Being a working mom is a weird thing, and quite frankly, it seems like it shouldn’t be a weird thing in the year 2020. When I had my first child in 2013 and chose to go back to work, I was shocked at the comments I got. Well-intentioned (probably), but shocking nonetheless…
“Do you have to go back to work?”
“I bet you can’t wait until you can stay at home full-time someday!”
“Is it so incredibly hard to leave your baby every day?”
I think people were just speaking from what they knew, from the desires of their heart, but I felt so alone in my desire to work outside the home AND be a mom. I’m positive so much of the response had to do with my community and the culture and context within which I live. I know there are other circles out there where the opposite might be true – a mom wanting to stay home with their kids might be shocked by the responses of well-intentioned people asking why in the world she wouldn’t go back to work. But that wasn’t my reality, even though I thought I was bringing a kid into a pretty progressive world where women had the right and were encouraged to pursue their dreams and chase what made them happy.
I was unnerved by the lack of support of my decision but decided that I was going to own my decision fully and be an example to other women of how you could do both.
Did I have to sacrifice some things? Absolutely. Did I operate differently than my co-workers? For sure. I might not have gotten into the office as early and I sure wasn’t willing to stay late just to prove something, but I worked hard and got things done, and I did it well. Then, when I got home, I gave my all to my family and actually felt like I was a better mom for it.
Two short years later, baby #2 arrived and I still wanted to work. And, crazy enough, people were still shocked. I guess they thought I’d come to my senses and discover my true identity as a stay-at-home mom once motherhood got more complicated with two kids. But no…I maintained that I wanted to be a working mom.
About 18 months after that, we unexpectedly began fostering a 9-year-old family member. So now, three kids in, things did get a little more complicated. And yet…I still wanted to work. But somewhere along the way, I realized that I wanted more flexibility which a traditional office environment wasn’t going to offer.
And here’s what I want to say about that – changing my stance didn’t change who I was. It wasn’t proof to the naysayers that I couldn’t be a working mom or that I finally “came to my senses”. We have permission to change our minds, pivot in new directions, and grow towards goals that maybe we didn’t even know we had. I LOVED working those 4 years with my littles in someone else’s very capable, loving hands. It was hard, no doubt, but every choice made in parenthood has its hardships. They just look different.
So, in 2017 I resigned from my office job to pursue this side job that had become a greater passion in my life. But honestly, I was also pursuing the life I wanted. My mantra at the time was I want to live my life, not have my life lived for me. I wanted to work BUT I also wanted to be able to volunteer at my kids’ school without having to think about using paid time off. I wanted to be able to stay at home with my sick kid and embrace those snuggles without worrying about what my coworkers thought about my absence. I wanted to be able to pick my kids up from school and hear about their day, and then get back to work, if needed.
So, my husband and I have worked hard to create that format. There are times I feel guilty for being able to hang out with my kids during the day (where does that guilt come from?!), but after the kids are in bed, you’ll often find both of us working on the couch late into the night. There’s a give and take, and these are the trade-offs we’ve chosen for this point in our lives.
Will we change the way this all looks someday? Maybe. We have permission to do so. Again, we can change, pivot, and grow while still being true to ourselves.
So, to all the moms out there – working or not – find out what works for you. What makes you come alive? I promise, if you pursue that, your kids will actually be better for it. Maybe that means staying home and maybe that means going in to an office. But maybe that means thinking outside the box to come up with a new way to do all the things in a healthy way that works for you and your family.