The decision that I would go back to work after having kids was something I had my mind made up about long before I was ever a mother to any actual kids. I've worked since I was 14. My first job was as a referee in a micro soccer league for kids. When I was 16, I upgraded to become a sales associate at a sports store. It didn't matter to me what kind of work I was doing, I was simply excited to be employed, and largely, that basic feeling hasn't changed. I love the thrill of having my own money and the independence it grants me. You know, the fundamental reasons why anyone wants to work.
I've held a job ever since those days as a lanky referee, and thus far, I'd say I've been very blessed in my career endeavors. When my husband and I found out we were expecting our first child, I immediately spoke with my coworkers and supervisor regarding the length of my leave. The U.S. maternity leave policies leave a lot to be desired, but at the time, I wasn't phased by its insufficiency. Without hesitation, I informed everyone that I planned to return to work after eight weeks. This announcement was followed by eye rolls and slight laughter. My coworkers knew I would come back, but they also knew that I'd be singing a different tune when the day of leaving my baby in the hands of someone else actually arrived.
They were, of course, totally right: Eight weeks flew by and I jumped right back into my work routine with all the finesse of a newborn giraffe. I can attest to the fact that returning to work after having kids was much easier said than done. I've been at it for more than two years now and I'm still fighting a daily battle of brutal anxiety every day.
Being a working mom is awesome, but that doesn't mean that it comes without it's woes. Here are some of the struggles we deal with daily:
We Feel Guilty For Leaving Our Kids In Someone Else's Care
Yes, we know we're not "supposed" to feel guilty for being working moms, but that message is doing hard, uphill battle against decades of messages telling us that we should, that working when you're a mom is a selfish indulgence. No matter how evolved and progressive you are, and no matter how confident you feel about working, some of that residual guilt is bound to creep in from time to time.
Sometimes getting a break from the explosive diapers and the epic tantrums is a very welcome change, but, as any mother will concede, leaving our kids in the care of someone else feels instinctively...wrong, at least on some level, to some degree. No one can nurture our babies like we can. Really — no one. Sure, there are plenty of people who are more than capable of taking acceptable care of our kids, but it still breaks our hearts to kiss their sweet little faces goodbye in the morning. I mean, do they get more adorable when we drop them off at daycare? This is a real question, you guys.
Sometimes Being Distracted By Of Our Kids At Work
When we get to work, I promise that we're present and we're focused, but that doesn't mean that we're adept at denying that we miss our kids. We're not robots incapable of feeling human emotion. It's great to be a contributing part of the work force, and we're happy to be in a role that allows us to help provide for our family, but sometimes we miss those smelly diapers and manic meltdowns. Sometimes our thoughts wander to the daycare and we think about our kids playing and making friends and painting pictures, and then suddenly someone pokes us with their pen, and we realize that we've been daydreaming about our little ones making paper mache turkeys for the last 10 minutes (also we might be drooling or unknowingly giggling at the adorable things we assume our kids are doing).
And even if we don't get distracted by daydreaming about our kids (I hear that wears off a bit as they get older), there will inevitably be times when little kid-related distractions will pop up in our workday: someone will get sick, or a babysitter will cancel, and we'll need to quickly take a call or send a text to deal with it.
For the record, working moms are not even remotely the only people who get distracted by their non-work lives while in the workplace. It happens to everyone. When it happens to us, it just happens to come in a super adorable package.
Judgment From People Who Assume We Care Less About Our Kids Because We're Not At Home With Them
I promise that working moms love their children just as much as stay-at-home moms (and really, SAHMs are working too so having to defend this accusation is beyond shameful). This isn't the '50s. Women aren't required to wear an apron and slave away in a kitchen all day, and if Betty Draper is any indication of the satisfaction of being a homemaker in that generation, then I seriously question the notion that the love for one's child is based solely on a woman's occupation.
I've had more than a few elderly women ask me why I work (random strangers in the frozen food section are particularly intrusive sometimes). I'm always baffled that the idea of a woman joining the workforce instead of staying at home is so unbelievable to them. Also, the judgment is so unnecessary. We're not abandoning our kids. We're helping to provide for our family, and we're giving them an example of a strong, independent woman.
A Seriously Crazy Amount Of Pressure To Do It All
There's an undeniable pressure on women to be everything to everyone every day. From our bosses, to our spouses, to our kids, the needing never stops, but neither do we.
What exactly does it even mean to "do it all?" All of the cooking? All of the cleaning? All of the chauffeuring, the bill-paying, the boo-boo kissing, the bacon-bringing, bread-winning, and all the scrambling in between? Women are the multi-tasking champions of existence. Whether it's at home or at work I can assure you that pretty much every mom "does it all" so I'm not sure where the question of whether or not we can comes from.
Complete And Utter Exhaustion
Being so awesome all the time is seriously exhausting. Yes, we still get everything done (eh, most of the time), but that doesn't mean that the doing of all the things doesn't leave us completely freaking exhausted. There's not enough caffeine in the world to phase our fatigue any longer than temporarily. In fact, as I type this, I've already had two coffees and one Red Bull today, and I'm still lacking sufficient pep for my step.
Sometimes Working Is A Choice, And Sometimes It's Not
For me, playing the role of working mom has been both a choice and a requirement. With our first child, I probably could have stayed at home but it was important to me to maintain my career; With our second, there weren't enough work hours in the day to even come close to giving us the financial security we craved. So I understand both sides of this predicament.
On one hand, I love the independence and satisfaction that being a working mom gives me. On the other, I'd be lying if I said that there weren't times when I didn't resent that fact that my income was needed. It's a sticky situation no matter which way you look at it, and it will almost always be met with some form of ridicule.
Facing these quandaries on a daily basis gets exhausting, not just for me or working moms, but for mothers in general. Every day, all of us are met with some degree of judgment and scrutiny regarding our choices to either stay at home or join the work force. It's a wasted argument, frankly. Its reasoning is exhausted and its boiling point has been reached. But as long as women continue to do it all, society will sadly continue to question her motives.
The Satisfaction Of Kicking Ass At Work
Few feelings compare to the contentment of knowing that you're owning motherhood like a boss, but showing your actual boss that you're slaying at your job is in the same ballpark of feelings. Women are an invaluable part of the workforce, and that doesn't change after they have kids. If anything, it gives us a whole new slew of skills to bring with us from home. Solidifying that fact gives us a substantial amount of self-worth, and being successful is something that we'll never be sorry about.
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