Hi, it’s me standing on my soap box. Yes… again.
Moms make difficult decisions every day: Should I buy the generic diapers on sale or should I splurge on name brand? Breast or bottle? Is my child crying because he really needs something or is he crying because he’s a little fussy? Despite the unsolicited advice and lectures I have endured regarding my family’s ‘controversial’ decision to co-sleep, the toughest parenting decision I have made is little more complicated and selfish; my decision to be a ‘working mom.’
Being a mom is a super-duper important job! It is both challenging and rewarding. Moms don’t earn a paycheck for their hard-work, but they raise curious babies who become intrigued children who become responsible adults. Moms are responsible for nourishing their children, keeping them safe, and totally loving them! If it sounds difficult and complicated, that’s because it is.
You have my deepest apology for using the clichéd term, ‘working mom’ as you read on (if you kindly choose to do so). Labels should be for jars of baby food, not moms!
Being a working mom has been a difficult experience for me that I underestimated and was not prepared for. Sure I’m always struggling to find time, but what mom isn’t? The issue has been an emotional one that I can no longer blame on hormones.
After 6 weeks of maternity leave, I was back to work in March of 2011. Was I ready? Not at all! Although six weeks sounded like a vacation before maternity leave began, when you actually have a newborn, six weeks is no time at all. I have since encouraged other working moms to take extended leave if possible, unpaid or not. Yes, where maternity leave is concerned I offer my unsolicited opinion to other moms.
So why be a working mom? For some, it’s not a choice. As a first time mom, this was one of the first decisions I had to make in which I had to put my own feelings second to doing what was best for my family. I’ll be honest, it was a tough lesson to learn. I was, and still am, very selfish about my child. I want to spend every possible moment with him (and what mom doesn’t).
But there were other reasons for returning to work as well and I only have myself to blame. I have worked very hard to get where I am today (shout out to the working girls!). Opportunities in my field are limited and highly competitive; leaving meant the likelihood that I would never be able to return to the position I am in today. I had to ask myself if I was ok with that, and my honest answer was no.
You may have noticed I seem to be contradicting myself. Yes I am. But I did say this was difficult. Honestly, after nearly a year of being a working mom, it hasn’t really gotten any easier and I still struggle with the same emotions. I can’t possibly describe how much it hurts when another mom says something like, “Oh, I can’t imagine being away from my children all day.’ Yeah, pretty much sucks as much as the guilt you just dumped on me.
So why do it?
It’s a combination of doing it for the good of the family and doing it for myself professionally. So far, being a working mom has been the right thing to do, despite the challenges.
When my son is not with me, he has been exclusively in the care of family members who devote 115% of their time, attention, and love to him. Not only do I save a small fortune in child care (we’re talking more than $1000 a month per child in the DC area) but my son is with the same people who raised me. Mostly, I think I turned out ok and my son will too.
His reaction each evening when I get home from work also dispels my irrational fear that my baby will forget who I am and love me less because I am not with him 24/7. Babies understand families and love a lot better than we give them credit for. Added bonus that perhaps me being a working mom can someday be a teachable moment for him.
Emotionally, it is fortunate for me that my husband and I commute together and meet for lunch each day. Most people don’t think of traffic as quality time together, but we make the most of it. It’s also nice to talk about the stressful parts of our day before we take our stress home with us. We leave our stress stuck somewhere in traffic and give our son the better parts of our days.
I have no immediate plans for leaving work. Things are good and we like ‘good.’ Although my family intends to remain on its present course for the time being, we are open to re-evaluating things when the situation warrants other consideration. If I have learned anything about how quickly children grow and develop, it has prepared me for the very real reality that I will begin homeschooling soon enough and the label of ‘working mom’ will someday have a different meaning for me.