’ Twas the week before Christmas when inside the house, Mom pulled another all-nighter, scaring off the poor mouse.
The stockings needed washing, the bills must be paid, and the quarterly earnings report had to be made.
Across America, women who have broken barriers in the daylight hours — working in traditionally male jobs or assuming management roles — are still bearing the burden of their gender at night, getting up to mother and make house like it is 1949.
Sarah Burgard, a sociology professor at the University of Michigan, studied time patterns of women between 2003 and 2007 and found that even when both parents work the same hours during the day, moms pull the graveyard shift at home.
But the double shift takes its toll on future earnings and career development for midnight moms, according to the projections in Burgard’s study.
Plus, a lot of us hate having to juggle and multitask so much. The American Sociological Association’s big multitasking study, which recently came out, concluded that women multitask more but that we don’t like doing it. That’s because it creates a mental bouillabaisse of legal briefs, child foot-wart appointments, client e-mails, vomit stains, dog poop, A/C repair guys, summer-camp forms, new underpants, the cost-analysis report and Mrs. Johnson’s holiday gift. (She’s allergic to nuts.)
To get it all done, Staci Temple Otto was wearing herself to a nub, up all night cleaning out closets at her Alexandria, Va., home or doing laundry or answering work calls.
She’s one of the IT brains at the Latham and Watkins law firm, and on the side she taught infant swim classes.
If it wasn’t lawyers calling her at all hours with tech issues or housework keeping her up, it was the 15 moms of her little swim students who wanted to talk about class.
“And they responded and wanted to talk at midnight. They were all keeping the same hours as I was,” Otto said.
She’s been trying to put the brakes on the midnight mania, lower the expectations and get some sleep.
“I realized that no matter how much I stayed up at night, there was never enough time to get it all done,” she said.
Quality time with homework, the siren call of the BlackBerry, the rise of cupcake compulsion and scrapbook fever, that blasted Elf on the Shelf — the drive to make everything just a little more special for the kids is turning us into maniacs. We’re making more stops than Santa. And he gets to sleep for the other 364 days. Mom gets to do it all over again, every day.
The midnight habit isn’t even the exclusive domain of moms who work outside the home. I’ve had plenty of e-mail chats with stay-at-home mom friends who are up at 4 a.m., savoring the quiet of the house and a cup of coffee that is sipped, not gulped.
No one is there to judge us, ask us for more-more-more or tell us it’s mine-mine-mine. We listen to our audiobooks so we can talk to our smart, single friends. We Clorox the shelves so the house is as clean as Mom’s. We edit that report until it’s perfect.
And then those morning birds begin to sing, dawn breaks and, once again, we belong to everyone else.