Cozy up … this is a long one.
In spite of her warning, with an open mind, I read my friend Jodie’s recent blog post about being a stay at home mom, in which she writes,
“I have no idea what the @#@! we have done to ourselves in this country, but we’ve gotten to a point where we have kids, simply to say, “Great! Now who can I pay to take care of them so I can go back to work?” As if kids fit perfectly into our life pockets without making any sacrifices to the size and shape of the pocket.”
At first glance I was, as she cautioned some of her readers would be, a little pissed off. I’m a working mom who does, as she says, “pays someone else to take care of” my kid.
But then as I read it again, I felt sad — and then guilty … which made me feel even worse.
You see, for as much as I miss Maya during the day — and believe me, it’s more than I could ever express here — I work out of choice … not necessity.
Yes, you read that right.
Unlike my stay-at-home-mom before me, I choose to work … which means I, by default, “choose” to “let other people raise” my daughter.
And saying it out loud doesn’t sit well with me.
It makes me uncomfortable … makes me feel like I’m putting work above family — in spite of the fact that I feel like I have a pretty good situation, whereby I work four days a week at the office and work at home on Fridays at a (flexible) job I truly love and, M-Th, Maya is at a daycare for which I can’t sing high enough praises!!!
I realize it might sound bad to others who would give anything to be home with their kids but truly have to work to make ends meet … but my husband makes a good living and if we had to survive on his income alone, with some changes in our lifestyle, we could do it. It wouldn’t be easy, but we could. The question is, do we want to? Or, perhaps most important, do I want to?
Because here’s the thing: for all I moan about missing Maya — and my friends know I moan a lot — I don’t really necessarily want to stop working now, either. Of course, I reserve the right to change my mind at any time … But for now, I’m [finally] content with how things are.
I don’t work exclusively for the money –and it’s definitely not to pay for designer clothes or fancy cars or to maintain a certain lifestyle or the commercial things Jodie mentions in her post (which might be true for some women); I work because, as I’ve come to realize the past month or so, … I enjoy it (most of the time).
Which begs the question … is that a crime? Is it a crime to want to work outside the home and be a mom? There are many days where, as much as I love my job, I want to throw in the towel and just be wholly home with Maya … but there is also a big part of me that enjoys the challenge of being a working-outside-the-house mom.
And, most important, I don’t feel like it takes away from my ability to mother Maya — in fact, I hope it just gives me a different perspective: I don’t necessarily have the quantity of time I’d like with her each day, so I focus on making the most of the time we do have. And I like to think I’m doing a good job. Do I want more time with her? Sure. But I have it pretty good at work, and don’t want to jeopardize things at the moment.
This whole “being content with being a working mom business” is a recent revelation — as in, the past month or so. I love waking my baby up and having morning snuggles with her, giving her her bottle (now sippy!) … but I also love wondering what the day will hold, what projects I’ll work on, what people I will come in contact with. I’m a social animal and thrive in community settings. I don’t know that I’d bode well being a SAHM unless I still worked part-time or had Maya enrolled in lots of activities where we could be social together.
That said, I don’t consider myself a career woman first; even on my Twitter account, “mom” is my first role. But I do identify with my career, too, and don’t want to ignore that calling, either right now.
(Of course, I should note: in my dream job, I’m a freelance writer who works from home and networks with other writers, getting the best of both worlds … but that’s not my reality at the moment).
Jodie’s honest post hit a raw nerve because I do sometimes question myself and wonder if I’m making a mistake working vs. being a SAHM; it’s the age-old mommy-war debate … one that has no right or wrong answer … only what works for you and your family — and is subject to change. I’m not wed to this situation; maybe in the future I’ll discuss a different work schedule with my boss, or maybe we’ll move and I won’t work, or maybe I will, who knows?!
And I can completely see how, to someone who doesn’t send their kids to daycare, it seems like we working moms (I hate that phrase: ALL moms work!) are shucking off our parental responsibilities so we can climb the corporate ladder … but it’s not always that simple. People are motivated by all different things … and it’s hard to generalize why women who don’t necessarily have to work, still choose to work. For me, it’s because I have a good work situation.
[With my family SO far away (and Luis's too -- every trip to see family requires a plane trip and time off), we have no built-in support network here (aside from friends, who are wonderful). But really, there's no one to help us out if one of us is working late or traveling; it's just us -- so having two flexible work environments is a huge benefit to our situation.]
To be honest, I don’t know if part of my desire to stay working has to do with my specific role at work and/or the amazing babyschool we chose for Maya or what — but I really don’t feel like I’m “dumping” my kid somewhere. I feel good about where she is — and would probably feel differently if I didn’t.
It’s literally like a school — with an age-appropriate curriculum in each classroom, amazing teachers who dote on her like nobody’s business (and take pics and email me them “just because!”, keeping me connected to her), they teach baby sign, they have play mats and shapes like Gymboree — only better — so she gets plenty of exercise, and more toys and musical instruments I could ever own … plus 9-10 other little (snotty-nosed!) munchkins to play with (read as: transfer germs to and from)/socialize with. The sick-kid aspect aside … there is a webcam I can watch whenever I want. I can feel connected to her and watch her thrive, in real-time. Sure, I might get insanely jealous when I see her in the arms of one of her teachers … but I know how much they love her, and that makes ME feel good.
And, at the end of the day, when she sees me at the door and comes barreling over (crawling, now walking), flapping her arms in delight as she collapses into my arms … there is simply no greater feeling. I’m her mama, and I’m her “home base,” to borrow a quote from an awesome post I read about mothers and sons. No one — not even her teachers — can replace that.
I might miss an art project or a new trick … and believe me, I feel bad about it. But I tell myself: It’s me who is there at 2 AM cuddling her back to sleep after her teeth break through. It’s me who is home with her snuggling her when she’s sick. It’s me who nursed her for nine months, giving her (literally) every single drop of milk I had. It’s me who wakes her up (or sees her smiling standing in her crib chatting) … and it’s me who tucks her in at night. I have to remember that when I have those moments of doubt–because believe me, there are many.
I used to strive for balance in my new role, but now I see it’s kind of futile, which is why this post from FitPregnancy really resonated as well, about how being a working mom requires integration — not balance. Because truly, there is no balance, as the book (and movie) I Don’t Know How She Does It, sadly prove … you can’t be everything to everyone; at least, not at the same time.
I remember Bethenny Frankel discovering that when she had a meeting with Rachael Ray; Rachael doesn’t think balance can ever exist–yet we’re always striving for it as a society. Integration, however, is a more plausible approach. That’s how I see my Fridays working from home. I know it’s only one day of the week, but I’m able to get my work done AND be with Maya. We sit in the living room — her playroom — me on my laptop working, her playing with her toys, chatting together while I tap away. The beauty of this set-up is I can take play breaks with her — the same way I’d take a coffee break at work — and she spends 2-3 hours of my work-day napping, which surely helps for calls. And though one could argue I’m not completely present at home OR at work in this situation, I work more expeditiously without typical office distractions — and I’m a few feet away from my little angel. I say that’s win-win.
I’ll be honest; I don’t know how long this situation will be acceptable — maybe my boss will say “no more” at some point (though I hope not!) or maybe I will decide, I don’t really want to work anymore — I want to focus on Maya — and just writing in my free time, or maybe I’ll ask for a more flexible work schedule … I’m completely open to those possibilities.
Right now, daycare is $10,500 a year. That’s a lot of money — and for just one child! When you add in a second, or a third, it certainly does become more of a financial decision – which is why I don’t want to say what I’ll do when there’s more than one child or even what I’ll feel in a few months with just Maya …
And many days, I DO struggle with this decision to work. But I also think there are probably some SAHMs, too, who sometimes question their decision to leave the workforce; maybe they have some hesitation, too? Maybe they miss the social aspect of work or the feeling of turning over a big project, while I miss out on the bits and pieces of Maya’s day.
My key takeaway (yes, there is one …) is when it comes to raising children, there is no “right” or “wrong” … only what works for you and your family, at this particular moment: subject to change.
I feel lucky to be in the situation I’m in — but I also don’t take it for granted, either. And my decision to work is not without its costs, believe me. I just have to believe that I’m doing the right thing for my family, just as Jodie is doing the right thing for hers.
So thank you, Jodie, for your post … it did hit a raw nerve, as you expected it might for some readers, but it also helped me come to terms with accepting my decision — for now, at least. Now if only I could let go of the guilty feelings …
How about you? If you are a working mom, do you sometimes question your decision? And if you’re a SAHM, do you sometimes question your decision? Does a mom ever find peace in her decision?