In the four years I’ve been a mom, my experience in that role has run the gamut. I went back to work after maternity leave (three months, which was both way too long and way too short). When my daughter was born two and a half years later, I “leaned out” and decided to take some time to be a stay-at-home mom. Since around the time my daughter was about eight months old, I started working part-time from home writing. Through all these changes, perhaps the most powerful lesson I have learned is this: I completely understand why anyone would choose to be either a working mom, a stay-at-home mom, or somewhere in between.
Women are often asked when they are pregnant if they are going to go back to work once their baby is born. It’s a pretty old-fashioned question. While stay-at-home moms are on the rise in recent years (as are stay-at-home dads), 70 percent of mothers with children under the age of 18 participate in the workforce. Above and beyond being ill-informed, it’s an incredibly sexist question, and completely ignores the idea that women can derive pleasure from their jobs. It also dismisses the idea that the fulfillment she receives from her work will, in turn, enrich both her role as a mother and her children’s lives. In short, working can absolutely make some women better, happier, more effective mothers.
I will freely admit: Even though I’m in a good place now, personally and professionally, there are aspects of being a working mom that I really, really miss. I miss days that were guaranteed to give me mentally challenging activities instead of having to seek them out if I want to have intellectual stimulation beyond Elmo (no hard feelings, Elmo). I miss wearing big kid clothes. My favorite pair of heels sit neglected and alone in my closet, collecting dust. Every time I open my closet, I can almost hear them cry out, “ARE YOU GOING TO A WEDDING?! CAN WE GO WITH YOU?! YOU’LL NEED US! WE GO WITH ALL YOUR DRESSES!” I miss the camaraderie of my office. I miss the particulars of my old job. I miss the enormous hug I got at my son’s daycare when I picked him up at 5:30. There’s a lot to love about the working mom gig, including the strength women can draw from taking on these roles, both as individuals and mothers. So I thought I would talk to some of my working mom friends to see how they felt working outside of the home upped their mom (and life) game.
Personal And Professional Balance
“Working gives me enough of a break from the daily grind at home to be more patient with the requests (sometimes demands) of little people! ...And being a mom has made me more patient in the workplace. My boss has received a ton of accolades lately from business partners that I have worked with stating that I am detailed and patient in my explanations of complex scenarios. I joked with my boss that I have toddlers at home, so maybe that is where it is coming from.” -Liz
“My organizational skills have improved as a mom, which translates into the workplace. My sense of balance, one day you may have a lousy day at work and you get to come home and be an awesome Mom, and vise versa, a great day at work balances out that epic tantrum that you couldn't control.” - Shannon
Time With Their Kids: Quality Over Quantity
"So much time is spent working, that when you are with the kids, you are 100 percent fully focused and WITH the kids. There are definite benefits to that." -Nutan
"I love what I do and feel it's a major part of my identity. It makes me a better mom because I appreciate the time I do spend with my kids more. It helps me focus and prioritize both in my personal life and at work." -Emily S.G.
Setting A Strong Example
"My mom was super corporate. And I always fought that as a point of rebellion. I'm currently up for this job that would be super corporate but an amazing opportunity. In a weird way, I know I can do it and enjoy it because I saw my mom rock that... So I suppose it allows us to be another kind of example to our children, another resource, another source of wisdom and advice. I want my daughter to feel like she can do anything she wants and I can be an example for her as to how to do that." - Emily
"I love being able to share nature with the kids (to the extent I could). My daughter spent late lab nights in the greenhouse and went on field research visits with me and it was a whole different world for her." - Cheryl
"It teaches my kids, you can have a family and a job. My in-laws are very old fashioned and we are trying to teach our kids differently." - Veronica
Let's Be Honest: Every Relationship Needs A Little Space Sometimes
"[Me working] fostered my daughter's sense of independence." - Beatrice
"For me and my strong-willed children, [me being at work is] a healthy break from each other." - Stephanie
"I am way more patient with my kids when I don't spend all day with them. Also, my son has learned so much from his teacher. Things I wouldn't even know to teach him." - Aria
The More People Kids Have, The Better
"I feel like maybe working helps me be a more dynamic person with more experiences to share with the kids and of course the benefits of my kids bonding with other loving caretakers and getting exposed to things i could never provide, like [teaching them] Mandarin." - Amanda
"I love giving my children a chance to develop their personalities under several great caregivers. I also love that they know that everyone in the family has "jobs" and things they enjoy doing in addition to what we do together. It's important to me that they don't feel the pressure of undivided scrutiny. The…extra finances I bring in after paying for daycare greatly reduces the stress in our household, and I am a better mother when I'm not strung out about money." - Hannah
This. So Much This.
It's a daily reminder that "mom" is just one of [my] many roles — not the only role.
Images: Tanner Ardali/Unsplash; Giphy(6)