Tuesday, August 9, 2011

PYHO: Working Mama

(Linking, like usual, to Shell.)

When I was a kid, my mom stayed at home with us. She and my dad always emphasized the importance of education, and college was never an option that was off the table for us. It wasn't a hope or a pipe dream, it was expected. Neither of my parents went to college, though my mom did go to nursing school for a short while. A college degree meant everything to them--it meant open doors and a job anywhere you wanted. It meant you were educated and intelligent. It meant we'd have our pick of any job we wanted. When I'd ask my mom why I would consider going to college (because a mom who stayed at home was all I knew), she'd say, "So you can get a job and work and earn money."

Whoa. That was huge.

Of course, in 1993 my parents never could have imagined the worst economy in decades was awaiting their children, and with changing times and demographics, a college degree simply doesn't mean as much as it used to.

Not that that means much to me. I loved college. I loved the experience, and the day I earned my degree was, at that time, the happiest day of my life. It's still in my top five, and probably always will be.

I love being able to put my degree on my resume. When I was teaching and working at the boarding school and later the elementary school, I liked being able to talk to my students about college. I hoped that I was helping to plant a seed with them. Whenever a student asked, I always said, "Education makes all the difference. I have my job because I have an education."

It's a lesson we're hoping to instill in our daughter early on.

Now, this statement will probably come as a shock to some moms, particularly the stay-at-home (SAHM) variety. It might even get some panties all in a bunch. Here we go.

I like working.

There. I said it.

Yeah, I do. Generally speaking, I like having a job. I love the satisfaction I'd feel each payday. I liked knowing that payday was every two weeks. I like knowing that I earned that paycheck.

That statement probably sounds completely ridiculous coming from someone who voluntarily left her job a few months ago. But, that situation was....complicated. I left voluntarily because the situation I was in just wasn't working anymore. My stress level was through the roof and I was coming home defeated everyday. It was affecting my marriage, my daughter, my self-esteem, and even my cat. I had to leave.

I like to believe that I'm an open book when it comes to pretty much everything, but out of respect for my former coworkers I won't elaborate on the specifics.

That said, It was the right decision, because my stress level decreased drastically during my last week. The first day I woke up and didn't have to go in, I felt amazing. That doesn't mean I don't want to work at all.

I like having a job. I like having a more set schedule than what I have now. I like being able to put on real clothes and dress like a professional. I like being able to use the other side of my brain. I like feeling useful.

This summer has been a gift. I've been able to be with my baby everyday and I've loved almost every second of it. (Hey, she's not all peaches and cream everyday!) I love the smile I get from her in the morning, and I love playing with her during the day. I've enjoyed our walks and "swimming" in the pool. I've loved watching SVU on Tuesdays, sleeping in and napping during the day, gardening, trying new recipes, exploring parts of the neighborhood, and watching my daughter grow each day. It's been incredible, and I'm so thankful that I was able to spend a few precious weeks with her while she's still little.

But--and here's the part that will piss some people off--I've also found myself getting restless. It's hard for me to not feel like I'm sitting around and not doing anything. I'm anxious to get back into "the working world" and have a job. Sure, women who stay home with their kids are working, that's a given. I think part of my restlessness comes from having one child, and a pretty easy child at that. At nap time, she goes down. At lunchtime, she eats. When I have errands to run, she comes right along. Basically, she's not crampin' my style. In two years, it's not going to be this easy. Add another kid or two into the mix and....screw it. I have it easy, and that's definitely not lost on me.

All summer I've been doing what I can to keep busy 'round these parts. Sure, I do the dishes. (Sometimes. That's Graham's job.) I do laundry. I clean up around the house. But I don't see all those things as "working". Those are chores. I do those anyway. I did them when I was working, and I'll continue to do them when I've got a new job. And yeah, sometimes the house just stays dirty. I feel like I need to get a sign for the front door that says, "Please excuse the mess, but we live here."

Bottom line, I'm a better mom when I'm working. I loved my maternity leave, and I didn't want to leave my baby and return to work (though that was mostly in response to the situation I was in), I became a better parent when I was working.

I learned to balance my life a little more. Graham and I both learned the importance of getting out of the house on time, not two or five minutes later. I learned to use my time wisely.

Mostly, and more importantly, I learned how to savor every moment with my daughter. The hours between getting home from work and her bedtime were precious and few. So we made the most of them. We played. We waited to answer the mail. Sometimes I'd just let the phone ring so I could hold my baby.

There's a culture online that's seeping into my everyday world that seems to be saying SAHMs > Working Moms. And that bothers me. It bothers me a lot. Because I'm not by any means the greatest, but I'm a damn good mother. My daughter is and always will be one of my highest priorities. Working outside of our home doesn't make me a bad person or a bad mother. Being her mommy is the most important job in the world, but when I go to work in the morning and come home in the afternoon, I find I'm a better mom. I'm performing at my peak. I'm more focused on my work, and then when we're home I'm more focused on my baby.

Sure, it kills me that someone else gets to play with my daughter during the day and there's someone else making her smile. But at the end of the day when we pick her up from the sitter, Graham and I get the biggest, sweetest smile you've ever seen. We'd miss out on that entirely if we stayed home. I'd miss out on the afternoon hugs and playtime. I'd probably be at the end of my rope if I was home alone with her all day. Instead, I get to give my sweet baby extra kisses and hugs in the morning, and extra kisses and hugs in the afternoon. I get to treasure days off because they're rare, and I get to look into a face that says, "Hey! You're back!!!!"

I can't wait to get back into the workforce. For the time being, I'm going to treasure the time I have at home, because I know it's finite. I don't know if I'm going to regret being a working mom. I hope not. I think it makes me a more complete person. I want my daughter to see me feeding different parts of myself. I want her to see that she has choices and isn't expected to stay home and "mind the children" simply because she's a female. I want her to see me working to live, not living to work. And I want her to see and understand that when I'm at work I'm a professional with a job and something to contribute, but when I'm home, I'm home.


  1. Thanks for posting this...seriously thank you. Because I will be going back to work after my baby is born, partially out of financial necessity, but also because I like the satisfaction of working. I need to read things that say being a working Mom is a good thing. Too many military wives look at me strangely when I say I plan to use my hard-earned degree. So carry on working Mom...I will be there with you soon too!

  2. Just a balanced view you presented on this. I think that making this decision is something intensely personal that each mom must make for herself. I don't see either is better than another. I've been a sahm, a wahm, and (briefly) a working mom. All have their benefits and their drawbacks.

  3. i don't think anyone will get pissed at what you said. i think it's great that you know you want to work and that it makes you a better mom- it will make going back that much easier! for me, personally, i could care less about bringing home a paycheck...


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