I've spent the last few days in Raleigh, North Carolina on a work trip. Today was especially hard for me. I haven't been able to sleep well, suffering from headaches and nausea all day. I returned from a long day of collaborating with my coworkers to my hotel room, longing for two things: my bed at home and my children. I miss them, and spent my downtime in between policy discussions and procedure writing watching videos of them my husband sent me so that I wouldn't feel so alone. But, the despite the fact that I miss my family, I would not trade the experience of working full-time to staying at home full time. Because, actually, I love being a working mom.
The day I left my kids alone with the nanny to go back to work full-time was absolutely stressful and emotional for me. I felt like I was betraying them. How could I leave my precious babies, born so early, so little, who had gone through so much just to be here, and consider not spending every waking moment with them? How could I leave them to be mothered by a stranger? I struggled with jealousy and guilt that first year returning to work — so much so that I drove our nanny crazy and she ended up quitting. Who knew then that two years later, my attitude would completely change?
Working-mom guilt is real. No matter how old your children are, there will always be a pull at your heart every morning when you drop them off at daycare or leave them with your childcare provider. I grew up with a mom who worked and around other women who worked while having families. So when I had my own children, it was a given that I would work too, as neither me nor my husband make enough money alone to support our family, even considering the money we would save on childcare. Although I knew that work was in the cards for me when we started planning our family, the urge to stay home with them created endless amounts of sadness and guilt. For a while, the feeling was so overwhelming that I was unable to to see the truth behind my own behavior towards our nanny, or recognize just how deep my postpartum depression went.
Each morning, my husband or I will drop our kids off at school and then mommy and daddy go work. And each morning, leaving them becomes easier and easier.
We ended up switching the boys to daycare when our nanny left. There was something reassuring about leaving my children with childcare professionals who were also caring for other children. The setting felt more like school, rather than daycare, and so that's what we call it. Each morning, my husband or I will drop our kids off at school and then mommy and daddy go work. And each morning, leaving them becomes easier and easier, especially once I realized that although I love and want to care for my children, I don't have the skill it takes to be a stay-at-home mom.
I have much respect for the work stay-at-home mothers do. And although I will never truly be alright with leaving my children with others to care for them, I know my personality and temperament is not one suited to providing 24-hour childcare to them.
I enjoy working. I enjoy loudly chatting with my coworkers, or the intense quiet of my home during tele-work days, saddled up to the dining room table with my laptop and coffee. I enjoy using my mind and professional skills on a daily basis.
My sons are 3, at the age where they are learning pre-academic skills such as counting, the alphabet, situational play designed to teach them independence and life skills. I am impatient and prone to distraction. There is a reason why I never became a teacher. For my children's own good, I believe that having them learn from childcare professionals is in their best interests.
But, let's be real. I truly do enjoy the time that I am away from them. Not because they aren't with me or because I've transferred my parenting responsibilities to someone else. I enjoy working. I enjoy loudly chatting with my coworkers, or the intense quiet of my home during tele-work days, saddled up to the dining room table with my laptop and coffee. I enjoy using my mind and professional skills on a daily basis. I went to law school and received a masters in writing and truly enjoyed the time I spent learning these skills and putting them to use everyday. And, at the end of those days, I am tired. So exhausted sometimes that all I want to do is pick up my boys from school, plop down in a sofa chair, and cuddle them for hours or read books with them.
And I love those hazy after-work evenings where the sudden return of my loved ones makes me appreciate my time with them even more. I can be my best self, not resentful of the life choices that led me to a situation where I felt trapped in my home, or frustrated because I was unable to provide the patience, teaching, and guidance my children deserved from me. And really, what is better for them, anyway? To have a mom who is miserable because she's not doing what she loves or wants to do, or to have a mom who goes to work, finds value in that experience, and then comes home ready to give her children all the extra kisses, hugs, and attention she's saved up for them throughout the day?
I want to teach my sons independence, the value of hard work, the value of education, and the importance of viewing women as equals in all aspects of life, especially within the workforce.
I will always want what is best for my children. And I believe that me working outside of the home is what's best for them. I want to teach my sons independence, the value of hard work, the value of education, and the importance of viewing women as equals in all aspects of life, especially within the workforce. Seeing me go to work everyday is one way I can pass those lessons on to them. But most importantly, it's about living a well-rounded life that allows for me to still be me, while also being a parent. And being a working mom allows me to do that.