One Secret to Working Mom Success: Be Flexible (A Lesson Learned From Traffic)

Me, making a cup of tea.

With the beginning of the school year, it made sense to me to finally publish this post, which is way overdue. 

An Old Post From the Archives

Pittsburgh is a beautiful city that has three rivers running through, which means that it relies on bridges to make transportation work. For the past three weeks one bridge has been down and that has brought the city to its knees, especially working moms. Indeed, ever working mom I know, even the uber-organized ones who always look great and have smiling kids, have a story about how the closure of the Liberty Bridge has wreaked havoc on their lives. The problem is that the 55,000 people who would normally be traveling across the Liberty Bridge are dispersed throughout the city searching for a way to get to work and the city simply cannot accommodate that easily.

This morning, my schedule was disrupted. I put my makeup on earlier than usual and planned to throw on a dress, get the baby ready and leave right after our daughter got on the bus. Well, the bus was 30 minutes late because of detours due to construction and the extra traffic due to the Liberty Bridge closure. Indeed, every day since the bridge closed has been a game of “When will the bus show up”. That type of uncertainty is a curse for this working mom. I who rely on schedules like I rely on water—they are essential to my survival.

So, all of this uncertainty has me hanging on by a thread.

After the bus was late, I had to get dressed, get the baby ready and leave. However, we had half the time to do it all and we felt the pressure. The baby wanted to sit in his chair and eat breakfast while watching “Thomas and Friends” or “Chuggington” like he does every other day. My answer, “Sorry kid, time to drink that yogurt drink while standing. You cannot eat that chicken salad you’re begging for because I am making lunch with it. And, be quiet because we need to get out the damn door! Fortunately, I only thought the damn part. However, given his reaction, I think it was assumed because he cried.

I don’t blame him. Nobody likes to have their schedule disrupted and to be rushed.

Seeing him upset and hearing him cry made me feel more than a little guilty. I thought, here I am forcing him to do something that he doesn’t want to do all to satisfy the needs of my work schedule. As I felt the guilt, I began thinking things like, “Damn bridge! Damn incompetent city officials who haven’t responded well to the traffic problems! Damn detours! Damn bus! Damn! Damn! Damn!” The intensity of the emotions that I felt before 8:00 AM this morning rivaled those of a hormonal teenager!

Then, I paused. First, because I have had more than a little therapy and coaching I realize that guilt is an unproductive emotion. Second, a light bulb went off for me. I realized that as I was rushing about trying my damnedest to accommodate the requirements of someone else’s schedule, I was teaching him a valuable lesson. 

That lesson is: “If he does not want this chaos to become his reality, he needs to find a way to determine his own destiny; and, if he remains in Pittsburgh he should study city planning to figure out alternate traffic patterns when a bridge closes”.