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When The Work-Life Balance Has No Balance

Mommy balancing        

This is a piece from a mommy life vs. work life collision I had several months ago.

I was permanently awake by 5am (I say permanently because I was up 4 other times with my newborn).  I put on my trusty (stain-proof) black suit, dabbed some make-up on to blot out the sleep deprivation, and then sat impatiently waiting for our nanny.  I prayed that she’d arrive before my two year old Elise woke up.  I paced.  I sweated.  I put on more deodorant.  I texted and reminded her to be early today.  Then I texted again reminding her to quietly come through the backdoor so she didn’t wake my girls.  Of course my nanny already knew all this. She never forgot anything, even when I did.  She was a seasoned mother of two cool kids and raised them both to be semi-geniuses.  So she knew how to navigate a backdoor.

Let me take a step back and explain our family situation at the time. My husband and I both worked full time, but for a year or so I was able to work from home.  Though I was upstairs in the office and didn’t see the girls during the day, knowing I was just upstairs comforted me.  We hired a friend of a friend as a nanny and every day that she came to our house and loved on our girls, I was eternally grateful.  That didn’t mean I didn’t feel awful just about every day when I left my sleeping beauties at 7am to return to the office.  Once I was working back at the main company, I would tip toe out of the house in bare feet so I didn’t wake them and have the sight of mamma walking out the door put them into tears again. Does it get better?  Sure it does, but when they are super young it can still be like cutting your heart out with a plastic spoon each day.

But back to that particular morning–

It didn’t work. By 6:45 my 2 year old was calling for Mommy.  I knew if she saw me — everything would be far worse.  Quickly she escalated to “Mommy I need you – there is something under my bed”.  Naturally, I had to rescue her from said monster.  The problem was now I needed to explain that mommy had to drive to work.  This information bubble hit her like a gunshot.  She reeled back utterly devastated.  Brow furrowed, lip quivering, … I tried to stay upbeat like the mommy books on my shelves recommend, and reminded her I would be back soon.  She tried to toughen up for me but the lip still quivered and that made it worse.  I was on the verge of panicky tears when my nanny walked in and stood behind me quietly watching the bumbling of a new mom SNAFU unfold.  Elise looked tragic and I would have bought her a pony if it meant she would stop the BBL (Boo Boo Lip a.k.a. Big Bottom Lip).  Then I got a great idea– give her something to look forward to!  “As soon as mommy gets home from work, we will go to the park!”  This actually helped a little bit.  A little bit. I shuffled out my front door saddled with a thousand pounds of guilt riding my back like a guilt jockey.  Do you ever get visits from the Guilt Jockey?  We moms are susceptible to his cheap talk and flashy ways. We listen to him for just a moment, and before we know it he crawls on our back and we can barely breathe under his weight. The Guilt Jockey?  Ya, that guy is an asshole.

But back to that particular day–

Finally– its almost time to get off work.  I had everything packed so I could dart out the door at 5pm, which is rather unprofessional in my line of work.  I walked by a window and stopped dead in my tracks.  It was 4:45 and it was almost dark!  Holy Pete it was daylight savings yesterday!  It would be pitch black and 40 degrees when I got home!  I felt I officially had taken the lead as the worst mom in the world, just passing the mother who gives her newborn Pepsi in her baby bottle (yes people actually do that).  I had promised my dear Elise I would whisk her away to the park and instead I set her up for disappointment.  My Guilt Jockey had been binge eating because he felt heavier than ever.

Driving home I clutched hard at the wheel knowing it would prove too difficult to pack up my sleepy newborn in arctic gear and drag her to the park with my two year old. In the dark. In 40, no wait, 37 degree weather.

I pulled into my driveway and was surprised to find my superhero nanny standing at the door with my two year old packed and ready to go to the park.  But I then looked at my new baby Eva snuggled in her crib and wondered just how to pull this off.  My nanny chimed in– “Don’t worry, I will just stay late today.  Take Elise to the park and I will stay here with the baby.”  I wanted to lift my nanny on a chair and dance her around the room Jewish wedding style.

Elise was bundled up in mittens and a cap and looked cuter than puppies in bowties. I swept her into my arms and ran off to the park down our street.  She giggled all the way there and thought it was grand that we were going in the dark!  As we approached the park I noticed it full of shadows from the surrounding trees and there was far less lighting than expected, giving it a sinister feel.  But once on the playground, Elise swung like mad and wanted to go “way up to the sky”.  I pushed as hard and as fast as I could, letting stress flutter away with the wind.  We had the park to ourselves and it was a wonderful and memorable moment.  I felt the deep sigh of relief we get when we (barely) pull off a mothering miracle.  Though I knew this minor victory was not mine alone. This mothering miracle was made possible by my loving nanny who knew I was stretched tighter than a piano string.

But for that moment, my girls were happy and so was I.  The tension had finally left my body when Elise leaned back in the swing and said plainly “Mama I don’t like that bad man,” and pointed her chubby finger at the trees behind me.  I turned to look, but didn’t see anyone.  Just in case, I snatched her derrière out of that swing and promised her hot cocoa and a college tuition when she got home.  She could even ride home on my shoulders.

*   *   *

Now when I look back on that day, and several others just like it, I am reminded of how many times I struggled, and just barely pulled it off.  It’s about adjusting expectations, team work (it really takes the whole damn village), and letting myself be less than perfect.  Even a little half-assed at times.  But are my little girls happy and cared for?   Then I’m doing alright.  Do they play at parks, eat fruit, say please and thank you, and laugh a lot?  Then I’m doing alright.  Are they always kind to others, gentle to animals, and take baths every night?  Well let’s not overdo this ladies!   But doing alright is enough some days. Ultimately what I’ve learned from these little collisions is that I needed to review my family’s life and make some hard decisions. Which I did. But more on that later.  I’m off to the park!


About April Garcia

April Garcia
April Garcia was born in Reno but as a rebellious teen couldn’t wait to hit the road. 40+ countries and some years later April and her Spanish husband made their home in Reno. Having two daughters (1 & 3) has turned their usual wanderlust life into a whirlwind of change. She has enjoyed a successful career as an Account Exec. but is changing up just about everything in her life. When she is not trying to save the world through humanitarian trips or toiling over her travel memoir trying to be hysterical, she is in Tahoe Meadows with her two shorties teaching them the difference between Indian Paintbrush and Snow Flowers. April is excited for this next chapter of life with her crazy beautiful girls. She can’t wait to show them the charm of nature, the delight of good friendship, and watch as they become their own beautiful souls.


  1. Nanny to the rescue! Happy kids always = happy moms. That or a big bottle of Vodka….
    Love it 😉

  2. Jenny Petty

    Fantastic! And boy, oh boy, can I relate to this! I know this stage of life won’t last forever and that I won’t feel pulled in so many directions in just a few short years, but aye yai yai….some days!

  3. Wonderful to know we are not alone in feeling pulled in a million directions and the mommy guilt!

  4. I love this on so many levels. “The Guilt Jockey? Ya, that guy is an asshole.” LOVE it. So true. I call him the Nagger…but I like Guilt Jockey better. And thank you for saying that doing things half-assed sometimes is also OK. Love this!

  5. As a working mom I know the Guilt Jockey well. And it’s an every day victory when you can throw him off and cross the finish line knowing that in spite of a stumble here or there you ARE a good mom and all those little things you do make a huge difference in their lives. Thanks for sharing – its good to know I’m not alone. Great encouragement to make the most of every moment!

  6. Lynnette Bellin

    I definitely feel your pain here. I often wonder if this is what our fore-mothers of Women’s Lib had in mind. To me, the situation still isn’t “equal”, but I guess a lot depends on your partner. It is a daily struggle in my house because my husband defaults to letting most of the child responsibilities be owned by me, which is a recipe for disaster long term. I often talk to my younger and single co-workers about what kinds of conversations they should have with potential mates – conversations I didn’t think to have. Like — can I stay home with the kids? If not, how will we split the work? Will you participate in kid activities? My favorite quote of the week so far has been Jenny’s of, “it was the kind of morning where I wanted to punch Sheryl Sandberg in the face.” Ha! I read the Lean In book, felt motivated at first, but also don’t want to screw up my precarious work-life balance.

  7. Jamie Schnell

    I absolutely adore this post. I love your writing. I think this is an articulation of my parenting mantra, also “adjust, readjust.” Recently, 8/22 to be exact, I threw a big fat kink, in my precarious work-life ‘balance.’ I am interested to read this “Lean-in,” but yeah though libras are supposed to be big on balance I seem better at swinging the scales wildly in all directions or overloading them the point of crushing… “There may never be a right time, but there is always now…”

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