Therese Park

Workloads of Working Mothers

Since 1970's, the number of working moms have multiplied in the United States, statistics show. Though women still make significantly less than men in the same fields, the number of women seeking fulfillment in life besides being a mom and homemakers will steadily grow.

"Motherly duties" is such a simple, vague term compared to the wide variety of tasks a young mother has to accomplish daily. After a full day at work, she's a chauffeur taking her kids to library or birthday parties or a piano lesson or baseball practice. She is also a nurse tending her little "patients" with a fever or a tummy ache; a judge settling arguments between siblings and pronouncing "timeout!"; a tutor nagging about homework or poor report cards. Most of all, she's a healer who dries tears and soothes pain with a warm hug and kiss.
At work, she wants to do more than her share so that her "motherly duties" wouldn't dent her professionalism.

I've been there. In early 1970's, I was a cellist with the late Kansas City Philharmonic and a mother of three young daughters, all under four. Often, I wondered why God didn't grant me two pairs of strong arms and weight lifting abilities, so that I could carry my twins, hold hands with my three―year―old, and carry a diaper bag at the same time.

Mornings were difficult. With three small children, a hundred things can go wrong, even if you line up their clothes, socks, and shoes and are ready to go the previous night. One baby can have a fever, the other diarrhea, and your three year old might cry because she wasn't in the mood to be dragged out of the house and dropped off at her preschool.

On a good day when all goes smoothly, you drop off your three―year―old at preschool and the twins at the babysitter, but you're not free. On the way to the Music Hall for a rehearsal you hear their cries echo through your head. If you didn't forget the sheet music you had checked out to practice, you're lucky. If you wore decent clothes without milk and baby food stains all over, congratulate yourself. Forgot to feed yourself breakfast? Oh well, missing one meal wouldn't kill you.

When the rehearsal ends and you pick up your little ones, one from preschool, two from the babysitter, you're as happy as a hen sitting on her eggs. But this is the time you worry about laundry, grocery shopping, doctor's appointments, and what to feed them for dinner. No matter how hard you worked that day or how many miles you drove, as you sit on the stage at the Music Hall, in your long black, behind your cello, there's always the nagging voice that says that you have not done enough.

Even after nearly four decades since those nearly impossible days, I still have recurring, stress―related dreams.

I speed on the freeway like a gust of wind for the eight o'clock concert, but as soon as I enter the Music Halll, the concert has begun without me. I tiptoe to the backstage, hoping I might be able to sneak onto the stage when the conductor wasn't looking, without disturbing my colleagues. But when I open my cello case at my usual spot it's empty! No cello means no playing! Calm down, I tell myself. This isn't the end of the world. The personnel manager shows up from nowhere and clicks his tongue. "Late again," he says. "The fine for a tardy is 5% of your weekly salary. It's in the contract!"

When I wake up I'm grateful for the fact that my children are now adults raising their own.

It is a known fact today that happy hens lay healthy eggs and happy cows produce more nutritious milk than unhappy ones. Working mothers' emotional state directly affects that of their young children. Employers and managers, don't be hard on the moms under your wings.


The Kansas City Star
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