Are you coming from a culture that taking care of kids is mom’s primary job?
Are you debating between staying home or going back after delivery?
Do you feel guilty going to work while your colleagues drop off their infants in daycare and go to work peacefully?
If your answer to any of the questions above is yes, this article can bring some clarity…
As a Middle Eastern-American woman, I was raised by a stay home mother. My mom took care of everything house related. She cooked, cleaned, took us to classes, managed the social events and did most of the disciplining while my dad financially supported us. We lived a comfortable life. Most of our friends and relatives had similar family structure and dynamics. Once I got pregnant, despite the comments on staying home for first 2 years, I planned on returning right after my paid maternity was over. My mother who was visiting me at the time was supporting me in this decision. As an educated women I had aspirations to grow and contribute. I worked to the night of my delivery and started working once my boy was about 3 months old. A month later things took a turn and I stayed home for over a year…
Just days after I got back to work and was getting used to pumping at work and developing a new routine, my husband got a permanent job offer and we decided to move cross country, from New York to San Diego. During the process of moving, house hunting, getting settled, finding friends, and transitioning from academic position to an industry setting, I ended up staying home for about a year. Everyone applauded me for the big sacrifice I made. While I nodded to their complements I knew how desperately I wanted to be out! Being a stay home mom was not me!
I was depressed. I needed social interaction. My overachiever personality wanted a challenge that was beyond feeding, changing diapers, finding playmates. I wanted the financial independence, I wanted to talk about things other than what kinds of food do I introduce to my infant or why is he not pooping. I wasn’t appreciated at home. The way my working friends treated me was extremely different and I did not like it! This is not to undermine the huge sacrifices a stay home mother makes.
Majority think being a stay home mother is easy. That stay home moms are resting all day long and go shopping regularly. For me, I took on all the responsibilities house related, It became a 24hr job with a lot of expectations and little reward. I was tired of it! I didn’t sleep well at nights because I felt guilty letting my husband stay up as he was going to work the next morning. My only pleasure was watching Friends episodes in the afternoons while my son was napping and even that was on alert. Out of guilt of not providing financial assistance, I tried to cut from all corners which was mostly my needs…
Once I started my position, life became even more challenging. Juggling between career and parenting was hard plus some tasks now had to be divided. As cooperative as my husband was he started complaining and telling me how my career was adding stress in our life. How it all didn't worth it and how we didn't need the money.
Needless to say the conditions at work didn’t help either. I was new and my confidence was low. I was learning many new techniques in a fast paced environment, my boss was extremely condescending and somewhere along the way I learned that I had the lowest pay between my coworkers.
You get a picture… Stress at home, Stress at work!
To my husbands complaints and demands to stay home again, I had to put my feet down and stand up to what was right for me! That I dealt with all our moves cross country several times because of his dreams and aspirations and now it is his turn to suck it up!!! I remember writing a long email to him explaining this because I would get too emotional and couldn't handle the in-person conversation. I was beyond stressed and stretched…
Result? he knew I was serious this time!
So we divided and concurred our tasks.
I left home 6:30 Am to be able to pick up my son at 4:30. With no family around to help, we managed it between the two of us. My husband dropped off and I picked up. Saturday mornings was our cleaning time and Sunday evenings was for grocery shopping. I cooked our meals while he put our son to bed. We took turns changing diapers. We took breaks when we were tired or less patient by having the other parent take over. We tried to be honest and forthcoming. No sarcasm or whining allowed! Only kind requests and tons of appreciation and encouragement.
It took our family a lot of trial and error and tons of stress to understand and tackle situations and it was only natural. Afterall, it was only natural for both of us to be stressed! Neither of us were a working parent before. Having a baby changed our dynamics and priorities and we were going through a transition.
The thing is having a job is not only about providing for the house! Its more than that… of course, the financial independence was extremely rewarding and end of the year evaluations were exciting because it symbolized productivity. But it was more than that.
It was about confidence.
It was about feeling capable and utilized!
It was about interacting with other like-minded people who have similar interests.
It was about focusing on personal growth for a part of the day.
In addition working helped me in so many ways:
By interacting with different cultures at work, I learned different techniques to parent my child.
I became more efficient in finishing tasks with quality and purpose. If there was a way to get something done, I would do it faster and better because I had a kid waiting for me at school.
I became a better leader, a better listener, and a better communicator...
Above all, by loving me and respecting what was best for me, I loved my kid and my spouse more… Our family became a team
Now is this for everyone? Absolutely not! Some LOOOOOVE their parenting role. So much that once they have their kids, their priorities becomes raising a healthy happy baby. I truly respect and honor that. It makes them happy and fulfilled. At times I wished I did too because there would have been less internal guilt and conflict because of my upbringing. Life could have been less stressful for the family at times.
But as our society is becoming more and more individual and achievement based, this might not be the choice for many woman like myself…
If you are at a point in your life where you are debating between going back to work or staying home know these:
There is so much reward in staying home and taking care of a child. Lets face it, no one does it better than you do! But it might not be for you. If you are like me and you nodded to my comments above, then listen to your inner voice and go back! acknowledge your guilt and see if your employer can accommodate some of your requests such as working part time, flexible hours, work from home, etc... JUST ASK!!!
look into your values and priorities, most of them might have shifted post baby. Make sure you know them and their order when making decisions. This helps you to function more peacefully.
Instead of work-life balance, think work-life integration. Sometimes your work needs lots of your energy and time, other times less. Do what you need! Be open and flexible and love yourself.
Communicate your needs and desires with your spouse clearly and directly. Remember no one can say yes to a request that we never made... Also remember to appreciate and encourage! Stay away from sarcasm.
Help someone who is in the same spot by sharing this article and discuss it. We gain so much clarity when we are helping someone else whose in our spot.
Comment below what you think. What are some other reasons you might or might not go back to work? What helped you make that decision?