Georgia Voice columnist Melissa Carter

Melissa Carter: The plight of working mothers

I look at women at work differently after what happened this morning

I was dropping my 2-year-old off at daycare, and even though he has been going for months and has adjusted well, today he did not want any of it. Once we arrived, Mr. Carter had a death grip on me, forcing me to sit with him for a few minutes as I tried to assure him that it was OK.

It was that sad, chin-quivering face staring back at mine that made me honestly want to pluck him up and run right back out and head anywhere that would make him happy.

But I knew I was running late to work already, and if I sat any longer it would be noticeable to the bosses that I was not where I was supposed to be. So I had to make the difficult and seemingly unnatural decision to let his teacher try and take him so I could leave. The next few moments were like a scene was from an epic Hollywood tragedy. Tears and snot were streaming down Mr. Carter’s panicked face, his arms outstretched. I blew a kiss and walked out, waiting until I got in the car to cry.

I’m an older mother, waiting until my 40s to have my son, so I have taken for granted all the potential obstacles a working mother has to face. I heard criticism in the past by non-parent colleagues that mothers seem to get special privileges if they leave early to pick up or care for a child. I didn’t have a dog in that fight back then so I never really had an opinion. But now I do.

Mind your own business. By the time I got to work, I had already spent a good three hours taking care of my son’s needs, then spent the day trying not to worry about the emotional effects the morning had on my son, who likely started playing the minute I left. No one at work had any idea I had just been in tears, and spending the energy to come across as normal is exhausting enough in the workforce, let alone having to deal with the judgment of others if I do have to show my real emotion. It goes back to the old adage “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.” You never know what anyone, mother or not, has been through before they walk through the office door.

Business is not a thing or a brand. More importantly, it is filled with human beings who more than likely have harried mornings like mine that make them feel insecure about the choices they’ve made in their lives. Bosses should feel honored to have a staff willing to go through that for them. More importantly, colleagues should just assume that that the woman sitting next to you could use a kind word or a joke, rather than impatience coated with the typical inauthentic smile. Remember, we’re in this together.