Last week, another one of my co-workers gave her notice. She recently had a baby and wants to be a full-time stay at home mom for the foreseeable future. In the wide circle of women I am acquainted with, this is becoming more and more of a common occurrence. Having the ability and support to follow your heart and spend the precious first years relishing in motherhood is such a gift. This is not an option for a lot of moms out there, no matter where their heartstrings are pulling them.
I am also in awe and wonder of the women who make this decision, because I decided to follow a different path. After Lily was born, we were attached at the hip (or really, boob, to be literally honest). Her first six months were spent going on long walks with other new moms, attending Le Leche League meetings, running errands, catching up with friends on their lunch breaks, attending to her every need and learning how to be a mom day by day. Thinking back to this time, I remember wondering how moms who worked outside the home ever got anything accomplished – there just didn’t seem to be enough time in any given day and I didn’t even have a job to go to!
When I started working again, Lily came with me for the next couple months until she was much more mobile and I finally admitted that our arrangement wasn’t working anymore. I had a breakdown at work the first week I was away from her and started trying to figure out how I could make money while being able to stay at home with her. But the routine became a little easier every day that I got up, dropped her off and went to work, and the pull to stay at home slowly melted away.
After much internal debate, I made the conscious decision to not stay at home. For me, work is an oasis of sorts. Being surrounded by intelligent women (who are also moms, for the most part), being challenged in creative ways and having the opportunity to make my ideas a reality are the reasons I keep going back. Work gives me a sense of direction and motivation to continue to learn in different ways than being at home did. My job fulfills me in a way that being at home with my kids does not.
For these reasons, a different kind of guilt has been seeping into my life recently. I am experiencing the opposite of the “working mom guilt” that so many moms talk about. Does it make me a bad mom to not want to be with my children 24/7? Am I missing the specific “mommy” strain of DNA that all these other women seem to naturally fall into? Or perhaps this guilt is being driven by societal factors telling me what I “should” be doing, now that I am a mom. But no matter where the root of this guilt begins, the end result remains the same. My decision is right for me, and because of that, it is right for my kids. The elusive notion of “having it all” has somehow become my reality, and realizing this combats any lingering doubts.