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COLUMN: Do you feel like you’re failing at motherhood? Me too

I did not sign up to wear this many hats, nor carry this many bags
A mother’s to-do list never ends. (Photo by Kim Kimberlin, 2022 - Williams Lake Tribune)

“Am I failing?” I asked myself one morning while frantically getting the kids ready for school.

The lingering feeling of failing as a mother was recently intensifying, whether due to another missed vaccine appointment, not enough fresh vegetables in the fridge or the pile of laundry growing in the bedroom and the kids only having mismatched socks (which they prefer, to be honest).

So that morning, as I questioned my worth and my children battled their own challenges, I felt incredibly proud when I realized that I would be early to work for the first time in weeks. Not late, not just on time, but early.

I gathered the many bags, blankets and toys I gather every morning to leave the house. Fellow mothers will understand this – the diaper bag, the white fuzzy blanket my son can’t sleep without, his boots (to avoid a tantrum if I dare put them on him), my daughter’s backpack, her bag of toys and blanket, the water bottles, the lunch bags, my sanity, coat and scarf.

But no worries! We were going to be early. We headed out the door, the children off to childcare and school, and upon arriving five minutes early to work, doom set upon me as I realized the one bag I did not grab was my own — the one with my work laptop in it.

I reversed out of the parking lot and made the drive home, cursing under my breath, for not only did I feel I was failing motherhood, but I also felt I was failing at work.

I know I’m not alone in these feelings. In a 2023 study by Capterra Inc., which surveyed almost 1,000 employees, 65 per cent of employed mothers said the mental load between parental and work-based obligations was difficult.

And this doesn’t even change for remote workers. Amongst male and female professionals, 46 per cent of those working remotely reported difficulty separating work from home and feeling like they’re never really off work. Forty-four per cent work overtime hours due to managing their work-life balance. Forty-two per cent of parents with children under 18 reported high stress levels and 36 per cent reported a decline in the quality of their work.

So, do I quit my job?

First, living off of one income (whether with a family or alone) is downright stressful in today’s economy. The Salvation Army surveyed over 1,500 Canadians in 2023 and found that 25 per cent of them worry they don’t have enough income to cover their basic needs. That percentage bumps up to 40 percent for single-parent households. Twenty-two per cent of parents reported not eating as much so their family members could eat more and for single-parent households, this number jumps to 44 per cent.

And then there’s another issue, one I recently admitted to my colleagues.

“Coming to work is where I relax,” I explained in a meeting one day.

Where I work, it’s quiet. I get to talk to adults, people are respectful, I’m learning interesting things throughout the day and doing what I enjoy doing, which is writing. There are no diapers to change or arguing kids or shouting because I cut the strawberries incorrectly.

Being a stay-at-home parent is hard, not just a little bit hard, but really hard. It requires round-the-clock hours, seven days a week, no matter how bad of a stomach flu you may have. You’re a chef, cleaner, chauffeur, nurse, therapist and teacher who must possess an extraordinary amount of patience and baby wipes. And, dare I say, while I love my children more than anyone, staying at home with them sometimes can be mind-numbing, isolating and lonely. According to a 2021 study by Lancet Psychiatry, 35 per cent of surveyed mothers were clinically depressed in 2020 (almost double the numbers compared to before the pandemic).

On top of that, the job doesn’t even pay. reported that based on the amount of labour stay-at-home moms do, they should have been paid US $178,201 in 2019 (up 9.6 per cent from 2018). This means in 2024 (and in Canadian dollars), we’re talking well over $200,000.

So perhaps I’ve been too hard on myself. Perhaps I’m not failing. Perhaps, like so many of us, I’m doing the very best I can.

READ MORE: COLUMN: Marie Kondo inspires me to quit cleaning

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Kim Kimberlin, Local Journalism Initiative

About the Author: Kim Kimberlin, Local Journalism Initiative

I joined Black Press Media in 2022, and have a passion for covering topics on women’s rights, 2SLGBTQIA+ and racial issues, mental health and the arts.
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