Life Labeled as a ‘Working Mom’

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.


11 thoughts on “Life Labeled as a ‘Working Mom’

  1. Amazing post! Connecting with other career-minded moms is really important to me because, well, there just aren’t that many. I have nothing against any stay-at-home moms at all… in fact, I, too, was planning to be one. It’s just nice to read other people who get me, and get why do I do things, and others to whom I don’t have to explain my decisions. Refreshing. Thank you!

    • Thank you for such a wonderful compliment. I could be wrong, but it always feels to me like being a working mom is kind of lonely in terms of connecting with other moms. I was fortunate to find a mommy group exclusively for working moms which is accommodating to my schedule and great for emotional support from other moms like me. I too had big plans for being a stay at home mom (whom I think need to be called something much better than that like moms-who-are-at-home-whilst-raising-PEOPLE), but things haven’t worked out that way.

      Shoot me an email if you ever feel like talking:

  2. Great post 🙂 I am a stay at home and work at home mom. I had the opportunity to stay at home with my kids but also get into a career that I love from home, customer service and real estate. So I am still staying at home but now that my kids are teens I am also working more and learning more and moving up the career ladder awesomely enough from home!! I am very lucky, fortunate and thankful for the chance to stay at home and care for my children and work here as well. Have a great rest of the week 🙂

    • Thank you for reading and sharing your story Lisa. For any mom, her first job should be BEING A MOM. Careers and business opportunities are great, but children should come first. I am very glad you found a mom/work balance in your life. It seems like you have adapted nicely as the situation changed. 🙂

      Take care!

  3. Yesterday I had to leave my contract position because my daughter is sick…for the second time in two weeks, and she needed to be picked up from daycare. I often feel like I can’t do anything well because I am constantly battling guilt – I can’t be a good mom because I’m also an employee, and I can’t be a good employee because I’m also a mom. It’s a constant struggle to balance it all and keep your perspective. In a perfect world I would work PT, because I love working, I’m good at working, and it’s good for me. It’s the 50+ hours a week that I am away from my child that I don’t love! Until that “perfect world” shows up I’ll keep balancing and hoping!

    • Your comment just reminded me to schedule a well baby check-up for my son… so extra special thanks for that.

      I am so thankful to work in an office were several good things are happening: 1. Most of the staff have families of young children (just like myself) 2. The staff is friendly and understanding 3. I think they like me (or my baked goods I treat them with)

      I hope all working moms are as welcomed in the workplace and understood when their top job as MOM takes priority over a workplace job.

  4. I can totally relate to your struggle! I’ve been a “working mom” for 3.5 years now and I still struggle with the guilt.

    In addition to the guilt of “choosing to keep my career”, I struggle daily with the guilt of not being as good as I could be at either one. Tears me up. I can’t put in the extra hours to be a rockstar at my career or at home because I apparently need sleep. Who knew? I’m trying very hard to be good enough, which is not easy for an overachiever like myself! Maybe in a few more years I’ll have “the balance” (a.k.a. a freaking unicorn, as far as I can tell) figured out. Or maybe this is as “balanced” as I can be; teetering on the very fine line of sleep deprivation and insanity. In any case, it’s worth it! 🙂

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  6. Great post! I was conflicted before going back to work as well. While our family NEEDED my salary for the household I also ***gasp*** wanted to go back. There’s this crazy part of me that craves the working part of my life. I don’t think 6 weeks was nearly long enough but once I got back into the groove of working with an infant everything started falling into place.

    It does help that we do have a home daycare that I trust and totally love but I think I’m a better mother because I get up and go to work everyday.

    • I remember being totally jealous of the European countries that boast 6 month+ maternity leave. Made six weeks seem like nothing at all! I know the time will come (rather soon) when I will be leaving the work place and begin homeschooling (at least this has been our long term plan). I wasn’t ready to stop working and wonder if I will have that moment when I understand there is something else I am meant to be doing. I think parenting is a lot of guess work. We try to keep our kids happy and healthy and just hope we are making the right decisions for them. 🙂

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