My last day of work was Friday February 2nd,, 2007. My son was born Monday February 5th 2007, (on his due date!). I went back to work when he was 7 weeks old, and I have been working ever since. I want to take a few minutes to talk about being a working mom. I know there are so many wonderful stay at home moms out there, and there are so many incredible advantages of being a stay at home mom. Most articles I come across or conversations I over hear seem to be in the favor of stay at home moms and frown upon working moms “for not being there”. With that being said, I am by no means bashing stay at home moms – I just want to take a few minutes to speak for the working moms, because hey! We are good moms too! 🙂
When I first went back to work, I cried on the way to work pretty much every morning for weeks. I felt so guilty, and so sad I had to leave my son while I went to work, but we really had no other option. I was a single mother at the time, and we needed to get food on the table. I remember feeling so sad that daycare got to see so many of my son’s “firsts” that year. However I have to admit, I was incredibly lucky the teachers in the infant room at his daycare – were absolutely incredible and we still keep in touch to this day.
Like any working mom, I’ve had dreams about being “just a housewife.” I also tell my husband all the time I wouldn’t want to have another baby unless I could stay home for at least the first year (if not longer). However! One of my best friends is a stay at home mama and I can’t tell you how many times I have confessed to her I truly believe it was easier to go to work some days than it was to be at home all day with a baby (let alone the mamas with multiple kids – MAD PROPS!). I love my son more than anything in this world, but if we are all being honest – babies are exhausting! I have to say I loved my lunch break. Stay at home moms don’t get a 30 min to one hour break- 5 days a week- just to themselves. So I have to say, it was definitely helpful saving my sanity. My son didn’t sleep through the night until he was 11 months old – so I absolutely spent many days feeling like a zombie and it took everything I had to make it through a productive work day and then come home and attempt to be the best mom I could be. Let me let you in on a little secret – you can be the best parent in fewer hours per week; it isn’t about how many hours you spend at home, it is about how you use them.
I still wouldn’t have traded my job—or my son—for anything. Despite the endless and chaotic balancing act – the rewards are incredible. I thrive on the urgency of a deadline. Work not only gives me an outlet for my ambition and creativity, it also offers order and a sense of accomplishment after completing a big project. However there’s another side of me I couldn’t have discovered if I hadn’t had my son—and it’s definitely the better side of me. No other experience in life could have taught me that I’m capable of loving and nurturing another person. I think doing it so young and as a single mother contributed a lot to the mother I am turning out to be. I say turning out, because I am still learning, growing, and changing every day.
Most parents are concerned about how much time and attention they should be giving to their kids. Working moms are always subject to relentless pressure from the “perfect parents”. You know the ones, you post a simple photo of your child but now you have to write up an entire disclaimer explaining everything those “perfect parents” are going to comment about to tell you just how awful you are. The worst part is, sometimes these “perfect parents” are sometimes disguised as well-meaning friends and family members. Everyone thinks they are a parenting expert these days. I will be the first to tell you – I am no expert by any means. I just do my best, always try to do better, & I am confident enough to juggle the demands of parenting with my desire to follow a career.
When you combine parenthood and business in any way, there will be sacrifices and compromises. What is vital to your happiness is being crystal clear about why you are making the sacrifices and compromises in the first place. If you can be clear with yourself, it will be easier to be clear with your children and your family. There have been plenty of times my son couldn’t understand why other kids were picked up right after school and didn’t have to go to the aftercare program, or why other moms could come to the class parties to volunteer and chaperone on field trips. It breaks your heart. “How come some kids get to stay home with their parents during summer break but I have to go to a summer camp place?” Pulls right on those heart strings, doesn’t it? I get it.
Sure, I have gone to the school events whenever work could let me slip away for a couple hours. Going to see his performances, join in the annual ‘snowball fights’, or sometimes just going to the school to sit in the cafeteria and eat lunch with him. I have always made it a point to make it to any school functions in the evenings or weekends to be a part of the “community”. I may miss some things, but I refuse to miss them all. I like to think of that as balance. My parents were wonderful parents but when I sit down and think about it? My parents always had to work as well, I spent a lot of time at after care programs, and summer camps and I don’t recall my parents taking me to many school functions/ events. So where did this guilt I have come from when I couldn’t make it to one with my own son? Where did I get the idea that if I don’t do all of these things, attend, and volunteer for everything – I am a terrible mother? I mean, I know I try really hard. No matter how exhausted I might be at the end of the day I still spend hours helping with home work, looking up how to do all the strange common core ways of solving math problems so I am able to help, looking up practice worksheets, and playing learning games. I can’t volunteer in the classroom like I would like but I still like my son to know I am thinking of him so sometimes I stick jokes in his lunchbox or write short notes in his planner. I get to know his friends and we are usually the house all the neighbor kids hang out at. Yet, still, somehow I manage to tell myself that despite all the things I DO try to do – I am not a good mother because of all the things I DON’T do. Why?! The bar on what it means to be a ‘great parent’ has been progressively moving up, and now it’s so outrageously high that even “perfect parents” can’t reach it – let alone exceed it. My hope is when my baby is all grown up and looks back on his childhood that he remembers how I always tried. Even when I was stressed, or tired, or sick – I tried. I hope he knows I had every intention of being great, good, grand, INCREDIBLE even, but some days all I could be was okay. I hope he looks back on his life and knows everything I did was for him, and it was all out of love.
I LOVE being involved in my son’s activities and his life. Sure, I try to make it to every basketball practice, but sometimes I just can’t make it due to a work commitment. Sure, it makes me sad to miss out but I also know he doesn’t need me cheering at every basketball practice, or welcoming him home from school with fresh baked snacks in order to feel loved and to grow into a well-rounded adult. He is the center of my life, and although the choices I make for my lifestyle, and decisions I make for our finances, home, future etc., – are based on what is best for him – my world does not solely revolve around him. Nor, do I believe, would it serve him any better if it did.
The majority of working mothers I know – work unbelievably hard to be the best parent they can, and that deserves encouragement, not criticism. So fellow working mamas, relax! Let the guilt slip away. You are doing a great job! Your kids will turn out just fine regardless of the hours you spend away working. I know you probably don’t always feel that way about yourself. Trust me, me too. I get it. If you are anything like me, you probably feel like you’re always coming up short when it comes to doing enough, giving enough and being enough for your kids. Not to mention your boss, your spouse, your parents, extended family, friends, and yes, of course, even yourself. It just doesn’t ever seem like there are enough hours in the day. It’s a never ending vicious cycle. So focus on what you do, and not what you miss. Ditch perfectionism; after-all practice doesn’t really make perfect, – practice makes progress! Stop comparing yourself to other moms. If there is one thing I hope you take away from this, it’s this – YOU ARE ENOUGH. You didn’t have a kid so you could spend the rest of forever feeling guilty. Our kids make our lives better, give our lives meaning, and there is no reason to allow being a mother who works – to take over your conscience. Enjoy your kids; enjoy your job, hell – just ENJOY YOUR LIFE!