8 Tough Decisions Every Working Mom Makes

by Emily Westbrooks

I stayed at home with my daughter for the first 15 months of her life, and it was such a gift. It wasn't something that was easy for our family financially, but it was something my partner and I valued very much. However, when it was time for me to go back to work, there was a new learning curve to adapt to. Having been a working mom and a stay-at-home mom, I firmly believe both are equally difficult and exhausting. That said, I've already experienced some of the toughest decisions you'll make as a working mom.

The first day I left my daughter in our very lovely and very loving daycare, I sat in the car and cried. Then I stopped so I could get to work and look presentable before showing up on my first day back. I definitely didn't feel like stopping mid-meltdown, but that was a tough decision I had to make on my first day as a working mom. I've had to make a few more since.

Through each of these decisions, which I make with my partner as much as possible, I try to remember that my daughter's wellbeing is important, but it is also important and more than OK for her to see me work every day. Sometimes repeating that to myself every morning as I drop her off is what gets me through the day and until I get to pick her up again.

When To Return To Work

For so many women, this decision isn't really a decision at all, and is often made before anyone is ready. Because my partner and I had the luxury of making the choice for our family, I knew that I wasn't ready to return to work before our daughter was 8 months old. If I'd had to, I could have, but before that point my brain really wasn't fully engaged on anything other than my daughter. Sometimes the toughest decision you'll make as a working mom is when to start being a working mom. For some women that happens earlier, but for me it really happened when my daughter turned 1 year old. She was old enough to move on her own and express her own needs, and I felt confident she would be able to thrive in daycare, which was our only childcare option.

Which Type Of Childcare

Many working moms are restricted by the childcare options available to them, but choosing how your child will be cared for can be a really tough decision. Without any family around, and without jobs that would allow us to afford a nanny, we decided to look for daycare as our form of childcare for our daughter. It's still a decision I feel some guilt for, but I reassure myself that our daughter is extremely social and thrives with lots of children around. Plus, when she's home with us we try to give her lots of one-on-one attention.

Which Person Or Daycare To Choose

We toured several daycares before choosing one we felt was right for her, but even those options were restricted by wait lists and enrollment periods (as well as overall cost).

However, what it came down to was the gut feeling we had about our final daycare choice, the feeling that the people who worked there would take great care of our daughter while we were at work. I still have a hard time thinking about what happens if she needs me while I'm gone, but I remind myself of that gut feeling when I start to go down that road.

What To Sacrifice (And When)

Being a working mom doesn't mean you get to shut off the mom side of your brain when you're at work. Instead, you're constantly trying to balance every aspect of who you are as a human. I often have to weigh up whether to stay a little later and work a little longer, or go pick up my daughter. Sometimes one wins out over the other, but every time I make that decision it's tough. I want more time with my daughter, but I also want to do well at my job.

Figuring Out If Your Kid's Too Sick To Go To Daycare

Deciding whether to send your kid to daycare when they're sick, or if you aren't sure how sick they are, is tortuous. For us, keeping our daughter home from daycare means a drop in income for that day, and if that happens too often it cuts into the daycare-being-worth-it equation. The bottom line is always her health and wellbeing, of course, but some days that means going to daycare a little under the weather and crossing my fingers for the best.

What You Can And Cannot Participate In

We're only in the very early stages of what we'll need to do as parents of a kid in school, but we've already been asked to bring in cupcakes for a daycare celebration. I definitely entertained the idea of baking them myself, and then promptly threw that idea out the proverbial window. While I do love baking, I had to remind myself that staying up extra hours to make homemade cupcakes for a toddler class just isn't in the cards right now, no matter how much I wanted to be the mom who can do it all.

When To Take Time Off for School Functions

When my daughter is older and has school performances or functions, there will be the decision of taking time off from work in order to attend them. The movies always makes those decisions seem difficult, but I can already see they'll be even harder to make than on a screen. I already want to be there for every milestone and minute of my child's life, having to choose between those or working is going to be killer.

To Be On Time Or Spend More Time With Your Kid

Right now the choice is be on time for work or comfort my daughter when she's having a tough drop-off at daycare. Or, be on time for work or run back to the house to retrieve the forgotten sippy cup or blankie. The tiny tough decisions of being a working mom definitely add up to a mom torn between two important things nearly every day.