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One day, I left work with a piercing headache. I drove the usual 45 minutes (if traffic isn’t bad) to pick my little ones up from their preschool.  During the drive my headache got worse and I became more fatigued than I was when I got in the car.  I felt like crap.  The closer I got to their school, the more I wondered how I was going to muster the energy to be the happy upbeat mom they deserve to see after spending their whole day without me.  When I got to their school, I took a few deep breaths, said a quick prayer and walked in with a smile.

I wish I could say that a day like this is a rarity, but it’s not.  Unfortunately, I have days like this several times a month (possibly several times a week if it’s a bad month).  Sometimes I feel crappier than others, but no matter how you slice it, those days suck.  And the culprit behind these crappy days is usually my 9-to -5 job.  I don’t work with bad people, and I enjoy some of what I do at work, but my job can be stressful.  Whether it’s meeting a deadline or managing human relationships, I often leave my job feeling stressed out and drained.  I’ll even find myself sitting in the car thinking, “This can’t be life… there’s gotta be more.”  It’s not a good look – at all.

Now, I don’t say any of this to bash my job.  It’s really not about that.  It’s simply about the reality that many moms are experiencing.  So many of us work a 9 to 5 job, sometimes because we love it, sometimes because we just need the job. All too often, though, that 9 to 5 job is creating a level of stress that changes us in some way.  It leaves us depleted, unable to give our children what they really want and need from us.  These jobs can take a level of energy from us that can be so difficult to replenish. Is the idea of work life balance all in our imaginations?

I am sure many working moms know the feeling.  You get your kids after a long day, get home, prepare dinner, go through the evening ritual and feel exhausted by the time you have to read them a bedtime story.  You try to find the energy to give them the animated story time that you know they want, but sometimes you just can’t do it.  You give them the best that you can give them (which isn’t much), tuck them in, and walk away feeling like you’ve failed them in some way-– sometimes as you wipe away tears from your cheeks.  It’s hard.

Lately, I find myself reflecting deeply about my 9 to 5, my kids, and how my job is affecting my parenting skills. I wonder if the job just isn’t the right fit.  I wonder if I will grow to regret staying there.  I wonder if my kids will remember that I wasn’t always fully present during our time together because some stress-related headache was interfering with our quality time.

I don’t know the answers. I wish I did.  But I do know that every mom deserves to raise her children in a manner she won’t grow to regret.  Every working mom needs to ask herself if her job is worth it.  There is a difference between doing hard work and doing painful work.  If I am doing something that brings me immense joy–something I am passionate about–I will gladly work hard.  But when my work brings me pain and begins to have a negative impact on my health and my time with my family, I have to take pause and dig deeply.  I have to ask myself, “Is it worth it?”  I hope every mom out there who gets where I’m coming from takes some time to do the same.  Ask yourself the hard questions and keep asking them until the answer comes. You deserve it, and most importantly, your kids do.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Martine Foreman is the editor and co-founder of JustDiva, a lifestyle email publication for today’s Modern Black Woman. To follow her funny and candid take on balancing life as a wife, mom and entrepreneur, you can also check out her personal blog, CandidBelle.

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