Confessions of a Working Mom Q&A: Part 1 (you can find Part 2 here!)
Q: Did you always plan on being a working mom?
When I was younger, I didn’t have a plan or a vision as a parent. I think in the back of my head, I probably saw myself staying home in some version of my motherhood journey. However, it is impossible to know, so early in life, what parenthood will be like. The factors that go into that decision are too great to conceptualize and truly understand in advance. Will you (financially) be able to stay home? Will you be able to afford to go to work and pay for childcare? Will you want to stay home? Will you want to go back to work? Will there be an opportunity to do both perhaps part-time or remotely? How can one know before you get there.
One thing I didn’t understand until I was aware of childcare costs in this country was the misconception I had prior to having kids. Once upon a time I thought if one parent stayed home (normally the mother), that the family was doing so well that one parent could afford to stay home to raise their kids and “hangout” (haha!). Once I realized how much daycares, nannies, or even babysitters for that matter, cost year over year, I became away of the fact that so many of the females I knew who had “chosen” to stay home actually couldn’t afford to go to work! It didn’t make sense to hand over their entire paycheck (before or after taxes) each month.
I won’t get into the pay gap here and now – or the lack of great and affordable childcare options throughout the country. However, as a more “in-the-know” parent, I now understand that the choice to stay home or go back to work is both financial (on two sides!) and also personal to the needs and wants of the parents and children. For us, I both need and want to work for various reasons.
Q: How much time did you take off with your first child?
With my first son, I took off all the time I possibly could. In the end, it was a generous 18-weeks of both maternity leave, paid vacation time and unpaid leave. This is unheard of in most parts of America and so many industries! My colleagues and manager were so amazingly supportive of my time-off as well as my decision to come to the workforce after my leave. Also a rarity. They were kind, considerate, understanding and supportive in every way I could possibly need and want during the transition.
Being home for 18-weeks was both glorious and terrible. I loved being home with my new baby and getting to bond so much. It was an amazing experience for so many reasons. I had plenty of time to recover from my unexpected c-section and generous amounts of time to figure out the whole breastfeeding/being a mother/running a household thing too.
However, I was really, really lonely and very, very tired. I felt super isolated being home with a non-speaking human all day, and drained from the repetitive routine (eat, sleep, feed, nurse, pump, eat, sleep, maybe shower…). I felt uninspired, small, sad, and scared in many ways being home for that long on leave. Returning to work, for me, was an outlet, a joy and a relief as much as it was intimidating transition.
Q: How was it going back to work after your first child?
I found a lot of joy going back to work after maternity leave. I was incredibly lucky to have an amazingly supportive manager, co-workers, and accommodating environment, which not everyone has. I loved being around other adults during the day again, working on projects outside the house, and getting to snuggle my baby when I got home at night.
It was rough the first few weeks, leaving in the mornings. It was really hard to say goodbye. But as the weeks went on, I got used to it. Our child was in great hands, I got videos, pictures and other updates throughout the day and I was able to leave early enough at the end of the day (most days) to get some play and cuddles in before bed and bath. It was rare I missed bedtime more than once or twice a week at max, meaning more than 70% of the time, I got that last smooch in! The weekends and other together time became much more focused and cherished.
Q: How is it balancing both a career and a family?
I cannot pretend to know everyone’s struggle or relate to every working parent. Being a working parent is an incredibly hard role. Your demands at your job, financially to your family, your performance on your work team or under your manager is stressful and impactful. Being away from your children for long hours – and perhaps for work trips – is tiring, draining, guilt-inducing and sad in its own right.
However, being a working parent also has a lot of rewards. The lucky ones get to do a job they enjoy, be around people they like, you may feel proud of your profession, feel challenged or inspired day-to-day (or at least week-to-week) and get to provide financially for your family. You may be providing a model for your children you enjoy as well.
Perks include, sharing in social aspect you don’t have all day at home; adult conversation, banter, even maybe lunches or other celebrations. People’s meltdowns are usually adult size and contained in some way. Your responsibilities at the office or workplace are (normally) very different from those at home – letting your mind and body have a break from routine and same-same rigmarole. Everyone takes care of their own bathroom needs (well, unless you work in childcare, at a hospital/rehab or for the elderly I suppose). Heck, you even let to listen to music or podcasts YOU want to listen to on your commute, make a phone call without someone hanging off your leg, and eat a snack that didn’t come off a child’s sticky hand or leftovers on their plate.
Being a working parent makes me a better parent. Getting out into the world and doing me, being me, providing for my family in some way – all this makes me better when I am at home. I am more focused on the kids when I am there, I cherish and value the time more, I don’t get too drained of the routine (like cleaning crud off the floor after meals!). I am not begging my husband to take over when he walks through the door.
This is not the same journey or sentiment for all working parents, for sure. There are so amazing, dedicated, positive, powerful supermoms (and dads) out there that feel completely devoted to every moment of raising their children and running their household whether or not they leave for a job outside the home. But for me personally, this is what works best.
I think we have to have a good combinations of “working outside the home” moms and stay-at-home moms (who are also working incredibly hard) to bring balance to our lives as a whole, the overall community, the workforce, the school systems and more. I praise the stay-at-home moms and the working moms for the jobs everyone is doing every day. It’s amazing what moms can accomplish. Dads too, but moms in this case.
Q: Rude Working Mom Question: Don’t you feel so guilty not being home with your kids and instead, letting someone else raise them?
This is a judge-y statement more than a question, but I have been asked it like many working moms.
The truth is that I do feel guilty sometimes. But not enough to not provide well for my kids and not enough to not do what I need to do for myself to be a good mom and partner in my marriage.
My kids have awesome childcare and enjoy their everyday. They are being raised well and right. The childcare we have in place is meant to be part of the “parent team” in raising our kids. It takes a village, right? Isn’t that the saying after all? I am raising my kids, don’t be mistaken. My husband and I are completely and utterly involved and dedicated to the well-being, education, happiness, development, moral compass, social skills and physical and emotional care of our kids everyday, whether we are there or not during the work hours of the business week. Raising children is not done in a day, we are fully in the marathon of their childhood (and life!).