Work Life Balance
When A SAHM Goes To Work: I’m Still A Full-Time Mom
We all know there are a million different ways to completely scar our children and set them up for a life of five-times-a-week therapy sessions and crippling insecurities and intimacy issues, right? What I mean to say isâ€”we all know weâ€™re doing it wrong, donâ€™t we?
After all, there are a million articles out there admonishing us that we canâ€™t have it all (what were we thinking?!) and that if we donâ€™t breastfeed until our children reach adolescence we donâ€™t care about their nutritional and emotional needs and that if we donâ€™t let them cry it outâ€”if we dare pick them up from their cribs when they whimperâ€”we are guaranteeing that our children will grow up to be needy, insecure wrecks who wonâ€™t ever be able to wipe their own butts.
I guess, my point is, that there are a million different debates raging out there wherein parenting is an either-or proposition and if you pick the wrong path, you might have messed up your childâ€™s future. Permanently!
One of the hottest topics, to put it mildly, is always that of the stay-at-home versus the working mother. This is one of the perfect storms of parenting topics because it involves issues like economic privilege, class differences, childcare dilemmas, a motherâ€™s responsibilities as compared to a fatherâ€™s, andâ€”most importantlyâ€”GUILT.
Rather than enter into this debateâ€”one that I donâ€™t think has any easy, able-to-be-condensed-in-an-essay answersâ€”I will only say that recently, after years as either a stay-at-home or (very) part-time working mom, I have just started working full-time.
The factors that propelled me into full-time work are many. For one, it was purely practicalâ€”I need to make more money, to buy things like . . . food!Â It was also professionally smartâ€”after a couple of years of freelance writing and editing, I had the chance to move into a full-time writing/editing position. And it was personalâ€”how could I not take a job that I coveted so much and had worked for when I one day hope to advise my children to follow their own professional and creative dreams?
At no time did I pause to consider whether or not I could â€œhave it all.â€ Maybe because I have never â€œhad it all?â€ Maybe because I have always considered myself lucky to have the many, wonderful things that I already do? I donâ€™t know.
I do know that I consider myself lucky to be starting a job that I really wanted at a time when many people are unemployed and under-employed. And I also know that the moment when my 7-year-old asked if this meant that I would never again go on another school field trip with his class tempered my initial employment excitement. And I know that after my first day at work, when I came home to happy children who had already eaten a delicious dinner prepared by their awesome new babysitter, that everything would be fine.
But I also realized that it would be hard to adjust to not being there to make my kids dinner. By the second day, I found out that it would be hard to know that someone else would be teaching my boys how to perfect their backstroke. By the third day, I realized that it would be hard to see all the art projects lining the walls that I hadnâ€™t been there to help with. (I also realized that our new babysitter was even more incredible than I could have hoped for.)
This is all OK, though. It is OK that Iâ€™m missing some of the things that Iâ€™d always been there for. Now I appreciate all the time that I do have with my kids even more. I almost have more energy for all of their enthusiasm and antics than I did when I spent the whole day with them.
And how are they adjusting to the new schedule? In some ways, thatâ€™s been the most intriguing aspect. I was worried that they would resent the time away or that they would not be able to understand that this job was something that I wanted badly. I also didn’t know if they could reconcile that my longed-for profession was not more important to me than they were. Instead, I have found that both of my sons have been excited for me and understand the situation better than most adults do.
In the words of my 7-year-old, â€œI miss you a lot. But you like your job. And you have to do what you have to do. Youâ€™re still our mom.â€
And thatâ€™s what really sticks with me. I am still their mom â€” their full-time mom. Even if I now spend 10 hours a day away from them, it doesnâ€™t make me any less of a mom. They would never think to place the guilt on me that a whole culture of parenting experts attempt to do with think pieces on the damage inflicted by the choices parents make. My kids know that I love them and am doing my best for them and for myself.