Since I was old enough to realize that work was a thing, it was ingrained in me that I would be out in the workforce someday, as opposed to doing the stay-at-home mom thing. Coming from a family who lived mostly in poverty, hard work was never foreign to me — it's just how you survive. I think part of my need to always be working stems from the fear of not having enough, especially now that I have a son. I'll always have this subconscious fear that if I'm not working, we might not have enough to get by. I did, for a time after my son was born, stay at home with my baby and just kind of lay low. But after a few months, I remembered that I had completed college for a reason (and those student loan numbers weren't letting me forget that fact either). I felt the weight of pressure on my husband to provide for us all on his own, which he never complained about and was managing to do, but I can't imagine having that sort of pressure in my shoulders alone; It wasn't something I wanted him to carry for much longer, since it wasn't our family's long-term plan.
All of that, combined with the desire to do something with a degree that had cost way too much in student loans, I decided to break free from my bra-less mornings of pajamas and baby kisses, and return to doing the kind of work that I both needed and wanted to get back to. Being a stay-at-home mom is an excellent thing for so many women and their families, but it wasn't my plan, it wasn't what my family most needed, and it was time to stop chilling in someone else's job and go back to my own. And when I decided to be a working mom, I realized that doing so turned me into more of a badass than I thought possible. Here's how:
1. Working All Day And Not Crashing When You Get Home
Whether you're a working mom or a stay-at-home mom, you're still a mom at all times. There is no "off" time or "break" when it comes to parenting. That means that when you work eight hours a day and then walk through the door at home, you can't blame your kid for pouncing on you without hesitation — they missed you! But being able to do all of that — work all day and then come home and still be "on" for your kids — is not easy. And at the end of the day (literally, at bedtime), you can give yourself several pats on the back* for getting it all done and being better for it.
2. Demonstrating Feminism And Equal Sharing Of Responsibilities Becomes So Effortless
If you're a good mom to your kids, regardless of whether or not you're working, then you're setting a great example for them. For me, a big part of my desire to go back to work had to do with my son and my need for him to see me as someone fulfilling goals that I had set for myself long ago. And it was (and is still is) important to me that he sees his mom working just as hard as his dad and having our roles look as balanced and equal as possible: both holding jobs, cooking, cleaning, changing diapers, etc.
This isn't to say that stay-at-home moms aren't able to demonstrate relationships and gender roles that aren't just as balanced and equal. Being a stay-at-home mom can be a very feminist role. But for me, it's just...easier when my husband and I are "equal" in ways that are readily visible to a tiny person's brain. (Yes, I'm slightly too lazy to be a stay-at-home mom and a feminist at the same time. I admit it. Hats off to you guys who do it.)
3. You're Doing You
Like I said, it's all about doing what you set out to do for yourself, making your dreams and goals a reality. I can't think of anything more badass than following through with what you've set out to accomplish in your life, whether that's devoting all of your energy to being the best mom ever while managing your home like a boss, or being the best mom ever while managing a hedge fund like a boss. It's incredibly important to not lose yourself when you become a parent and to still let yourself achieve what you'd dreamed of before you dreamed of having that adorable kid.
4. Understanding Quality Over Quantity Is Like A Super Power
When you first return to work after having a kid, you're likely to worry — OK, maybe more like obsess — about losing time with your kid. But in reality, as long as the time you do spend with your kid is meaningful, then the amount of it per day doesn't need to be so stressed over. Is your kid being loved and taken care of at all hours of the day and night by at least one responsible adult? Yes? Then you're being a good mom. That person — all working moms learn — does not always have to be you.
And once you realize that (that you're not the only person capable of loving and nurturing your kid, and that they aren't inherently disadvantaged by you letting someone else hang with them), you effectively reclaim your freedom to go out into the world and conquer it, both for yourself and for that little well-loved nugget at home.
5. You Can Balance Better Than Anyone Else On Earth
Women aren't really given "unrealistically perfect working mom ideals" to aspire to the way we're given "unrealistically perfect stay-at-home mom ideals" to aspire to. As such, those of us who choose that path don't really even have a pre-existing picture in our head about what a perfectly balanced "work/home" situation looks like. So initially, it's not easy to figure out how to handle being a good mom while also having a job outside the home. I mean, you've got the guilt from all the internalized notions that you've been programmed with regarding your "maternal obligation" to be chained to your kid 24/7, and you've got some more guilt you've come up with all on your own. But once you do find a way to balance between working, taking care of yourself, and taking care of the people you love, you'll have reached bona fide badass mom status.
6. You're Helping Your Kid Be More Independent
And what's more badass than training another little badass? When I work from home, my toddler is sometimes with me. At first, all he wanted to do was mimic me poking away at my laptop, but now he's found his own routine throughout the day. No, I don't toss him into his room or plunk him down in front of the TV and let him have at it (although, for sure, there's some TV involved and I'm not sorry). He's begun to develop a real independence as a result of having a mom who occasionally says, "Buddy, I gotta finish this one thing, and then I can help you with that thing you need, or you can do it yourself."
He is learning things like patience, a view of himself as something other than the center of my universe, and a DIY attitude that is so healthy. It makes me proud to witness. It's gotten to the point where, if I take a 10-minute break to stretch my legs and go to his room to "play cars" with him, he tells me, "No Mommy, byeeee" and waves one chubby little hand as the other is still playing with his fleet of race cars. Maybe that all sounds like a semi-sad bummer to some of you, but as someone who's very interested in raising a fully independent person, things like that make me excited for him.
I like to think that I've got this balance down to a pretty solid science, but the truth is, our kids are always growing and their needs/schedules change as a result; our careers evolve and their needs/schedules change as a result. Life isn't static for any of us, so the solutions we come up with are not permanent fixes. Figuring out how to do all of this is a never-ending process — and figuring out how to keep coming up with those solutions, and figuring out new ways to make your family/work balance funtional...that's the real badass thing.
Being a working mom isn't the easiest thing in the world (duh), especially when you feel like you miss out on some things, but it is totally healthy to have some time away from your kid and for them to have that time to gain some independence from you and give you both a chance to miss each other. Because, and mark my words, you most definitely will. And the bear hugs you get when you return home will only solidify that whole badass mom feeling.
Images: ABC; Giphy (6)