Undercover Working Mother

Undercover Working Mother

As I was getting dressed this morning Hubbie and I were discussing the plan for the day.  The one that involved a doctor’s appointment, a sick child, one who needed to get to the school bus and then of course ballet after school.  When I finally said I had to run he looked at me and asked why I was wearing jeans.  A reasonable question since it’s the middle of the week and my office is notoriously dressy.

But this morning Bugaboo had an appointment at the Ear Nose and Throat specialist.  The one whose wife gave up her career to stay at home with their two boys so he could work 80 hour weeks.  I know this because the boys went to the same pre-school  two days a week that Sugar Plum went to five days a week.

“You may not want to hear this” I said “But they treat me differently if they think I work”.

My husband didn’t believe me.  How could he?  If he rushes into a doctor’s appointment in a suit (or in his case a uniform) he’s considered ‘Dad of the Year’ for taking time out of his busy day to take his children to the doctor.

I have three children.  All of whom have been seen and continue to see some form(s) of specialist(s).  I promise you that the days I show up in jeans are the days they listen to me and the few times I’ve shown up in a business suit I’ve been questioned about how well I know my child’s daily activities.

As a working mother I already carry enough guilt in my life and on more than one occasion I’ve been told:

  • My child wouldn’t be as sick as he/she is if they didn’t “have” to go to daycare.
  • I couldn’t possibly know all of my child’s symptoms since they aren’t with me during the day.
  • That they can’t just prescribe antibiotics so I can drop my child off at daycare and get back to work.

So I lie.  Well actually I don’t really lie, I just don’t dress the part.  It’s like being undercover to see how the other half live.  I am proud that I am a working mother (if you want to continue to believe that statement don’t read this) but I do realize that in some situations I am clearly labeled before I walk in the door.

In my high heals, black suit and patent leather purse I am a working mother who drops her children off at daycare.  In my jeans, flats and diaper bag I am a mother concerned about her child and willing/able to invest the time in their care.

True, it’s not every doctor.  Our family doctor is an inspiring working mother who knows I always put my children first and doesn’t ever care what I’m wearing.  But the specialists, which in our case are almost all men, treat me very differently depending on what they perceive me to be.

So I wear jeans or yoga pants.  Even if that means changing into my working mommy uniform in my van in the parking lot at work.  These are the things I’ve learned.  The things I never even considered before I had children.  Children who seem to ALWAYS be sick.

I want to be angry.  I want to click-clack on the hard hospital floors in high heels and black suits and demand my opinion count as much as the mother’s whose children are home with her all day.  But I don’t.  I just dress-down.

Whether it’s pathetic that this is true or I’m pathetic for giving in is almost indistinguishable.

After explaining this to my husband, he doesn’t question me.  I’m not sure he actually believes me, but he knows better than to question.  He’s a smart man who is probably sorry he asked the question why I would wear jeans to work..

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  1. I’ve had exactly the same thing happen! Great post!

    • Stacey, sometimes I’m happy to hear that other people have gone through the same thing but in this case I wish it wasn’t true!

  2. Love this post. Well written and so honest. I think the fact that you do it is just further testament to how much you love your kids. Try not to let the guilt pushers get to you.

  3. Absolutely, 100% agree.

    The worst part? I get it AT WORK. Because the wives of my bosses all stayed home with their children, they completely do not comprehend that I am still at work. So they have NO CLUE what it’s like to have to balance family & work & why I’m running out to the pediatrician at 3pm when there’s still a stack of files on my desk. They STILL ask me when I’m going to be leaving & it’s been almost a year since I came back to work after maternity leave.

    • I can’t believe they would ask you that! Some people might actually like to work and you and I are perfect examples how it is possible to balance work and family. Yes, sometimes (okay lots of times) there are a few challenges along the way, but it doesn’t make us any worse at either of the two.

      Clearly, there is no winning – We’re judged at work for trying to be a mom and we’re judged when we’re being good moms for trying to work too.

      Like I said above, whether it’s pathetic that this is true or I’m pathetic for giving in is almost indistinguishable.

  4. Really interesting post, Maija. I work out of the home four days in a week in my clickety clackety black high heels, and I’m at home on Fridays. Those are the days I choose to take my kids to the dentist, orthodontist, doctors, etc. I’d always considered that I did that so that I wasn’t labeled “the mom who leaves work to look after her kids” by co-workers, but maybe subconsciously I do it so that I’m not labeled “the mom who leaves her kids to go to work” by those very specialists.

    • No matter which label you’re battling against, I hate that they even exist! Thanks for commenting! Hope to see you again soon.

  5. When I was working outside of the home I don’t remember that happening, but I wonder if that’s because the doctors knew my grandma was the babysitter during the day instead of Sebastian going to daycare? Or maybe I just didn’t notice it. Either way, it’s horrible that you’re treated differently and that absolutely should not happen. So you work during the day, that doesn’t mean you don’t spend evenings and weekends with your child. OF COURSE you know what’s normal and what isn’t normal for them.

    • I think it took me a while to figure out. Sugar Plum who is now seven years old was quite sick as a baby/toddler/pre-schooler. She missed a lot of school and was being seen by numerous specialists. At the beginning I didn’t notice it and thankfully I built a good relationship with her Asthma Doctor but I’ve had to prove to him (whether in heels or not) that I’m committed to her care. For some reason, my littlest daughter Sweet Pea is the sickest of my three children and it’s with her specialists (mostly surgeons if that means anything) that I get the most flack from on the VERY FEW occassions I have gone to an appointment in work clothes. It’s a belittling experience and I really am tired of it. But you’re right, I should be confident no matter what I’m wearing in the fact that I am their mother and of course I know what is going on with them and will do whatever it takes to get them healthy.

  6. Wow, this really struck me. I have had those moments when I don’t say my kids are in daycare but lately have chosen to just stand up and tell my reality! People will judge no matter what and it hurts. It’s amazing how moms can make one another feel in terms of judgement but rather than focus on that, just think of all the support you are getting from your fellow working moms. You have my support! I’m living it, too… 🙂

  7. It’s a shame that moms, working or not, get judged like this…really just sad.

  8. A Mom Who Has Been There says:

    I’ve been thinking about your blog for days – and I wanted to throw 2 websites your way – I’m not a regular reader, but something you said made my radar go off – when you said your kids are sick all the time, and when you said they see multiple specialists. There is a disease called Primary Immunodeficiency. It has 150 different types from mild to severe. It makes people at higher risk for infections because part of the immune system is either not working, or missing. It can be as mild as an IgA deficiency (in which a person might just need regular antibiotics to prevent infections) to SCID (where a baby has NO immune system- and they get a bone marrow transplant). I have no idea if your kids fit the symptoms, but it seems to me that parent that say things like “My kid is sick all the time” need to know about this disease. Here are two websites for you to check out – http://www.info4pi.org and http://www.primaryimmune.org The average time from onset of symptoms to diagnosis is 12.4 years because doctors were taught this was a rare disease, but diagnosis is on the rise. Again, not in any way saying this is what’s up with your kids, just an FYI for you.

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