Reality of a Working Mom: Missing My Daughter’s First Step

Being a working mom has its pros and cons.

The Pros: We get out of the house, have great, reliable daycare, we both get a chance to socialize, and I’m challenged in a workplace that values me.

The Con: Missing milestones.

That’s the sad, ugly truth. The reality is that something’s gotta give. Life is hard to balance, and you can’t do it all. It took me having a breakdown moment, when I missed my daughter’s first steps, to start savoring each moment and appreciate and value the time I do have – even if that means missing out on a few memories.

I remember it distinctly. I picked my daughter up from our on-site daycare on a cold mid-January evening. It was like any other day to me. I grabbed her coat, looked over her report card, scooped her up, and gave her a wet kiss on the cheek. As I walked out the door, her teacher smiled and said, “Oh, by the way, she took her first steps today!”

My heart silently sobbed.

She did!?” I stuttered in a surprised, yet somber voice. Not that I wasn’t completely thrilled, but I was devastated I missed it. I was heartbroken I couldn’t be there celebrating with her. It wasn’t her mama who was there to cheer and encourage her, it was someone else. As excited as I was that she was finally starting to walk, I instantly felt regret and shame.

Fortunately, I had been present for her other milestones – rolling over, crawling, pointing, babbling, sitting up, etc. I shouldn’t be too upset, but this one got to me. My husband and I had been working with her for months on walking. She was 15 months old and still not walking independently. On top of silently freaking out because my daughter was behind her peers, add the fact she took a step without me to the mix, and I was a hot crying mess on that drive home. I missed a critical part of her development. 

Quality Time Matters

Missing that moment didn’t make me want to instantly quit my job and stay home, but it definitely reiterated the importance of quality time. Because I work for 9 hours a day, I’m only with my daughter for 2 to 3 hours (and that’s if she’s up early and I’m able to get off at a good time). Those hours are full of things like: get ready for work, get her dressed, get her fed, get myself fed, get the dog outside, drive to and from work, get dinner ready, eat dinner, do dishes, etc. By the time it’s all said and done, it’s bedtime.

Those precious hours are filled with chores and mundane activities, not quality time. I don’t want my daughter to think that mommy time means we’re running errands or brushing teeth and not having that intimate one-on-one time with silly songs, puzzles, tickle fights, smooches, and “I love yous” flowing freely.

It’s important to make time for quality time. Sometimes we’re just so darn burnt out and want a break. Sometimes we flip on the TV or hand over a book and encourage kids to play on their own. I’m begging you, mama, get down and play. Don’t take this time for granted. Sooner than you’d like, they’ll grow up and leave home. They’ll visit every other weekend and forget to call back. They’ll marry and have a family of their own. I know it seems like that is ages away. As you know, time passes so quickly. Don’t wish it away. Make memories. Embarrass yourself. Sing songs. Play pretend. Soak up any and every opportunity you have because you know what, those are the moments that matter.

Reality of a working mom: Missing my daughter's first step

My Revelation as a Working Mom

It isn’t about spending every waking moment with her, it’s about making those moments count. It’s so easy to be too tired to play or need “me time” at the end of a busy work day. It’s so easy to slip into a routine and exist on autopilot. Being a working mom just makes it that much harder. If that means I have to re-heat leftovers, work from home a few days a month, let her go to daycare in her PJs, or forgo the dishes until she’s in bed, then so be it.

Time is so precious and goes entirely too fast. Since saying goodbye to maternity leave and becoming a full-time working mom, I have neglected to remember that. It’s time to make the time for things that matter – and those things aren’t things. They’re the laughs, the cheers, the amazement, joy, tears, raw emotion, and purpose. I want my daughter to look back at her childhood and smile. I want those memories to be some of her fondest. Her mommy and daddy chose to work outside of the home, but our daughter will know that she never came second. She’ll know she always was and will be wanted, loved, cherished.

I may have missed the first step, sweet girl, but I’ll be there for the race. 

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