Why I Want to be a Working Mom

I didn't know whether I should write this post or not. I told my mom about my idea a couple weeks ago and she warned me to be careful because the working mom vs. stay at home mom debate can be a really personal one for some people and could touch a nerve. She said she started an inadvertent shit storm one time when she tweeted why she didn't get why people insisted on dying over their gray as they get older and they should embrace it and she warned me that such a shit storm can sometimes be not so fun.

But I decided I really wanted to write this post and I was hoping I could write it in a way that didn't offend anyone or helped explain why it is so important to me that I am a working mom. If someone would like to write a counter post to this about why it was important to them to be a stay at home mom, absolutely please email me (meryl.phillips@mindspring.com). I of course cannot get inside your brain and would love to have the other side of the coin posted about as well. I have always been so thankful for the honesty that these "Family Friday" posts have allowed for me, as well as the support and dialogue that some of the posts have started.

Tone can absolutely never be understood in blog posts (or emails for that matter), so please understand that I mean no offense to anyone who is a stay at home mom, this is merely what has been going on in my own head about what kind of role as a mother that I want to create. There are many women in my own family that are stay at home moms and there are many women who are working moms, so I have seen both roles from a very young age

First, let me start everything off by saying Chris and I live in an area that is horrendously expensive, which requires both of us to work. Neither of us make enough money on our own to allow one of us to be a stay at home parent. That being said, these are my thoughts if I was able to be in that position...

When I get right down to it, I think a lot of why I wanted to be a working mom comes down to being made fun of when I was a kid, which I talked about when I posted about why I was scared to have a girl. Ever since I was little I have been constantly observant of what people view as "girl" and "boy" activities and it has been a nearly every day goal to absolutely try not to let those terms define me. That made sound silly or ridiculous, but I hate when people make assumptions that I can't do something because I'm a girl or because someone else can't do something because they're a boy. And it's amazing how much that comes up in our every day lives that people just sort of don't pay attention to.

And you may wonder if I'm being incredibly closed minded and associating those ideas with the old fashioned ideals that men are supposed to go out and work and women are supposed to be at home once you have kids - and I guess I am in a way. I think it is fairly common when a couple becomes pregnant for people to wonder if the woman will leave her job to take care of her new, growing family. But I can almost guarantee that the amount of time that is thought about a man leaving his job to take care of his family is ZERO

I remember a couple years ago John at Young House Love wrote about how it was a strange transition to leave his conventional 9-5 job when their daughter Clara was born and be a working from home dad. He said sometimes he felt awkward being at the grocery store in the middle of the day and wondered if the people around him thought he wasn't working or thought it was strange that there was a man doing this during the middle of the day with his daughter (and I'm totally paraphrasing him and don't want to misquote him at all, but that's how I interpreted what he was saying). And hey, I go to the grocery store in the middle of the day on a Tuesday, and well, there aren't a lot of men there.

But him expressing those observations and feelings really made me realize how kind of crappy we are for thinking those things - and I admit, I'm guilty of it as well.

I think it's hard for both men and women to try and fit themselves into roles and jobs that we feel like we "should" be doing. I know there is an innate sense in men that they must "take care of their family financially" and from women that they must "take care of their family emotionally" and I think we sort of continue those roles a little bit without maybe realizing it and realizing how much it burdens both men and women

I promise I'm not smothering Zoe, but this picture is kind of hilarious

People have told me many times throughout my life how "lucky" I was that my dad and step dad were so involved in my life throughout my entire life - going to my games, taking time off of work to support me, being my coach, etc. And I felt so proud and angry by that statement. I felt proud because I liked that people thought my dads were awesome (because they are), but also angry that that behavior was something out of the ordinary - I don't think people think moms are any more awesome because they're a room parent, go to your games, recitals, etc., and be there to support what you do - that's something that's just sort of "expected" of them.

So how does this all tie into being a working mom? I promise, I promise, I'm getting there...

It has always been important to me for my actions to never be determined by something people would assume should happen. That might sound confusing or silly or even stupid. And I get that. But when I played baseball when I was little with the boys in another league it was because I really liked baseball. There was a softball league where girls played - but I hated softball. Sure, 99.5% of girls in my town joined the softball league because somehow we had determined that softball was "for girls" and baseball was "for boys" - but I wanted to play baseball, so why shouldn't I?

slides are obviously meant to go down head first

I always associated that feeling of being able to learn, do and experience the things that I wanted - even at a very young age - with being independent. And I loved that feeling. Don't get me wrong, I am actually less independent than you may think and I really do lean on Chris, my parents, my family and my friends for a TON of support and affirmation - but I want to create an environment of making my own decisions and doing what I feel is best for me. The bottom line is that in order to support other people and be happy, I need to have my own shit going on.

I knew from the second I got pregnant that in order for me to be a good mom, I had to continue the life I had created for myself before I was a mom with the new balance of being a mom. That meant continuing to work, still working out, spending time with Chris or my friends, and also devoting my life to Zoe. I love working, I love making money, I love contributing to the financial health of my family. That makes me feel really good. I also love to make dinner for my family at night and feeling like I support both Chris and Zoe emotionally. I love getting to have a mom's night out from time to time and talking freely with my friends and family about life

I need that balance of everything to not resent something. That might sound really insensitive, and I don't mean it to, but I know that for me to be the best mom I hope to become, I also need a life outside of being a mom. I need to have aspects of my own life that don't include being a mom. There has to be a balance. I am so happy in all the ways I contribute to my family, and I feel like that makes me a more efficient worker and a more present mom. I know that while Zoe is napping or being looked after I only have 30 minutes or maybe 6 hours to get everything on my working to do list done. I value that time immensely and have become incredibly efficient. I know that the money I'm making contributes to my family and I try to make the most of the time I have to earn money.

I get help during the "working week" for a couple hours here and there and a full day once or twice a week, but a lot of the time I take Zoe on appointments with me. She has probably been to HD more times than some adults and met many clients. She's already a very hard worker :) We have a rough schedule to her day (she likes her morning nap within about a 40 minute time period and her afternoon nap within a similar range of time) and I try incredibly hard to stick to that schedule, but she is also very happy to go out and about and see new places and meet new people. In fact, if she's being fussy, the quickest way to put her in a good mood is to go on an adventure

But evening time is my family time. I love when we're all together and we play, giggle, talk and just hang out. That time is precious to me. I love watching the silly things Zoe does and getting to experience all the ways that she has grown. And I love having those moments with Chris. I feel like, for me, that time is incredibly valuable and those are the memories I will look back on and have amazing, fond memories of. I love bringing Zoe into our bedroom, putting away laundry or just hanging out on the bed, playing music and having her crawl all around, dance and get into mischief. Those times always make me laugh and smile.

I love having a balance to my life - that is truly what it all comes down to. I need a little me, I need a little us. I know there are moments that I am missing out on when Zoe is being looked after by someone else, but I also love that she is being looked after by people that I love so much - my family, Chris's family and Elizabeth. When I am not there, Zoe has people who love and adore her so much and support her, and that is an amazingly wonderful feeling to have a group of wonderful people I love and trust to watch our crazy girl while both mom and dad are contributing to taking care of her in different ways

And I end the day always thinking the same thing - it might have been a tough day with Zoe or work or it might have been an easy day with Zoe or work, but every day I am happy and lucky and fortunate to have a life and family that I love so much and love working hard to maintain. Life, my job, our partnership and parenthood are all hard work, but there is balance, love and appreciation and I am so lucky for all of that.


Michelle said...

I love this post! I have been a full-time working mom, a stay-at-home mom and just about everything in between (read about that here).
Because of that, I learned that different situations work for different people/children and what works for one season of your life might not work for another.

I love the life you guys have created - it seems perfect for you!!

Deb said...

I have always struggled with this - feeling guilty/judged about working and going to school instead of staying home with my girls. The truth is, I'm a better mom because I work. I love my career. I love my family. We're all well adjusted people (for the most part) and I'm lucky to have a fairly flexible schedule. But I don't think I could be a stay at home mom - I need my career. It helps fulfill me and I really don't think that's wrong, just like I don't think it's wrong for my best friend to stay home with her kids because that is what fulfills her. She's not a better mother than I am and I am certainly not a better mother than she is. I hate that this is such a hot topic, but it is. Great post :)

Anonymous said...

I also dislike the labels. I still kind of consider you a stay at home mom. Which was what I did - I worked when my kids were at Mothers Day Out 2 days a week but still called myself a *stay at home* mom. I contributed to the budget but my kids were never in day care. I still don't know how my sister does it. She drops my niece off at daycare at 7 in the morning and picks her up at 6 or later. My niece is wonderful and my sis is an awesome mom. All of us just have to figure out how to do it to the best of our ability.

Anonymous said...

I have been both a work-at-home mom (don't care for the word "stay") and a working-outside-the-home mom. I've enjoyed both, however, I have never felt more judged or trivialized than when I was a work-at-home mom. My working-outside friends (which is most of everyone I know) often felt judged by those of us who didn't but I never once heard any of the work-at-home moms actually voice any criticism at all! Actually, quite the contrary, it was my working-outside friends who criticized the work-at-home moms. Not only did I feel judged by them, but some of my friends actually felt it was their right to assume that I would babysit, drive, feed, and otherwise look after their children on a regular basis! I was also expected to volunteer on a regularly (which I did, happily) for those working parents because, after all, I had "nothing else to do".

During the years that I've been home, my family has made financial sacrifices. David would have happily stayed home but he made far more money than I so I left work. It was a choice we made because it was what made the family schedule work. It made our life easier, less frantic, more enjoyable. Make no mistake, I have paid a huge price for this. I am now in my 50's and am much less marketable at this age and have no recent work experience (that is recognized in the workplace).

Do I regret my choice? Sometimes. Do my kids appreciate the sacrifices I made to be available to them? Sometimes.

I should say that, during a time when working mothers were in the minority, my own mother worked. In fact, my grandmother worked as well so it's not like I didn't have great examples of working mothers in my life. I just chose what worked for me and my family.

I guess what I'm getting at is that I wish we'd stop judging ourselves and others for the choices we make. Every family is different, every situation is unique. There is no perfect answer. There are drawbacks to each situation. If you are among the very few who actually have a choice at all, then lucky you!

Deb said...

Love the post and really appreciated the comments as well. I have 3 kids, worked part-time some of the time, and back to full-time when my youngest was 2. It was sometimes tough working full-time, but it was necessary and he (my youngest) was/is fine!

I definitely did enjoy my outside job and BTW, had a mom who went to work when I started first grade (which was back in 1957, so VERY out of the norm for that time!) I came home from elementary school which was about 1 block from home and went to a neighbor's house until my mom and/or dad got home from work. My parents met at work - a VA hospital after WWII, she was a secretary and he was an X-ray tech - and got married within 5 months.

My mom wanted to go back to work because (in her words) "there are things I want", so I kinda grew up thinking that I had to work for the "things that I want"...maybe not so bad :)

Liana Favro said...

Great post, Meryl! I really enjoyed reading this. I think the key is finding the right fit for you (if you are lucky enough to have the choice). Part of being a mom is learning what works for you and your family and not accepting a "one size fits all" approach. I see too many women choosing to either work or stay at home because they think they "should".

The working mom vs stay at home mom debate is ridiculous in my opinion. If you're doing what you feel is truly best for your family, it shouldn't matter what someone says to you about your decisions. I get plenty of rude comments about me being "just" a mom or not setting a good example for my daughter by choosing to leave the workforce. But I feel very passionate about my decision and know that I wouldn't be the wife and mother I am if I left my daughter in a daycare for 10 hours a day. It just doesn't work for our family. I also know that I am teaching my daughter valuable lessons about sacrifice and going without certain things in order to follow my passions. Being a stay at home mom for our family is a sacrifice and we've had to give up many things and work hard to stretch one income but to us, IT'S WORTH IT.

I don't stay home because I want to fall into a traditional category or because I think I "should". I stay home because I feel that it's an important gift to my family. My work pre-baby wasn't something that fulfilled me or inspired me. It was simply to get a paycheck. What I do now (for free) is so incredibly fulfilling that even after a crazy day where I realize I forgot to eat a meal, I am HAPPY.

I love hearing from both sides of the spectrum. I think it's awesome that you are able to have the best of both worlds. You have amazing people who love Zoe as much as you do to care for her while you are able to fulfill other parts of you which in turn, lead to you being the best mom/wife you can be. Not everyone has this choice and I do feel sorry for that. I know many women who are either working or home with their children because they have to and it's never a good situation for anyone involved.

Being a mom is hard...period. Whether you are physically with your children 24 hours a day or 8 hours a day or 4 hours a day. Working comes with its own set of challenges and being a stay-at-home mom is no picnic either. If you can find the formula that makes you the happiest, what an amazing blessing.

G. Robison said...

Never, EVER apologize for being a working woman, parent or not. It is your right as a human being.

Remember: our president grew up in a home with a working mom AND NO DAD for backup, and as far as I'm concerned he turned out just fine.

Follow your heart. Be kind to people. Be a good mom. Working outside the home need not interfere with any of that.

AZ DIY Guy said...

I could NEVER be a working mom! I could NEVER be a stay at home mom. 'Course I'm a dude, so...

You'll be a great mom.

Anonymous said...

I think it's great whatever you want to do.
I had my girls young, I really never had a plan, kind of a seat of the pants life I lead. First child was born severely disabled, so child care was not a possibility, so a lot of extras were given up for me to be able to stay home with them. Now the girls are older and my husband makes a better income and yes I am still at home, my care list now includes elderly parents and other peoples pets, someone always needs care and some people just slide into the job.
You have slid into motherhood just fine, do what comes naturally!

meryl rose said...

Once again the honesty in all these comments astounds me. I love the support I get here, and just as important, the honesty and additional opinions that are shared here. Every mom knows that they need to do things their way to be the best mom they can be, and I love that all of you wonderful folks understand and support that. You really all fabulous ladies, and men! (props to John at AZ DIY Guy for representing the males!)