There is No “Right” or “Wrong” — Only What Works for *YOU* (for now, that is …)

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?


15 thoughts on “There is No “Right” or “Wrong” — Only What Works for *YOU* (for now, that is …)

  1. Melissa,

    Usually I am just a lurker, but your post was because of a piece I just read. Obviously I am not a mom yet, but I came across this column you might like:

    A favorite tidbit: As far as I can tell, no matter what decision a woman makes, she’s offering an invaluable gift to my daughters and me. So I’d like to thank all of you. Because I’m not necessarily trying to raise an executive or a mommy. I’m trying to raise a woman. And there are as many different right ways to be a woman as there are women.

    Hope you find it interesting.

    Jamie Levine Daniel

    1. OMG I love this post, Jamie! And thanks for sharing so much — I never know who lurks here, and it means a lot when I hear people do 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing, it’s really an incredibly well-written piece and speaks to the heart of the issue. Like the author, I believe there are many right ways to be a woman as there are women. And for now it means a working mom, but that might not always be the case. If only we could ditch the guilt associated with such decisions!

  2. You are absolutely right when you say “there is no “right” or “wrong” … only what works for you and your family.” I am sooooo sick and tired of hearing/reading about other women criticizing others for their choices. Women should be supportive, not critical of others. Yes, some work out of choice, and others because they have to. Ok, that’s fine. You want to stay home? Good for you. Not everyone can do it — work or be SAHM. I personally think my son has learned more because of his daycare. And I don’t carry guilt with me. I work, so what? I’m not going to feel guilty because of what others think I should be doing. I do the best I can. My son is loved, he’s learning and thriving in his development, and I’m not going crazy (because personally I think I would go crazy staying home — and don’t say I’m a bad mom for saying that). I am my own person — while I’m a “mom,” I haven’t lost my own self. I still do things for ME (not as much as i would like), something many woman have a problem with and probably see me as selfish. But you know what? It makes ME happy, and then my son sees how happy I am — I’m fulfilled. FYI, he also makes me incredibly happy, but there are times I need some quiet time because once I get home, it’s non-stop. I am a great mother and a great wife. And all you other mothers who lavish love on your kids…you are too. Doesn’t matter if you work or not.

    1. Tawnya, I completely get what you know I don’t know if I would be a happier mom being at home, either. And I, too, feel like Maya is getting a great early education at school … it doesn’t mean I don’t love and teach her — of course we do! — but I feel good about where she is, and that helps ease some of my guilt.

  3. I wish you didn’t feel guilt. Your post should send you a message. 🙂

    I totally agree that its up to the individual. Unfortunately, society wants to pressure all of us in every which way so we have to do what we feel is right (like you said) at that moment.

    I work because I love to work. I don’t have a choice not to work but I also know that I would work at least part-time if I had the option. I also love, love, love being Connor’s mom and I think he appreciates the fact that I work. He doesn’t always understand it, but I also want to teach him the value of working outside the home. As he gets older, though, the one thing I do want to make sure of is that he sees me at the things he deems important. I don’t want him to get the idea that work is more important than he is; just that its part of what I do.

    To each his/her own. 🙂

    1. LOL … thanks, Stac. I think this line is key: “I don’t want him to get the idea that work is more important than he is; just that its part of what I do.” — AMEN.

      And I guess my main point in all this is that, as women, we shouldn’t judge or begrudge one another for having different aspirations. Some people have always wanted to be a SAHM. Some have always wanted to climb the corporate ladder. But I think the majority of women fall in that in-between place whereby they enjoy working (or maybe HAVE to work) but also enjoy being a mom … they don’t want to be President necessarily, but they also feel want a different kind of validation, too. Maybe it’s selfish to some, but it doesn’t have to feel that way.

  4. I so so so so so agree with you!!! I don’t have to work, but I ENJOY working, and I honestly think that Henry is better off spending his days in a structured daycare environment with social interaction and great age-appropriate learning. This allows our weekends and evenings to be solely “Henry” time – we don’t do anything else but spend time with him. And honestly, I don’t feel in the slightest bit guilty. If anything (and yeah I might get reamed for this), I think that SAHM should feel guilty, unless they are able to give their kids the same advantages that the daycare gives H.

    And while I am at it, why is it never even questioned that dads go to work? But Moms get the question every time “how do you do it?” “don’t you feel bad?” UGH!! It pi**es me off!!

    OK, I will stop venting now! 🙂

    1. 🙂 I totally know what you mean; I feel like daycare has been a blessing for us — but I don’t necessarily feel that anyone should feel guilty … I think that’s my point — that women shouldn’t judge one another. My mom stayed at home with me and I turned out pretty amazing, if I do say so myself (kidding, kidding!). And Maya is in daycare … but I think she, too, will turn out just great. What is most ironic to me is I used to LOATHE the idea of daycare … I felt very similar to Jodie, that it meant dumping your kids somewhere …I hated the thought of someone else “raising my kids” … but it’s not that way at all. Daycare only enhances what we are already doing–and they teach her more than honestly I feel I’d be able to.

      And you are SPOT ON. And for the men who do decide to SAH, why are they judged? As the article Jamie shared said, “it takes a village to raise a child” … does it really matter who is home, or who isn’t?

  5. I dunno. My family has two paid-off cars, we don’t have cable, we live in a 900-square-foot house, we have basic cell phone plans, we buy secondhand clothes, etc. We eat out once a week. We live as frugally as you can without being ridiculous about it. We also have zero debt (aside from our mortgage). No credit card debt, no car payments, no student loans, etc. And if there’s a job loss or a house repair emergency, we have enough savings to cover it. But hopefully that savings will pay for my son’s college tuition someday.

    I suppose I could afford to stay home, if we moved into a small apartment, blew through our savings and racked up credit cards to pay for basic necessities. And then my son would have to go to school anyway when he turned five, and I’d need to somehow re-enter the career world after five years away from it.

    If you can stay home, you’re very lucky. If you can’t, it doesn’t mean that you’re materialistic.

  6. I totally agree with that last line, Alison — just because someone works doesn’t mean they are materialistic — there are many reasons people work … and we shouldn’t dismiss or judge each other for our decisions or–in some cases–life situations we’re in.

  7. I work because I choose to, sort of. If I didn’t work, we’d have no nice vacations, no college fund for my girls, no retirement fund, no…well, you get the idea. I also work because if something happened to my husband, I’d need my income, my benefits, and my pension!

    My mom was a stay-at-home mom for the first nine years of my life, but I don’t remember it being all that fantastic. She watched game shows and soap operas, and spent all of her time cooking. cleaning, and sewing. She wasn’t engaging in child-enriching activities.

    My girls (now 9 and 14) loved daycare. Truthfully, they would have loved to come home from school to find me there also. However, there was never any doubt who their parents were. DH and I were the ones who took care of them when they were sick, bought them whatever they needed, took them to swimming, soccer, gynmastics, ballet, etc., and celebrated their birthdays, half-birthdays, and every other holiday and accomplishment with them. We were the ones who played endless games of Candyland, flew kites at the park, and did hours of crafts with them.Parenting is more than who cares for your child for the 50 hours they spend in daycare each week.

  8. I want to rveome atom feed option from the super custom template. I know this sounds odd, but i want the feed to still work for pinging and since i publish to other communities through my feed, but I don’t want people subscribing to my feed. I want them visiting the site. Is there anyway to rveome this link, i uploaded to a test site and have looked through the code but found no solution. If you could email me back nugz4life at i would greatly appreciate it. Wonderful job.

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