1. You’ve typically accomplished 25 things before 7:30 AM.
You’ve changed 1-2 diapers, brushed multiple sets of teeth, made multiple meals, gotten multiple people dressed and watched at least one cartoon or episode of Sesame Street. You have no idea what is going on in the world because your child won’t let you watch the news and you’re too busy making milk bottles to check your phone. There’s also a fairly good shot you’ve read a board book, colored, mashed Play-doh together and stepped barefoot on a Lego.
2. Every time you walk out the door, someone’s got a heartache.
You say your goodbyes to the kid, who either screams and cries like it’s the end of the world or, worse yet, completely ignores you and pushes you away when you attempt to kiss her good-bye. You spend the commute to work worrying about whether the crying kid is still crying, if you should just quit your job now or if you can perhaps come home early to spend more time with the crying kid, who most definitely stopped crying 30 seconds after you left.
3. Every moment of peace is quickly followed by torturous worry and/or guilt.
The morning flies by and for about 15 minutes, you indulge in a quiet cup of coffee at your desk followed by an uninterrupted trip to the office bathroom. This is, without question, the most relaxing part of your day because a small person will not barge in on your bathroom time or scream, “Mama!” repeatedly until you acknowledge her or let her watch you do your thing. Then as soon as you actually feel yourself relax, you worry about the 10 things you have to get done at work that morning so you can eventually get home on time. That’s when the guilt circles back.
4. You learn a lot of things about your kid from a secondhand source.
You hear about what your kid is doing from your nanny, your spouse or a friend who saw your kid at a music class or play date and sends you a text or a photo of your kid. Your heart immediately jumps into that text or photo and wants to be there, reassuring your kid that you love them to itsy bitsy pieces and just want to scoop her up and hug her to infinity. You spend the next hour worrying that you’re not spending enough quality time with your kid and that she’ll grow up to resent you being away so much.
5. It’s a serious challenge to spend quality time with your kid during the week.
On days where there are doctor appointments, the rare music class that you can attend or the opportunity to have dinner together, you race out of work, paranoid that even though you’re leaving a mere 30 minutes early, everyone is judging you for lack of dedication. Then you’re cursing the hurdles that are making your commute longer than normal. You can feel your pulse jump out of your neck with anxiety. How much longer until you can get there? Will you make it in time? When you finally arrive, you’re usually sweating, starving (because you skipped lunch so you could finish your work) and exhausted.
6. You’re a walking collage of kid excrement.
During one of your sacred office bathroom trips, you go to wash your hands only realize while looking at yourself in the mirror that you have milk, oatmeal or snot wiped across your blouse and it’s been there the entire morning while you’ve had multiple meetings with senior executives. You’re grateful that it’s not poop and regularly travel with hand wipes and miniature organic laundry spray to get stains out. Discovering that the arm of your black blazer is covered in dried glue is not that surprising considering you were wearing that blazer when trying to drop in on your toddler’s playgroup’s holiday art project during your lunch hour.
7. You’re a walking pharmacy.
Your oversized, bowling ball heavy work bag contains most of the following: a pacifier, organic pureed ready-to-eat pouches, hand sanitizer, wipes, children’s Tylenol with syringe applicator, a disposable bib, a hair bow if you have a daughter, your wallet which is open and been sifted through by tiny fingers, a few loose credit cards, a Lego or two, a board book, a diaper (hopefully a clean one, but a pee soaked one might make an occasional appearance) and two cell phones (one you use, and an old one you let your kid play with).
8. You always leave work feeling as if you’re not quite finished.
You’re consumed by the projects that you’re working on, but there’s always something tugging at your heartstrings like curiosity over what your baby is eating for lunch. How is she spending her day? Is she happy? Sad? Is she wondering where you are? Does she ask for you? Does she understand why mommy isn’t there? When you finally make the decision to pack up for the day and head home, you feel unaccomplished and stressed about everything that’s left to do. Then you get home and your second job starts. You don’t want to take a break because you haven’t seen your kid all day, but you’re exhausted.
9. You’re the worst date in the world the night before.
The day before an actual date night with your spouse, you go from being extremely excited for some quality time to worried about how much the babysitter and a dinner out will cost and whether leaving your kid at home so you can have a peaceful evening as a couple is even worth it. You finally learn to enjoy yourself with a glass of wine at dinner and realize that you need to do this more often. You’ll get lost in conversation with your husband, and if you can stop thinking and talking about your children for 5 minutes, you’ll find that you’re actually having a great time. It will seem like you just got there when you realize that it’s been 3 hours and your little night out with your husband that used to be free now costs over $100.
10. Your to-do list is literally neverending.
By the time you get home at night, you’ve been going strong since the early morning hours but there are a hundred other things to do in addition to spending time with the people you’ve been thinking about all day. You want to chase your kid around and read to her and stack wooden blocks and boxes and watch Bubble Guppies, but there’s laundry to do and bills to pay and dinner and mail and grocery shopping and the complete mess of a home you left that morning. You are very aware of the limited free time you have and have enough experience to realize that you’ll only accomplish a small fraction of your to-do list no matter how many hours there are in the day.
11. The kid(s) are finally asleep and you can barely keep your eyes open.
You consider it a victory if you make it through an entire episode of Homeland without falling asleep. You tell your husband that you’re, “just resting your eyes,” but he’s on to you and makes you go to bed. You don’t argue because you feel like a cross between a zombie, a mental patient, a great-grandmother and a master of all trades for having balanced another day as a working parent.