Regardless of the way you structure your balance between work and kids — home all day every day with the littles, a proud workaholic who often loves from afar, or something in between — parenting comes with guilt. It just does. We feel guilty about how much time we spend with our kids and how much time they spend with other kids. We feel guilty about the books we read to them when they're little and the types of books they read when they're older. We manage to claim guilt for everything from the food that goes into their stomachs to the lower back tattoos they might potentially get in ten years if we don't monitor their every move. Everyone jokes that moms are so masterful about weathering so much guilt because we're the ones who are putting it on ourselves, which is mostly true — we are the biggest sources of the guilt we suffer under, but we are far from the only source. And even when it comes to our self-guilt, well, it only speaks to the impossible, no-win messages we've been taught from birth about who mothers are supposed to be, and what they're supposed to do. And in no area do these guilt-inducing expectations and stereotypes rear their horrible head more than our professional lives after becoming moms.
You know the score by now: If you choose to have a job outside the home after having a kid, you're being a neglectful mother and your kid will suffer endlessly because of your "absence." But if you decide to forgo a career and be a stay-at-home mom, then not only are you ~lazy~ but you're a ~very bad feminist~ who is setting a terrible example for your child in terms of gender roles, and what women "should" do (plus did I mention that you're lazy? Because being a stay-at-home mom is so easy?).
Since I've become a mom, it's been remarkable to me how often I've had to justify my choice to work with, “Well, my child is quite accustomed to having a roof over her head so I thought I’d keep providing that.” The reality is, every parent has his or her own method and madness – we all do things differently and no one can make these decisions for us. So, who cares what I choose to do with my parenting? Here are a few reasons you shouldn’t feel guilty for going back to work after having kids:
Finances can be depressing to the point it sucks out your happy, little soul. Soulless parents seem like a bad idea. Maybe they aren’t. I’m sure there’s at least one Supernatural episode where it turns out OK but as a general rule, let’s say parents should keep their souls, and a crucial part to that is to not be torn apart by the stress of money. If you’re faced with crunching finances to the point you’re stressed every moment of every day, please don’t let yourself feel guilty over going back to work on top of that. For some families, having one parent stay home makes more financial sense. For other families (especially one-parent families) staying home is literally not an option. You need to pay the bills and this is how you’re doing it. At some point, your children will understand.
Contrary to popular belief, parents are allowed to be people. I know, that sounds silly but we really are: We can have dreams, desires, and passionate sex with strangers in Florence (OK, maybe that's just me, but you should probably look into it). And the truth is, continuing to be whole people for our kids (instead of one-dimensional "parents" who cease to be actual human beings after procreating) makes us way, way better for them. We are allowed to love our jobs. That’s OK. It doesn't mean we don't love our kids. It doesn't even mean that we love work more than our kids. There will be people who will imply (or outright say) all of those horrible things — ignore them. Feeling guilt over doing what you love is insane. You’ll want your kids to pursue what they love so set the example and do it with your head held high.
There's this weird myth that our kids can't handle not being around us; that they need their parents and only their parents at all times. This is just fundamentally untrue. Kids are also whole people, and are capable of a far greater degree of independence than you might think. And that makes sense: They're fully dependent when you first meet them, and the days, weeks, months, and years fly by, and it can be easy enough to miss that transition from "totally dependent upon you for literally everything" to "eh, probably gonna be totally fine and maybe even benefit from being on their own with other adult humans for a while."
The point is: Your kid will be fine without you. They will actually end up developing a bigger number of secure attachments to loving adults, and having relationships with new people who can teach them new things and offer perspectives that their parents can't have (because we're all limited in terms of what we can know, and how we view things) and in general, their squad of caregivers is going to expand and that is nothing but good. And then at the same time all that awesome stuff is happening, you're going to be off earning money and being a human being and making yourself feel happy and accomplished and fulfilled, and then bringing all that money and good feelings back home to your kids later. It's a no-lose situation, guys.
If you’re making decisions that provide for your child, giving them access to love and care, and those decisions involve you going back to work, tell anyone who disagrees to shove it. You’re in charge of your life and the life of your child. When you’re making decisions that are best for you both, there’s no need to feel guilty over it. Go to work and do you.
Fact: Getting away from children can occasionally remind you why you love your children. Taking a step back and going to work so you don’t hate your own life can be the best of all possible worlds.
There's nothing wrong with loving what you do, and even defining your identity based on it. And sometimes, you can do that and still easily take lots of time off work when you have a kid. For others, it's not so easy to jump off the merry-go-round. For many, their chosen career path doesn’t allow for lengthy time away from work. If you are moving toward a career that isn't easy to take a break from, there’s a solid chance you'll be going back to work sooner than your less-career-minded friends, and this is also allowed.
You want your children to see that you can have a life after having kids. It's not complicated but it's so important.
Yep, that’s all the reason you need and feeling guilty over the choice would just be rubbish. If you want to go back to work, go back to work. There are absolutely no reasons to feel guilty about it (as hard as it can be to unlearn a lifetime of messages telling us otherwise).
Images: NBC; Giphy(7)