After I brought my son into the world, multiple individuals — some good friends, some close family members, and many distant acquaintances — asked if I was going to continue working. I couldn’t fault anyone for asking; whether or not a woman decides to work after having a kid seems to be a heated, often criticized, and generally overanalyzed topic of discussion these days. I also didn’t necessarily mind the question, because I love the opportunity to talk about my job, how much I love my work, and how excited I was to be able to continue working. Yes, even after I became a mother.
I know many women who work after they have a baby because it isn’t much of a choice at all. With the economy looking the way it does, and the cost of living rising steadily since, well, always, it's often impossible for parents to subsist on just one income. And even though I don't find myself in that particular financial situation, I still absolutely love my work now more than ever. Even though the extra income is definitely helpful and necessary — hello, bills on bills on bills — I am fortunate and privileged not to work because I have to. I work because I want to, and I know how lucky that makes me. I love my job. I love everything about my job. And while I love my son so very much, my career was my first baby and I will not abandon it just because another one joined the mix.
I love my work because it gives me a sense of accomplishment I cannot get from parenting. Growing and birthing and sustaining human life is an extraordinary feat, but it is not my only capability.
I love my work because it gives me a freedom I so desperately need, and definitely deserve. By working, I'm able to focus on myself and what makes me happy; an important act of self-care that's essential to healthy motherhood, but unfortunately one that many women are made to feel guilty for. My work provides me with the space and time to do what I want, for no one else but myself (and my employer, of course).
I love my work because it gives me a sense of accomplishment I cannot get from parenting. Growing and birthing and sustaining human life is an extraordinary feat, but it is not my only capability. My work gives me something that my son or my partner or anyone else, for that matter, simply cannot. I have a deep, burning need to create something entirely mine, and my job fulfills that need. Without it, I wouldn’t be my authentic myself.
My work involves grownups, and I’m learning to love grownups more and more as my son explores toddlerhood. Sure, some adults can be the worst, but I value conversations that include actual words and sentences. I like speaking with a person who won’t throw an inexplicable fit just because I won’t let them touch a hot cup of coffee or burn themselves on the stove top. Toddlerhood is a blast, and I enjoy watching my son learn and grow and change, but all that growing and changing can also be daunting and overwhelming, and I need adult conversations if I am ever going to weather that storm and come out on the other side.
My work has nothing to do with my family, and I absolutely love that. Although I am so thankful for the life I've created with a partner I love and respect — someone who also loves and respects me — I also value my individualism and believe it's important that I continue to foster it.
My work will continue to be with me when my son moves on to different stages of his life. The entire goal of parenting is to help a human being grow into a healthy, happy, and productive member of society, and if I have nothing else once I've done that, what will I do after he's moved on? I want my son to squeeze every ounce of potential possibility out of the life I've given him. I want him to explore the globe and expand his mind and learn everything there is to learn about nature and people and himself. He can’t do that if he stays in my care. He can't do that if I won't let him. He'll one day leave the house my partner and I have created for him, and we'll, effectively, be left behind. When that day comes I won’t be lost in a sea of memories and nostalgic ghosts. I'll still have my career and my own passions, separate from my son.
My work has nothing to do with my family, and I absolutely love that. Although I am so thankful for the life I've created with a partner I love and respect — someone who also loves and respects me — I also value my individualism and believe it's important that I continue to foster it. Motherhood does change you, that is not just hyperbole, but it doesn’t change everything about you, and despite the fact that I am now someone’s mother, I am also the same as I've always been. I did not and will not strip every other defining characteristic of what makes me the person that I am just so I can fit neatly inside the blanket definition of what a mom "should" be.
Unfortunately, I don't think we live in the type of society where women feel comfortable saying that. Our culture has a way of vilifying mothers who put themselves first, and often times, it's not uncommon for women with kids to feel the need to defend their choices to have lives and interests beyond how many times their kid said "dada", or often they're kid has successfully used the bathroom. I know I'm in an incredibly unique and fortunate position to feel the way I do — my work is my joy and my livelihood — but I don’t know many mothers who feel as though they can say they work because they love their job without bracing for endless judgment and constant shame from anyone listening. We're often conditioned to be OK with being a martyr mom, so throwing away a career should come easily to a woman who's now also found herself a mother, right?
I love my career and that love, that devotion, that passion is something my kid will learn from. He'll see how hard I work, and he'll be better off because of it. I'll teach him what self-motivation and consistent effort can offer a person, and he'll learn that a career is deeply important to both of his parents, not just one.