Eco-friendly Winter Holiday TipsParenting
After having my first two children, I didn’t really give going back to work a second thought.
It was always a definite. With my oldest, I was a full-time student and worked only super part time to pay my share of the bills. In this case, I had to work, otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to eat. For the record, my mom sent me money for emergencies and my roommates and closest friends provided free childcare so I could work and go to class. I had a great support system, but still things were tight finance-wise and not working simply wasn’t an option. When my second son was born, I was married and had finished my first year of teaching 5th grade at a school I loved, and still do. So going back to work was less of a necessity and more of a desire. I loved my job and felt as if it provided me with a tremendous amount of purpose.
The year I was pregnant with my 2nd son, there were three other women at my job that also had babies. The following school year, I was the only one who returned to school. Now, they all left for a variety of reasons, some to work closer to home, others to focus on other aspects of their lives, in addition to their new role as a mom. As more school years came and went, other teachers had chosen not to return after having babies, again for various reasons. But, it made me think.
I know we’re not supposed to play the comparison game. Different choices are made by different people in different situations, and everyone is doing what is best for their families. But I couldn’t shake the feeling… was choosing to continue to be so dedicated to my job coming with detrimental affects to my family? Or was I choosing to work because that’s what I wanted, no matter how much it effected the other members of my household? Was I being a bad mother by purposely choosing to add something else to my plate that required me to take time away from my kids and husband?
So I talked to my husband about it. He assured me that there was nothing wrong with me wanting to work. He also reinforced that our family had more financial security with my second income. I understood what he was saying and it reassured me for a short period of time. My husband knows me very well and knows how driven I am. In fact, when we started dating I was putting myself through grad school while raising a baby and working full time. He’s only know me with a full, sometimes overflowing plate. So, though I believed and was temporarily relieved by what he said, I couldn’t help but feel like he was saying all of these things to me just to make me feel better. Which I loved him for, but wasn’t necessarily satisfied by.
I talked to other people in my life, with and without children. I read articles from working mothers, and stay at home mothers, and just continued to ponder while simply living my life the way I wanted to. Then, I had my third kid. I stayed home for almost six months and let me tell you, I hated it! I couldn’t wait to go back to work! I love my kids, unconditionally, and my husband and I do what we need to do to meet their needs and make sure they feel loved by us. Our kids are happy and healthy, and might I add, all-around wonderful humans. Sure we can’t always sit down and watch every movie they watch with them. Sure we can’t always take them out and go somewhere “special,” or “fun” every time they want to. But is that what parenting is supposed to be? Are we supposed to spend every minute of every day catering to what our kids want? Are we supposed to be devoting all of ourselves to give our children attention, despite of the meaningful work we could also be doing outside the walls of our home? Are we supposed to sacrifice who we are and what we want as individuals to be at home with our kids every day? Because, that’s what I felt like I was doing when I was home all the time.
I was elated when it was time to go back to work. I even left maternity leave early to return back. Upon coming back, I soon realized that working, itself, was not the problem. I just had to prioritize. What was important enough to stay in my life with this added role, and what was not? Maybe I couldn’t manage being a classroom teacher anymore, so I changed positions to a Resource Teacher which was less demanding off hours. I was still very involved in my oldest son’s education, having a very open relationship with his teacher. I couldn’t be present in my middle son’s speech sessions, but my husband could. I could still go to every baseball game, I just couldn’t be Team Mom for every team they played on. I could still read, play, and watch TV with my kids but maybe it was just one book before bed instead of three. Maybe they had to spend more time playing with each other, than playing with Mom. All of those things were ok! My sons are not worse off because of those changes.
That’s what all of those other women at my school who chose not come back did. They prioritized. They decided working at our school wasn’t as important as pursuing a post-graduate degree, or working closer to home, or joining social groups, or creating their own businesses, or becoming advocates and creating a community for other mothers. Their purpose was no longer in the classroom, but mine was. Every single one of us are doing incredible things while raising good kids.
None of us should feel bad for making any of these choices. A working mom is not less of a mother for choosing to work while raising her children. And no stay at home mother is less of a woman for choosing to leave her 9-5 to prioritize raising her children. Period.