There was never a question about whether or not I’d return to work after I had each of my children. We were a two-income household, not just out of necessity — we live in Queens, NY, in a modest two-bedroom apartment — but also because we both defined ourselves a bit by our jobs. I had invested over a decade in my career before having children and I had no intention of off-ramping. I liked my job, and having a job in general, outside the home. So it there never felt like much of a “choice” to be made in terms of whether or not I would go back to work after having a kid. It was simply a foregone conclusion.
That doesn’t mean I didn’t sob the day I returned to the office from maternity leave, or that it was ever even remotely “easy” to be away from my kids for 10 hours a day. (Yes, there are nice parts about having some kid-free hours, especially when you spend them doing a job you enjoy as much as I enjoy mine, but still, you miss them and it’s never “easy.”) But as long as I felt fulfilled by my work, most of the time, I wanted to continue to be a person with a job, and a family — a “working mom.” (I use that term out of convenience, although I definitely feel uneasy about it; I can’t recall the last time I heard a male person with a job and a family being called a “working dad.” Hmmm…)
I find it fascinating that women who want to have careers and kids are still shocking everyone by attempting to “have it all.” I don’t know anyone, man or woman, who would categorize themselves so simply as to be all about one thing. Humans are complex, emotional, and multi-faceted. I would not be happy if I wasn’t pursuing my career goals, nor would I feel myself without kids. A lot of people are super happy doing just one of those things, or doing something else entirely (What do you do if you don’t work or have kids? Tell me your ways; I’m dying to know.), but I wanted both.
The problem with choosing any of the above paths in life is that there a million ways you’ll be judged and made to feel guilty and inadequate. No matter what you choose. There is no winning in the eyes of ~society~ when it comes to what you choose regarding motherhood and work. Do just one and you’re living a half-life, but if you try to do both, you leave yourself open to ceaseless waves of people criticizing how you choose to balance all those life pieces they said you’d be empty without. So until the world stops seeing working moms as selfish for answering to the many parts of themselves, I guess I’ll just have to put up with some of the things people say about my choices, which I am so tired of hearing: