Reflections on my chaotic life of minivans, tantrums, deadlines, and diets ... a life I wouldn't trade for the world.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Working Moms and Quality Over Quantity

Does it ever get any easier?

This morning, I couldn't let my little girl go. I'm pretty sure she was super-glued to my hip, her chubby little hands around my neck. I knew she would be OK, that she would forget me as soon as I left her sight, but would I be OK?

As a parent to two small children, having to work is a blessing and a curse. I don't mind work--in fact, sometimes I look forward to Mondays as an end to a chaotic, exhausting weekend. I like talking to adults, eating lunch by myself, and using the bathroom on my own schedule (what a luxury!). I like that I can contribute to our household income.

The stats on working moms in 2011
But when my son says "Mommy, play?" as I am rushing to get out the door, my heart breaks. When I have to put my daughter down because I can't possibly get my stuff together with one hand, I am flooded with guilt. Guilt that I leave them with virtual strangers in a germ factory 40 hours a week. Guilt that I am missing their firsts and their lasts. But mostly guilt that I am not equipped to be a stay-at-home mom, and this is the best situation I can give them to maintain our collective sanity.

As much as I fantasize about not working, that fantasy usually involves afternoon pedicures and leisurely mornings at the coffee shop--not tantrums and diapers and endless pleas for snacks. I just can't do that 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Not to mention, working puts me on a level playing field with my husband. When he gets home from work, he knows that I, too, recently got home from work, and we are equally responsible for childcare. If I stayed at home, I'd be eager to thrust the kids at him and head for the hot tub.

Most important, though, is the fact that I really, really love seeing my kids when I pick them up at daycare. I relish the 2.5 hours between pickup and bedtime that I get to spend with them, as chaotic as that time is. Yes, sometimes I want to pull my hair out, trying to prepare dinner and watch them at the same time, but it's not out of exhaustion from being with them all day; it's because I just want to be with them and not cooking dinner.

I have several friends who love being at home with their kids, and have made a wonderful life of it. I have other friends who miss work terribly. So if you're a new mom weighing whether to go back to work or not, there is no right answer--only a right-for-you answer.

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