To work or not to work…that is the question. This is a topic on my heart lately, and I admittedly hadn’t given it tons of thought over the years since I became a mother. I know tons of working mothers. I also know many stay-at-home moms. Some, but not many, mom friends of mine work a part-time job. As a mother, I’ve only stayed at home, so I know nothing different from this.
When I was pregnant with my first child, I was commuting from Orange County to LA which amounted to roughly three hours a day in drive time. I didn’t know how I was going to make it work doing that drive plus working 9 hours a day. I knew that I would likely not see my baby girl at all if I continued to work, so I opted to leave the workforce and stay at home with her full-time.
Fast forward nearly four years and another child – and lately I have found myself feeling a little antsy. While I know I am fortunate to be able to stay home with my children, I often wonder what happened to that other part of my identity.
I feel in a way I was forced into staying at home, due to the long commute – but I still think the option was appealing to me at the time (and still is in many ways). I have some friends who went back to work because they had no choice due to the need for health insurance or an income to provide for their family. But for many, it is a choice and I love hearing women’s hearts on the topic and what factors influenced their decision.
As for me, there are many benefits I enjoy from not working, of course. I don’t miss any of my children’s milestones. I don’t have the “mommy guilt” some of my working mom friends say they experience from being away. But on the other hand, it’s hard being “on” 24 hours a day. No one can be great at a job all the time when there’s no start or end to your workday. And so I’ve found myself contemplating the subject of working vs. staying at home and whether a change is in store for me.
Perhaps it’s because this is a tough season with my children so small – it’s emotionally and physically draining. But I’m sure if I was working I would be just as exhausted, if not more. I think I might be sad about missing my children’s day-to-day activities, but then I also see the lure of adult conversation and feeling a sense of purpose in other areas. It’s a tough predicament.
I googled some articles on the subject of staying at home vs. working, and found it’s quite a heated discussion (as I imagined). I found many compelling arguments on both sides of the issue. I also polled some friends regarding their personal experiences.
One girlfriend has been staying at home for the past year after being a working mother for several years prior, so she had some good input on the pros and cons of each. She said when working, it was nice to connect with other adults without being interrupted every 1.5 seconds (a luxury I can only dream of!) and nice to feel like a ‘real person.’ She said the hard parts are managing a household on top of a full-time job and taking care of her kids – feeling like she can’t give any of it her “all.” And the pros for staying at home are witnessing her kids’ days instead of just hearing about them as well as the opportunity to create a stronger bond while having more control over discipline and food choices.
She gave me a lot to think about.
I do know that when I have a creative outlet, I find staying at home more rewarding. Whether that is decorating my house or writing this blog or art journaling, I know I need those things that feed my soul in addition to my kids.
Valuing ourselves and being the best mothers we can be are two of the greatest gifts I think we can give our children. Thankfully, the two are not mutually exclusive. As mothers, we can do both and I am extremely grateful for that.
I’m thankful that my children’s pediatrician chose to do both. I’m so glad my daughter’s preschool teacher chose both. I’m grateful my friends who are therapists and nurses and professors and writers chose both. I think of the lives they are touching because they love their children but they also value themselves and recognize their vocation makes them the best version of who they are.
I think I just need to figure out what that combination looks like in my own life. Whether my future includes going to a physical office or writing on the side here and there, I’m sitting in the gray area of not knowing. As I contemplate it, I’ll be taking breaks as needed and keeping up my creative outlets. It’s a delicate balance – but valuing myself and feeding that part of ‘me’ surely makes me the best mother for my children.