I like leaving my kids to go to work in the morning. It sounds bad, doesn’t it? Like the type of thing a good parent shouldn’t say. We expect good parents to probably say things like, “I have to work so I can put food in my kids’ mouths," or that it "breaks my heart every day when I drop my kids off at daycare.” We expect good parents to admit, “I wish I could be a stay-at-home mom but we need two incomes." And so maybe admitting that I like leaving my kids to go to work means I’m not a good parent. But more likely, I choose to believe that I’m just making an admission so many parents can secretly (or not so secretly) relate to.
I love my kids, and I love dropping them off at a place where they are well-cared for and enjoy enriching activities, a place where they have fun with their friends, and develop bonds with their caregivers and learn to trust others. And I absolutely recognize that it is a privilege to be able to drop them off in such a place. But I also know that I love saying "bye" and going to work. I have a job in non-profit communications that I find fulfilling, one I’ve spent years preparing and training for. My work enables me to serve the community, which I find rewarding. My profession is an important piece of who I am, just like parenthood is. Besides, it feels damned good to drive to work alone with the radio blasting or in peace and quiet, with no constant stream of questions from the backseat or sibling fights.
It feels good to sit down at my desk in the morning with a cup of coffee and finish the whole cup before it gets cold. It feels good to interact with other adults and to be able to put my full attention on a project I’m passionate about without constant interruptions from my adorable sticky-faced little humans.
Without me constantly by their side, my kids are learning to be independent, to respect authority, and to make new friends.
Of course, those little humans are truly the project I’m most passionate about. Their well-beings are always my first priority, and every decision I make is with them in mind. My office is full of their pictures and drawings, and I think of them constantly. Sometimes they consume my thoughts, and more often than not, their sweet little faces sit in the back of my head, making me smile a little brighter as I go about my work day. Sometimes tear up because I miss them, but I still love going to work.
I know they're learning and growing just as I am learning and growing in the workplace. Without me constantly by their side, my kids are learning to be independent, to respect authority, and to make new friends. They're also, on occasion, probably shoving their friends, using words they shouldn’t, and throwing temper tantrums like all kids do, and they're learning why they can't do that. Without me there to guide them nonstop throughout every single day, they're learning right from wrong and to control their emotions. Of course we teach them these things at home too, but learning these skills in the real world is just as valuable.
Going to work fulfills me in a way that parenting doesn't.
I respect the decision of parents who choose to, and are able to, to stay at home with their kids instead of working. And I'm absolutely in awe of those who choose to work from home. I can only imagine how difficult it would be to focus on work while watching children every day. I’ve worked from home on a few occasions and was completely overwhelmed each time. It always seemed like as soon as the phone rang, my son needed a drink right now, and soon as I sat down to write an email, my daughter had a massive poop blowout.
Going to work fulfills me in a way that parenting doesn't. I'm not only raising good people, which can be an admirable full-time job in itself, but am also using my skills and training to benefit the community on a larger scale. In my opinion, being a stay-at-home parent is in no way the "easy route." Kids are hard work and demand almost constant attention and interaction. Even though I'm not home with the kids during the weekday, weekends at home with the kids are more exhausting than a day at work. A parent would practically have to be a circus performer to provide anywhere close to the stimulation children receive from daycare and preschool. I'm in awe of stay-at-home and work-at-home parents, and my kids are fortunate to have teachers armed with resources to supply them with a fulfilling and well-rounded experience each day.
Unlike me, their teachers don't mind the kids getting covered in fingerpaint and exploding messy science experiments all over the patio. I'd say we're all thankful for this.
Working as a parent, is, in many ways, a luxury. You get some alone time. You have room to think. If you need to go to the bathroom, you get up and go without being followed. And when you're reunited with your kids at the end of the day, it's always a special event and you appreciate your short time in the day together that much more. There are stereotypes and misconceptions on every side of the coin when it comes to working, stay-at-home, or work-from-home parents. I've heard some say that working parents "don't care enough about their kids" to figure out a way for one parent to stay home, and have also heard the misconception that "stay-at-home parents are lazy and boring." Both of these notions are hurtful, and more often than not, totally untrue.
I, like so many other parents, have dreams and goals. I get exhausted. I love my kids and at times love to leave my kids, if only for a little while. I know my children will not suffer for my lifestyle choices. Instead, they're learning how to be strong, independent kids who'll grow up to be strong, independent adults. And I'm thrilled.