Alright, everyone. It’s time for some more mom talk. I’ve written before about being a working mom, and how that affects my family dynamic, but I wanted to address how it affects me as a person.
When I was fresh back to work post-baby, I read a lot of advice about being a working mom. Some of it was really helpful, and some of it was hurtful. But very little of it offered and insight into how working and being a mom would affect me.
I always try to be pro-whatever-works-for-your-family. But there is very little support out there for working moms, aside from the old “it’s okay to have a life outside of your kids” bit. I have several mom friends who recently re-entered the work force, or who will be returning to work post-baby soon. I don’t want them wandering the Internet for advice, feeling more and more discouraged with every mommy blog or advice column they read, like I did. So I’m offering these tidbits and hoping they help those moms I do know, as well as (fingers crossed) a mom or two I don’t know.
So here it is; a list of insights I’ve gained in my short time working while being a mom:
- Those days that make you feel terrible being away from home are okay. I think those days are absolutely universal among working moms. Have to leave a crying, teething baby to spend 8+ hours at the office? Yeah, you’re probably going to wish you could be at home, rocking your baby all day. You’re going to think terrible thoughts about yourself and how your child will grow up because you weren’t there for those days. But guess what? Those thoughts lie, and this day will pass.
- Those days that make you feel so grateful to work outside your home are okay. Okay, so say you’re leaving a screaming teething baby in the arms of a loving and capable caregiver, and a warm feeling washes over you. What could it be? Oh, right…relief. That is totally okay. Especially when you love your job, there will be days that you are merrily skipping off to work. And that’s great!
- Those days when your heart shatters into a billion pieces upon saying goodbye to your little one, and then it’s all better when you sink your teeth into a project at work…are okay. For me, this is most days. And to be honest, these are the days when I feel most balanced. Of course it breaks my heart to leave my baby daughter each morning. I love her so much. But I also like working, and getting lost in a project that is bigger than myself or my family is really, really gratifying. These are the days when I know that I can (sort of) have it all, even though, for me, having it all means hurting a little bit…at least for awhile.
- In general, talking about your kids at work is okay. I don’t know what your workplace is like. I know that some companies really are very prejudiced against parents and no one wants to hear it. But at my company, almost everyone is a parent, and when I started to open up about that aspect of my life, I gained some allies that I didn’t have before. Now I know who I can go to the water cooler and run my daughter’s erratic sleep patterns by. Some co-workers have great advice, or at least are very good at lending a sympathetic ear. That kind of camaraderie is priceless.
- In general, talking about work at home is okay. Sure, you don’t want to bring your work home every day. But when I have something I want to talk out with A, I go ahead and do that. And, Baby I isn’t yet old enough to really listen to what I have to say about work, but someday she will be, and I don’t plan to shelter her from work talk once that day comes. I do believe that working moms can be great role models for their children, and when Baby I hears about my trials and triumphs at work, she’ll have a clearer understanding of what it might be like when she’s ready to enter the workforce.
- Turning off your cell phone while at home is okay. Compartmentalizing your life (i.e. only dealing with work and work and only dealing with home at home) can have its advantages. Being fully present with your family while you’re with them will help you make the most out of that time you have.
- Having your childcare provider send you pictures of your baby every day is okay. I don’t get this every day. But on Thursdays (oh, precious, precious Thursdays), when my mom watches Baby I, my cell phone occasionally lights up, and what to my wondering eyes does appear, but a picture of Baby I…!! Can you tell it makes my whole day?
- Not having pictures of your baby at your desk is okay. I do have a picture of Baby I at my desk. When I first returned to work (when she was just 7 weeks old, sniff sniff), I changed that picture every month and took little mini-breaks just to stare at it. Now, like the other knick knacks and fixtures on my desk, I kind of see through it. And I haven’t changed the photo for 6 months. Does that mean I love her any less? No, I love her more and more every day, and I don’t need a picture on my desk to remind me of that.
- Leaving the workforce after returning to work is okay. Lots of moms do this. I had passing thoughts of it, but not only can we not afford to be a one income family, but I know deep down that being a stay-at-home mom is not for me. I’d love being with my daughter, of course, but I would regret leaving the workforce. However, when I was looking for work advice on the mommy blogs, I saw two takes on leaving the workforce; the stay-at-home moms are overwhelmingly like, “oh, finally, you came to your senses. Yes! Leave your job now!” and the working moms are overwhelmingly like, “Oh, guess you just couldn’t handle it.” Neither of these are okay. Leaving your job is a personal decision and it has nothing to do with your abilities or what everyone should do. If it’s right for you, then it’s right for you.
- Considering a career change for the sake of your children is okay. Yep, I did this, too. I mean, after all, I already have a bachelor’s, and my state has an easy path to teacher certification. I realize teachers work very, very hard during the school year but summers off with Baby I is awfully tempting. Ultimately, I chose not to go down that path, but if you do (or want to try it via taking some classes, shadowing someone, whatever), that’s totally okay! Maybe you will find your new life calling.
- Having a total career crisis post-maternity leave is okay. This one kind of ties into the last one for me. After abandoning the teaching idea, I kind of flipped out. I wanted to be with Baby I more so bad, but I had no idea what to do about it. That’s okay. I slept on it (for several weeks) and finally figured out that what would be perfect for me would be more time off from work (vacations, etc. More info on how this will work out in a blog to come).
- Taking that promotion is okay. So you’ve had some big accomplishments at work. Bravo! It’s totally okay to accept reward for your hard work. For some people, taking a promotion means more responsibilities or extended hours. In these cases, my advice would be to go with your gut. If you think you’re up for it, then you are! If you think you need to negotiate (maybe some work at home hours, etc.) then try it. The worst they can say is no.
- Having mixed feelings about working is okay. See the first three points. I would say that, especially my first few months back at work, extreme mixed feelings about working in general abounded. But as time goes on, I feel more and more strongly that what I’m doing is right for me and my family. I would imagine that, if either staying at home or moving to part time was the right thing for us, that’s how I would feel as time goes on. Just now, at approaching a year back at work, am I feeling very solid on that ground.
- Feeling like you’re dropping the ball at home is okay. I am physically unable to keep up with my laundry. Some days, that makes me so upset. Other days, I realize that I’m a loving mom whose whole family has on clean underwear and one pair in the drawer. So what if I have to pick through the mountain of dirty clothes on my bedroom floor to do an emergency load for tomorrow? There are worse things, to be sure.
- Needing help is okay. No matter what you need help with. This past year, I have cried on the shoulders of all of my friends. I needed them to listen to me. I needed my mom to do laundry for me. I need various members of my family to watch my daughter every single weekday. And, so help me, one of these days I’m getting a housekeeper. It’s because I need help. And that’s okay. Remember that saying: “it takes a village?” That saying is true.
- You are a fantastic mother. And you are okay. Promise.