Finding a balance between career and kids has been a long time battle for many mothers. The decision to continue to pursue a career or to spend those precious years at home when your kids are young is complicated to say the least. In my short two years as a parent, I’ve somehow managed to spend time as a full-time working mother, a part-time working mother, and a stay at home mother. Just to be sure the grass wasn’t greener, I apparently felt the need to test out every option before deciding what was going to be best for my family. Most recently, I’ve returned to work full time once again. But through it all, I’ve learned an important lesson. No matter what decision you make – to work or not to work – parenting is hard. It isn’t easy to be at home all day with crazed kiddos who’ve been cooped up with a bad case of cabin fever all winter. Similarly, it isn’t easy to work full time and to spend hours on end packing lunches and setting clothes out and fighting rush hour traffic on the way to drop the baby off at day care. Simply put, either way, it’s all hard as hell.
During the time when I was staying at home with my son, I wrote a post called “Things No One Told Me About Being a Stay at Home Mom.” It was a weird time for me. I was adjusting to motherhood in general and getting used to the fact that I had given up my career to be at home with my son (and two other children that I was nannying for, for a little extra cash). I found myself becoming jealous of my husband’s quiet commute to work, the fact that he could actually take a lunch break, and maybe even pee in peace once in a while. That post was probably the most honest thing I’ve ever shared and I was terrified of the negative feedback I was sure I’d receive. I figured I’d get people telling me to be grateful for the opportunity to choose to stay at home and to treasure the years when my son was little. I was shocked to read the comments that I received from so many other mothers who felt like they were also becoming maniacs from spending all day long taking care of kids. I realized that full-time, long term, stay-at-home-mothers are practically saints and I didn’t make the cut. I gave in and returned to work part in September.
By January, I took on a full-time teaching position. I was thrilled to be able to regain my career (and to be able to have eight hours a day without succumbing to the constant demands of a toddler). I absolutely love my job and it’s been amazing, but that doesn’t mean that being a mother has become easier. There are times that I dread making lunches and ironing outfits before going to bed, which is probably what I should be doing right now… I hate having to wake my son up on the rare occasion that he actually sleeps past 6:00 just to rush him to get ready for daycare. And on the weeks that my husband is traveling for his job, I feel like I’m drowning in a pool of solo-parenting , counting the hours until he returns home to help me with the demands of our daily grind. It’s definitely tough, but the rewards out-weigh the challenges. I am a happier person and a more patient mother after having returned to my career.
Now that I’ve gotten a taste of both sides, I have the upmost respect for mothers who have taken on either role. Unfortunately, there is often a line drawn in the sand at the playground separating the working moms from the SAHMs. I’ve heard mothers who work full-time make negative comments about those who “just” stay-at-home. Additionally, I’ve listened to stay-at-home-moms judge others for leaving their children in the hands of daycare center for 8-9 hours a day. The fact of the matter is that every mother is just trying to find a balance that works for her and her family – to figure out how to pay the bills, how to manage their kids, and how to maintain their sanity.
When a woman becomes a mother, there are a multitude of things to learn about raising an infant. But the breast feeding, the sleeping-training, and the bottle-weaning – all of that can be learned. Books, websites, and support groups can assist you in the basics of care-taking. For me, it’s finding the perfect balance between career and kids that has been the biggest challenge in becoming a mother. What I have learned is this – the grass is not any greener. Both working and being at home are equally amazing and challenging options. Both have pros and cons. Both are wonderful, difficult, and exhausting. I think it’s time that as a whole, we ban to together and support our fellow mothers no matter what decision we choose in regards to our families and our careers.
Maybe you spend your day battling a small brood of children who are capable of capsizing an entire household before 10:00am. Maybe you are that mother who pumps breast milk in your office with the shades closed while shooting off a few e-mails to your boss. Either way, kudos to you. In my book, you’re a kick ass mom who deserves a quiet bubble bath, an evening of relaxation, and a good night’s sleep (not that any of those things are actually attainable, but a mom can dream).