Whether you’re a stay at home mom or a working mom, chances are you’re catching flack from somebody, somewhere, about your decision. Stay at home moms have no identity outside of the home. Working mothers are ok letting other people raise their children. And suddenly everybody’s an expert on child rearing.
I am a working mother who went back to work six weeks postpartum. A combination of money and job security is what sent me back to the office sooner than most. However, I consider myself very lucky. I’ve heard horror stories of women returning back to work ten days after having a baby. T-E-N days! Working women from respectable jobs in the medical field, too. Do you realize what is still occurring in the female body ten days after giving birth? However, this post is not about maternity leave (which I could easily segue into, but will save for another time).
Working mothers often get criticized for their decision to return to their careers and to “let” someone else raise their children. You’ll miss out on their first steps, first words, watching them grow up… Do you think we don’t consider these things? Sometimes having a career isn’t a choice, it’s a necessity. For some mothers, they need time out of the house…a break from the trials of motherhood. Some want the financial independence that a second income brings. Some are single mothers who have no choice but to head to one (or two) jobs every single day.
Whatever your reason for choosing to be a working mother, I tip my hat to you. Holding down a full time job outside of the home and another inside, is not an easy feat. And for every downside of being a working mother, there are numerous upsides.
Choosing to maintain a career and a family is an empowering choice. Here are just a few of the many traits that make working moms awesome:
Remember when Destiny’ Child tried to teach us all a thing or two about holding our own? “The shoes on my feet, I’ve bought. The clothes I’m wearing, I’ve bought. The rock I’m rockin’, cause I depend on me.” With more children than ever before being born to women out of wedlock, the choice to have a job is not always a choice, per se. But rather, it’s a necessity in order to provide. And for those who are married, the grim reality (which I hope starts to turn around here soon) is that nearly half of all marriages end in divorce. Your chances of being a single parent at some point on this journey are nearly 50/50. Keeping that in mind, being able to provide for yourself and your family is critical. Studies show that stay at home mothers who take a break from their career to raise a family are never able to fully recover the income gap disparity than if they had continued working the entire time.
Sure, there are additional means of income in certain situations, like child support and spousal alimony. But I wouldn’t go placing all of your eggs in someone else’s basket. Working mothers retain their independence by remaining financially secure for themselves.
And what if you’re on the lucky side of the 50% who stay together? A dual income can mean savings, a more comfortable lifestyle, a college fund…a Louis Vuitton for all I care. Do whatever you want with your hard earned money. It’s liberating to have your own pocket to pick from. All the women who are independent, throw your hands up at me.
Have you ever spent an entire day with just a child who only coos and gurgles? An entire week? How about an entire month? By the time my son’s dad would get home from work each night I would be bursting at the seams to talk to an adult about, well, anything. So how was your day? Anything interesting happen? Did you hear what happened on the news? It’s going to be nice out tomorrow. We went to the grocery store and bought bagels. Did you like how I rearranged the furniture… again?
Bonding with your child is an amazing experience, and not one to be taken lightly. However, adult interaction is a necessary part of human life. Like myself, many working mothers crave having an identify outside of the home. I need someone to talk to about meaningless celebrity gossip who can actually respond back. I need an outlet for my frustrations, like potty training and my hubby's inability to keep his side of the bathroom counter clean. I need advice on everything from which diapers to buy to which dress is hottest for a mom-who-doesn't-want-to-look-like-a-mom night out. I crave adult interaction! Social circles tend to get smaller as we get older. And for many working moms, the majority of their social interactions come through work relationships.
Stay at home moms think working moms are crazy for going to work. Working moms think stay at home moms are crazy for staying home. Neither situation is wrong or better than the other. Both are justified in their own right and are equally challenging. But some aren’t cut out for the homemaker lifestyle. I remember thinking to myself… if I were to become a stay at home mom, does that mean I have to learn to cook? The thought sends shudders throughout my body. I would rather code a webpage that navigate a kitchen. Seriously.
Going to work each day gives mommies a break from parenting to just go be an adult. It gives them the space to miss their kid(s) and makes them excited to return home. We need that time-out every day in order to reset our heads (and likely our patience). I still remember the joy of eating a quiet (hot) lunch alone on my first day back to work following maternity leave. The silence of the moment was glorious. And not being distracted by screams and cries for a full eight hours was eerily peaceful. However, come 5PM, working moms are usually more than ready for their time-outs to be over and to get back to being full-time mommies.
No time, there’s never any time! Some (myself included) find it comical to hear people say this who either do not have children, or who do not hold down a full time job AND run their household. Working mothers belong to an elite class of women who are supremely organized. And not because they are necessarily strongly skilled in this area, but rather, because at some point, it became a requirement.
Balancing a tricky project management portfolio, with second grade Algebra, with extra curricular activities, with a clean house, is not a skill that comes naturally to most, but working mothers figure it out because they have to. Choosing to work (or having to), means making the choice to organize and prioritize the rest of your life - like a boss. Have you ever noticed how much more gets accomplished on weekdays than on weekends when there is a set schedule? Working mothers run a well-oiled machine (called life) and excel at organizing and planning even the smallest of details. They can fit appointments into the tiniest of time slots and household chores strategically in between commercial breaks, nap times, and Saturday playdates.
Does it ever seem as though working mothers do it all? That’s because they do.
Who's the boss? You are. Many working mothers find a sense of empowerment by holding down a career outside of the home. Before you became "mom", you had dreams and goals and aspirations to become something, to have a career, to impact the world. Now that you are a mother, that hasn’t changed. More woman than men are getting Bachelor’s degrees. The number of women working outside of the home is steadily increasing. Women are more empowered than ever before to choose a lifestyle that best suits them, rather than having to choose one versus the other. And the empowerment that comes from being financially secure, independent, and incredibly organized, is an amazing feeling.
My mom has been a Registered Nurse for nearly 40 years. I never felt like she missed out on my life, or I on hers. To be honest, I can’t really remember much from from the pre-Kindergarten years anyways… except that all of my best memories involve my mom. She was present at every game I ever played in, she volunteered at more school functions than I ever will, and she helped with school projects and homework each night for my older brother and I. Being a working mom didn’t mean being a not-present mom. It meant she was even more present when she was at home with us. She showed me early on that having a career and a family was not only possible, but very attainable.