips and no concessions to help us keep going.

Yes, our children are our first priorities, and we love them more than life, but having children shouldn't mean women can't work. Anyone who says moms who have careers don't love their kids as much or aren't as good of parents as those who stay home don't really even deserve any acknowledgment in this argument. But for the rest of the world who says, yes, women can have it all, they're certainly not helping.

Also -- and I'm know I'm opening up a whole other can of worms here -- but men have also got to start stepping up their game; and maybe even more importantly,  we've got to put our control issues aside and ask and let them do some more stepping. Where is this woman's husband in any of this?! Even the most involved husbands and fathers I know, don't come close to doing their share of the household management (e.g. buying gifts, making sure everyone's schedules are synced, packing snacks for the car trip, etc. etc.). Even when both partners work equal hours, it's inevitably (and yes, I'm sure there are a few exceptions though I don't know of any) the woman who shoulders more (much more usually) of the familial responsibility. It's exhausting, and I don't know why we accept it that way, or why we put it on ourselves that way.

I'm one of the fortunate few who has found a work situation that is flexible, that does allow me to balance my children and a career, however precariously. And my husband is incredibly involved and helpful. Still, my day isn't that different from the one the woman outlines above.  For me it's working. For now. But I know so very many talented, brilliant women who want  to or need to work but can't find such situations, and so all of that hard work and knowledge is just lying there depressingly dormant.

It's baffling to me that more employers can't figure out how to help women make it work, who don't see what they're missing out on with this enormous talent pool when they don't find flexible and creative ways that allow moms to work. It's a shame not only for the women but for the companies, organizations, and society as a whole that are losing out on such amazing employees.

Does this woman's letter break your heart?


Image via nandadeviest/Flickr


a mom's life, working moms


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IKnow... IKnow0101

I completely understand.  Hopefully if the family are in a good financial situation she should take time off and if/when she ready maybe she can do some consulting work on her own from home.

kelti... kelticmom

I understand as well. My husband is in Afghanistan and I am an ER nurse, working 44+ hours a week. Fortunately my parents watch our four year old and most of my shifts are overnight, but I still feel extremely guilty and stretched to the limit. But in this economy you have to do whatever it takes.

Sarah UsedtobeZech Cone

No mother should be made to feel guilty over the choices she makes on whether to work or stay home as each mother is only what she thinks is best for her family.Women as a whole need to quit being so petty and judgemental about others parenting choices and be there for eachother with comapssion and support.That's my opinion anyway.

the4m... the4mutts

While I have sympathy for her situation, no, it doesn't break my heart. Nor do I feel bad for her having busy days, lots of people have busy days, and she chose this life.

What I feel bad for her having, is what sounds like a sub-par support system, and no option other than to quit her job, or go nuts. I'm sure she, and nobody else, chooses that.

cmjaz cmjaz

If dad is around, maybe split the morning getting ready and nighttime getting ready. When my ex and I were together, that helped (with that part of it anyway). He would take mornings and I would take nights. But whatever works....

twinp... twinplus2

The letter is pretty much of the day in the life of a professional woman with young children. I would rather read aspirational stories of those families that are making it all work, despite all the challenges.

eupeptic eupeptic

A related thing I want to point out is that productivity has increased by about 3.5 times in the U.S. over the past 50 years and yet people are still being pushed to work as much as they can. How difficult is it to take the increases in productivity that we've been making throughout the past 50-100 years in order to focus more on increasing free time that's available to us so we can focus more on what's most important for the health and happiness of ourselves and our families? Is being as productive as possible the be-all end-all of what life is about? If so, why?

If interested, searching for something such as "productivity 1950s today" on Google gives you some pages that go into more detail about economic productivity.

jalaz77 jalaz77

My hubby helps out a ton and we have no family help. We both work FT and make it work. Easy? Absolutely not. It's hard being a parent.

Dawn Richards Chappell

Her problem isn't a demanding job, it's no support system.  A lazy husband who can't even be bothered to get some dinner together when his kids are getting home at 7:15pm. An unreasonable employer who expects her to stay late instead of getting her children and then work at home all night? No thank you.  

My husband and I both work professional jobs and one of my kids has severe special needs.  I chose a career where I can get home by 4 and I still hire a mother's helper a few nights a week for dinner and bath time when my husband works late. It is doable, but you might have to take lower pay to have a career and an employer that are going to be a good fit for the family.

nonmember avatar Gretta

I fully believe that women can have it all, but not all at one time.

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