To work or not to work… that is the question… Let’s be honest. There’s so many times I’ve thought about this question. I remember one time when my son was 18 months old, I kept fighting myself on whether to get a job or not. I asked a friend to watch my son, while I put on a suit I used to wear before I had a baby… and I did my hair and make-up, wore heels and maybe even hose! Seriously, it felt like my value had gone up 110%.
I felt amazing. I went into a local financial firm and interviewed my ass off. I was charming and smart, explained my strengths and weaknesses flawlessly, positioning myself beautifully as the new candidate for this position at the mutual fund company. It was almost a religious experience. I felt young and vivacious and my brain was chugging in a way it hadn’t for a couple years because of my acute pregnancy idiocy, lack of sleep for years at the time, and my breastfeeding overload of hormones. I really felt like I was “me” again. I got the offer only days later. It was exhilarating. I went home that day glowing and smiling and even wore the suit too long because I felt so good. Something had happened that day that I remembered! I had functioned without a small child on my hip. It was like someone had cut the binds that held me. I did whatever I wanted. I drove in the car, with a cup of coffee in hand. I listened to music with questionable lyrics for a small child. I sang out loud. I winked at passerby, and I walked fast without large bags and thoughts of what I had forgotten in my head.
But I also remember the drive home being longer than the drive there. I remember being so happy to see my son when I got home that I could barely breathe. I remember feeling this huge sense of guilt that I was so happy while I was gone, and I remember thinking something was wrong with me. I wanted to leave, but I couldn’t wait to be back? I carried that guilt for this and many other moments as the years went by. I remember being confused by the fact that my husband appeared to lack the same load of parenting as I did, and I also remember thinking he just couldn’t do it like I could, so I didn’t really give him more responsibility. I remember a lot of opposing ideas running through my head… and thus was born the realization of motherhood.
For the rest of my life I would struggle with that old feeling of freedom, success, nonchalance and lack of such responsibility and the polar opposite—the joy and utter sense of selflessness I felt whenever my child needed anything. I remember feeding my son for hours on the couch, intermittently sleeping during my 15 minute breaks. I remember friends and family telling me I was crazy, and I should take better care of myself, but I didn’t. I stayed up for years without sleep and woke whenever my premie woke up that first couple years. It wasn’t as if he was critical, but I just had this internal machine that made me move even though it shouldn’t have been possible. No one told me it was possible that I would love anything or anyone the way I loved that little boy. I remember driving from Santa Barbara to Phoenix with him screaming every 2 hours almost on the dot when he was 9 weeks old. Not once did I curse or feel slighted. I was so happy he was here, and I was so driven and in tune with him. I remember when he spent the night at the hospital the first three nights of his life, and I couldn’t sleep. I felt like a part of me was missing. It was as if someone had literally taken out half of my heart and said, “Go ahead, try to breathe and live and move. You no longer have a purpose outside of giving this child the most wonderful life you possibly can.”I remember no one told me all that before I had kids. They didn’t tell me the intense love you would feel, the way you would give beyond your ability to give and still yearn to give more. They didn’t tell me that I would never again be just myself, even if I was by myself… And yet when I was by myself I would still sometimes mourn that person I had been.
I would sometimes wonder if I was really happy? I would wonder if I really remembered my life correctly before children– because I was the happiest I’d ever been–now! I would hope that one day I would have time alone again. I didn’t take the job. And I actually got to make the choice. Many women do not have the choice. I recognize that. So I can’t imagine what women who have to go back to work and don’t want to—go through. I wasn’t ready to leave my son at that time for whatever reason. That was my choice. And years later, I don’t regret it. But all that being said, I have taken other jobs and gone to graduate school and all sorts of craziness to keep my mind busy, to keep myself outside of my mommy self. I think too much mommy self makes a crazy. And I think the worst thing of all of this is that I realize all moms go through this process at some time at varying levels. And I think every mom comes up with a different set of answers for her family, a different set of circumstances, a different husband, a different background, a different income, a different availability to childcare, a different paycheck, a different desire to work, the list goes on and on. I think it’s a hard decision, and it’s wracked with pitfalls we can’t imagine on either side. But I have to address this subject, because recently a “working” mom told me that she received a rude comment from a stay at home mom for being a working mom. She gave her this nasty look and a judging comment. I have to say it got me fired up and sent me down this road I’d been down, the myriad times I had fought with the right thing to do next. And I came up with this… Quit judging each other. Quit pointing and proselytizing your opinion about what other mothers ought to or ought not to do. Quit finding ways to understand why someone is not a mother of quite the commitment you are—lest the microscope be brought out. Quit being jealous that someone else took the road you wanted to and you didn’t—whichever road that is. Because you did the “right” thing??? What the hell is that??? And when did we become a divisive group of women doing the same job? When did staying home become the icon of a great mother? Shouldn’t we applaud the mother who is able to support her home with her job outside the home? Shouldn’t we praise the mother who is unafraid of her own dreams? Isn’t she showing her children a hard work ethic and that education and said hard work can provide you with dreams that other children won’t have? Shouldn’t we cheer for the woman who is unafraid of stereotypes and more afraid that she will live with regrets if she doesn’t allow herself different opportunities and makes sure her children are cared for by the greatest of care systems? Alright, I could go on forever about this because I feel so strongly about it! I DO believe that the greater good is to pull together and share the issues of being a mom. Sure they are different for everyone, for a lot of different reasons. But they are often the same too. There are enough issues for us to be divided on. We can let a lot of issues show us why we’re different, why we don’t agree, why we don’t have anything in common. But we also have a common goal, a common bond that will forever bind. We are all moms, responsible for our children at a level we never imagined possible. And we all approach things differently, but don’t forget that if you truly believe you are doing what is right for your family… If you are truly doing the best for your family, you won’t need to be worried about what other moms are or are not doing. You will be proud that you have found a peaceful way to live in your mind, giving all you can and taking for yourself things that make you feel successful, fulfilled, valuable and important in this world. You will be happy for other moms who find this peace and joy in their own way, and you will understand the complexity of each and every decision she makes. You will understand that judging is the easiest way to spread your own insecurities about and give up your own responsibility for what you have chosen.
So today in the spirit of peace and joy, I applaud mothers everywhere, who work, who don’t work. I applaud mothers with lots of choices and mothers with seemingly so very few. I applaud mothers who are single and married, who are religious and who are atheist, who are from every country, every background, and I wish them the strength and patience to succeed as mothers and as their own people. To mothers everywhere!