I always said that I would go back to work after having a baby. I was a teacher for years and enjoyed what I did. I was good at my job and felt confident doing it.
During my pregnancy, my husband and I planned to enroll our baby in daycare once my maternity leave expired. Daycare offers wonderful perks, after all. I knew my baby would become socialized, most importantly. I knew that daycare would afford me the opportunity to grow professionally, but also allow me the freedom I’d forego as a stay-at-home mom. I never wanted to lose who I was as a woman, and thought daycare would help in this regard. I also wanted my baby to respect me for working—to know that both of her parents had passions and titles beyond “Mommy” and “Daddy”.
So, we went on all the tours, asked all the questions, and ultimately looked into reserving a spot for our baby when she would be 5-months-old. Well . . . the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.
Once our daughter Cora arrived, the mere thought of daycare suddenly caused a chill to run down my spine. I remember bursting into tears when she was a few days old because my husband mentioned this 7-letter word. How could my delicate little girl ever be away from me? The logical part of me remembered all that was valuable about daycare, but the mommy in me prevailed. I felt guilty that I was considering sending her to daycare, but also felt that very same guilt about longing to stay home. I was embarrassed that I thought I had it so figured out before she was born, and that I was going back on my word. I couldn’t even say the words “I want to stay home” to my husband. Would he think I was selfish? Or weak?
I avoided the topic for months. Anytime someone asked, “When will you go back to work?” an overwhelming feeling of anxiousness emerged. Months later, my husband delicately broached the topic again. I could hardly breathe at first, but then we thoughtfully weighed the pros and cons of daycare, while discussing our goals for our family. After much deliberation, we decided I would give the stay-at-home mom thing a try. We concluded that sacrifices would have to be made and that changes were inevitable. At last we had made the decision, and I could breathe again.
My daughter is five months old so this is new to me, but I feel I have learned a ton. Chiefly, I have a newfound respect for working moms. I am in awe of all of you. What you are doing is unbelievable, and you all deserve vacations, chocolate, and wine. You are raising children who will respect you for what you do in and out of the house. As for the stay-at-home moms, I am proud to be one of you. It’s a weird, wonderful job.
I recently had a family member ask, “So what do you do all day?” with a hint of judgment. Well, I breastfeed my daughter seven times, I feed her solids, I change diapers, I give baths, I facilitate tummy time, I watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse while I pump. We take trips to Target or to see my other mom friends and their kids. My baby naps three times a day, which is when I clean, wash clothes, scrub pump parts, take the dog out, or shower. Sometimes I do get bored and my mind feels numb. Sometimes I feel insecure that I don’t contribute—to the dinner conversation or to our bank account. Sometimes I don’t get around to brushing my teeth until 3 p.m. I’m sacrificing my freedom, sanity, and even my hygiene. I feel nervous that people will judge me. It seems that in 2019, as a 29-year-old woman, society expects me to work. Do people think I’m taking the easier route? Do they think it’s foolish to let my degrees go to waste? In the end, all of this insecurity is worth it because this is my choice.
If there’s any advice that I can offer a new mom, it’s this: don’t feel ashamed if you change your mind about going back to work.
If you decide to work or not, you are incredible. As long as you make the choice you are comfortable with, that’s what matters. I also understand that many women are not afforded the luxury to even make a choice, and I respect these women even more. The bottom line is that we are all doing an impossible job, and we are doing the best we can. Let go of the guilt and the shame and be confident. Only you can decide what is best for your baby, your family, and yourself.
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