Women are super, but we are not Superwoman. Superwoman is not real. Neither, perhaps, are the ridiculously unattainable standards to which we continue to hold ourselves to on matters of going back to work or staying home with our children. Why do we foolishly do this to ourselves, knowing we are pretty much guaranteed to at some point come up short?
Of course women can both parent and earn a salary. Where the change should perhaps occur is that maybe we should accept the fact that it may be impossible to equally attend to both. When we focus on one, the other will suffer. That is the hard- to- face truth of the matter. But perhaps if we can be more comfortable with that reality then we may cease doubting our self-worth, or whats worse, judging other women for the choice they decided to make.
I love all of the options and opportunities that women have today in deciding their education, career, life paths, and parenting choices. What I don’t love is the guilt that I felt on either side of the SAHM/WOHM spectrum, and on why I was even allowing myself to be inflicted with that guilt in the first place! Why do women sometimes go out of their way to make the next feel bad about the decision she has made for herself and her family? Especially when essentially, there’s nothing wrong with choosing either way!
I was not 100% in love with my job at the time that I was faced with making this decision, and so I seriously began considering staying home. I say: more power to the woman who opts to stay home and manage her household full-time. That is work! And how great to be able to spend such valuable time with your children during such formative years, to be their first educator, and to have ample opportunity to shape, mold, and grow their psyches and instill values with limited outside influence. In the end, I returned to work both times when baby was 3 months old. In an ideal world, I would have liked to have stayed home for their first six months of life, and maybe all through the first year. But even if I had the financial means to stay home beyond that, I don’t know that I would have. College taxed me physically and mentally to the max , and I have racked up monumental debt to get this degree. To now turn around and just not use it would not make a lot of sense to me.
But even without the degree and the debt, I may still have opted to return to work. I love spending time with my babies but sometimes the thought of being their constant companion 24 hours a day and having to wipe the high chair down just one more time is enough to make me want to pull my hair out. I know many women that do this absolutely thrive in this arrangement and wouldn’t have it any other way. But for me…It just wasn’t the best idea. And even though I was no slouch in the classroom, I’m still not so sure that I would have been the best educational teacher for my children. There is reason teachers go to school for this, and just because I’m “mom” didn’t necessarily qualify me to be the best facilitator of knowledge to them. Hats off to parents that do home-school. It is a noble, challenging, and in some instances, very necessary undertaking. But I also don’t think daycare is evil, and in most scenarios, I actually find it a remarkably amazing tool in the bringing up of my children. I marvel each day that my toddlers come home with some new tidbit of learning and a new socialization skill that I know they just wouldn’t have experienced had I kept them home with me.
I would hope that any parent deciding to stay home with their child does so because that is absolutely what they want to do, and not because of some ill-conceived notion that it’s what a good mother has to do. If you worked hard for a degree, or even if you just have many personal desires and passions to be stoked, none of that has to go to the wayside if you don’t want it to. Stay fulfilled and maintain your own separate identity outside of being “someone’s mother”. Sure, some sacrifices will always be necessary, but take that to mean you may have to simply delay or find an alternate path to your desires. It should never mean that you have to throw them away completely! I’m willing to bet that a more fulfilled parent is a better parent all-around. If you derive your greatest joy and accomplishment in running a smooth household, making sure everyone’s needs (including yours) are met, and that you are the best, most qualified educator of your children, then it is worth it.
And for the parent that decides to return to work, just know that it will not always be easy. Even the most supportive of bosses and a dedicated mothers room won’t counter the fact that you’ll need to take so many breaks to pump that you may not get much actual work done. That, along with frequent pediatrician appointments, the daycare calling because Suzy has a fever or Jack upchucked his guts all over the infant room, coupled with an infant still not sleeping through the night, please believe that your performance may suffer. And if you can manage to sidestep these potholes and instead throw yourself full force back into advancing your career, then its likely a safe bet that your home life will suffer instead. Your children will cry and demand mommy on days that you work late. Your partner, helpful as they may be, may still feel some resentment that the house isn’t as orderly as it could be, and that nothing ever seems to get crossed off the ever-growing “to do” list. But if you worked hard to advance in your career, love being challenged and inspired by your peers and work environment, and if the best part of your day is being reunited with wee ones that wrap their dirty, paint-stained arms around your neck and shower you with sticky kisses while declaring their love for you and delight in your return, then it is worth it.
Either way you choose, both options have something to offer and other things that you may have to sacrifice. Try to run around doing everything and trying be all things to all people will likely just run you into the ground, and then no one wins. But we do have choices, the freedom to pursue, attempt, change mind, do over, and begin all over again. And that’s a beautiful thing. Just don’t judge and point your finger at the mom next to you for taking a different road! One is not better than the other and at the end of the day we are all moms that love our children and want the best for them. And that’s the only thing on which we should be required to agree!
*image credit: Charles Fettinger