People talk a lot about maintaining a sense of personal identity as a mother.

The needs and demands of a tiny human being who has no patience, no forbearance, and no consideration for the feelings of others can be an overwhelming experience.

Many women, especially in places like Canada where we get a whole year of maternity leave from work, find it difficult to maintain their sense of who they are.

Yanked out of board meetings and into a gliding rocker, and dealing with dirty diapers where they once dealt with memos and spreadsheets, new mothers often find themselves thinking “WHAT HAVE I DONE?”

I didn’t have any of that. 

Motherhood didn’t in any way alter my perception of myself as a person.

Maybe going from dog trainer to mother isn’t much of a step – either way, you’re picking up someone’s poop and trying to stop them from eating the sofa.

No, it’s going back to work that is drowning my identity. 

The charity where I worked has hit bad times, and almost all of the staff were laid off, including me, a few months into my pregnancy (women in Canada are heavily protected from workplace discrimination, but when half the staff have already been laid off, it’s hard to claim discrimination).

So that meant that I had to find a new job.

I did, with relative ease. I’m a veterinary technician (which is like a registered nurse for animals), and vets are always looking for good staff.

But when you’re trying to make a good impression with your new boss, being a mother does not help.

It’s hard to convince someone that you’re an honest, industrious, uncomplaining worker when you can’t work past 5 pm (because daycare closes at 5:30, you know), and when you’re constantly calling in absent because your baby has ANOTHER fever and can’t go to daycare at all.

The last time I worked in a vet clinic, I didn’t call in sick for the first year and a half. I worked the late shift, because I actually preferred it. I ran the food orders, and I trained new staff.

Then I worked training service dogs, and I taught dogs to open doors, to sit still while I bounced tennis balls right past their noses, and ran puppy classes.

But the Carol that this new work is seeing is someone completely different.

This Carol is new, doesn’t know anything, and (because they don’t have enough staff to train her properly) constantly does things wrong. This Carol can only work early shifts, which makes scheduling difficult when more senior people can’t work an evening.  This Carol has already called in sick (or with a sick baby) five or six times, not to mention some half days.

This Carol is also exhausted.

I’m an introvert, and need time to unwind alone in order to maintain some semblance of sanity. Unfortunately, the times I once used for that (the hour in the morning before work and an hour or two after coming home) are now taken up with a toddler. Instead of checking my favourite blogs or reading in the bath, I am changing diapers and nursing a baby who considers time spent with Mommy but not on her booba to be time WASTED.

By the time Owl goes down for bed, I want to spend time with my husband, and feel too tired to blog a coherent sentence.

My blog has long periods of silence.

My RSS feed has over 800 unread items!

The amount of time I spend in the average day without another person in the room is probably limited to when I use the bathroom, and that’s assuming that Owl doesn’t manage to barge his way in to cling to my knees while I sit on the toilet.

The amount of time I spend on the computer, which used to be counted in hours, now averages to 15 or 20 minutes, and that’s done with a squirming baby on my lap.

So:

I’m not training dogs, I’m not blogging, I’m busy from dawn to dusk, my average conversation with my husband sounds like “aaaarghjghjg”, and I don’t feel like I’m making a good impression in my new workplace.

And for what?

Nearly half my monthly income goes to daycare, which means that despite working full-time, we’re almost as poor as we were when I was on maternity leave. Every time I have to call in sick or pull a half day, we lose income for that day, despite continuing to pay for full-time daycare.

So, on top of all of that, I feel like I’m making no money.

I know that my problems are not unique.

I’m pretty sure that they’re identical to the problems of MOST working mothers out there.

But knowing that doesn’t help my sense of identity much, either.

Are you a working mother? How do you find time to be yourself?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Carol from If By Yes of Vancouver, Canada.  She can be found writing at her blog, If By Yes.  

Photo credit to Dimitri N. This photo has a creative commons attribution license.

Carol (Canada)

Carol from If By Yes has lived in four different Canadian provinces as well as the Caribbean. Now she lives in Vancouver, working a full time job at a vet clinic, training dogs on the side, and raising her son and daughter to be good citizens of the world. Carol is known for wearing inside-out underwear, microwaving yoghurt, killing house plants, over-thinking the mundane, and pointing out grammatical errors in "Twilight". When not trying to wrestle her son down for a nap, Carol loves to read and write. Carol can also be found on her blog, If By Yes, and on Twitter @IfByYesTweets

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