I’m a working mom. Here’s how I finally stopped the voice in my head from telling me I wasn’t good enough
Boundaries don’t make a cage, they make a guard rail.
When I found out that my almost-4-year-old wasn’t invited to a classmate’s party, I was flung back to my prepubescent self in Grade 7, navigating the murky waters of classroom politics.
Back then, I struggled with feeling unpopular and not good enough. This has followed me through life, affecting my social and professional interactions.
“Not enough” is increasingly how I feel these days, underscored by a panicky feeling that I’ve forgotten something important.
My to-do list is scattered across various platforms, including a notebook, an app, and scraps of paper in my wallet.
I am always sure there’s something crucial I’ve forgotten, partly because I’ve been through some big changes in the past two years.
The change from 0 kids to 1 was turbulent enough, but the switch from 1 to 3 (I had twins!) was like jumping into light-speed. It didn’t stop there.
I was given a team to manage at work, and in the space of a year I went from holding two people in mind — Maya and my husband — to trying to keep track of seven people and their needs.
That’s on top of my own commitments, friends, family, and yes, my health too.
I’ve had to draw a clear line in the sand. I’m a part-time employee, so I’ve booked off my afternoons as my kid time.
In the mornings I work, take meetings, and meet my deadlines. In the afternoons I wrangle up a supper plan, chauffeur the kids to extracurriculars, give our nanny a lunch break, and try to squeeze in quality time with three very cute and demanding little munchkins.
I started to feel guilty for not being available, like the full-time employees I manage. I let people book me into afternoon meetings.
“Not enough. You’re not doing enough!” I told myself, as I took a meeting in the car on the way to swimming class.
Then I felt guilty that I had to juggle my kids and needed help from our nanny to entertain them, put them to sleep, and do all the mom things I used to do solo.
“Not enough. You’re not doing enough!” I muttered as I held a twin in each arm, and tried to make my toddler a rainbow snack plate inspired by Cocomelon.
I forgot to administer medicines. I wasn’t closing feedback loops. Parenting advice on Instagram told me I was complimenting my children wrong and scarring their self-esteem.
I began to feel like a mad-haired Dr Seuss character, trying to feed someone green eggs and ham while riding a tricycle.
I pushed myself to the bottom of my To Do list. I could never justify time away from the kids, or time not working to finish a deadline. I stopped writing. I stopped drawing.
I shelved knitting projects, including a newborn jersey that is now fit for a doll.
I was trying to balance work and kids, and I forgot that the structure is a triangle, and not a rectangle. I needed to balance my own needs as well.
Take out one of the pillars and the whole thing comes crashing down. But hey, guess what: I’m also a triangle. I need a nanny. I need to say NO.
I need these kids to sometimes go to dad instead of mom. I need to be okay with not being capable of doing everything for everyone.
I need to let the constant murmur of “Oh, another thing you’re not doing right! You really aren’t good enough!” die down a bit when things don’t work out.
I need to be okay with doing less. I need to let other people pick up some of the workload at home, without feeling like that makes me a failure.
I need time to sit and journal. I need to add “no” back to my vocabulary.
I need to realise that my boundaries make me stronger. They aren’t a cage, locking me down. They’re a guard rail, making the rickety bridge easier to cross.
Balance is also realising that I’m not back in Grade 7, trying to prove my worth to insecure 12-year-olds.
I’m with people who love me, and people who want me so much that I can’t find a minute alone to myself.
Most importantly, I need to remember that I am not trying to prove my worth to anyone, and that I am surrounded by people who love and support me.