To you working moms out there, I feel for you.
To you stay at home moms, I feel for you.
Whatever situation you are in, whether you don’t have kids, chose to stay home, chose to work, or have to work based on circumstances, I hope you are happy. I hope you don’t feel judged.
The thing about motherhood is that we tend to project our own experiences, and what is right for us, onto other people.
I got pregnant with my first (and only) baby my third year of law school. The reactions I got from friends, family, and strangers were across the board. People offered support, excitement, condolences, said things like “oops,” but probably the most common reaction was this: “BUT WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO???”
Allow me to educate you on pregnant women, in case you were not aware. They do not need your comments on how huge they are. They do not need every horror story you have ever heard about birth complications especially involving the death of mother or baby. They do not need the pregnancy police monitoring every ounce of food of which they partake. Finally, and relevant to our discussion here, they do not need you to add more stress into their lives.
So with that framework, being asked what I was going to do every five seconds made me want to punch everyone in the face, all the time.
I just thought it was a dumb question. What do you think I am going to? I am going to push this baby out.
And then I’ll have a baby.
I will be a lawyer with a baby.
This is not the first time in history that it has happened.
Now that I am not pregnant and my hormones make me less psychotic, I can see that most people asking this question were coming from a good place– they were concerned. They wondered what they would do in the situation. They felt for me, for how hard the situation could be. And the truth is, it is a tough issue. It is one that I personally go back and forth on ALL THE TIME. Daily. Do I work? Do I stay home? These are precious years of my son’s life that I will never get back. There is a level of love and understanding that I have for him that I do not believe someone who is not his mother will have for him. I cannot put a financial value on that.
But at the same time, we are burdened with debt. Not only that, but I feel like I would not be reaching my full potential if I missed out on a career. I think about what kind of example I want to set for my son. I want him to aim high. It is difficult to teach that without aiming high myself. I, personally, have never been a “home-body.” In fact, I have a distinct distaste for being stuck at home. On days when I am not working, we are out doing things– running errands, playing at the park, picking out books at the library, etc. Indeed, you could say that one of my biggest fears in life (truly) is being bored. And for me, staying home full time just flat out seems boring. I feel guilty for admitting that. I am not bothered by anyone who finds joy in staying home. I understand that we were all born different, with different interests, and that is a good thing.
On the other hand, it grieves me to think of missing out on snuggles before nap time, soccer games, kissing boo-boos, watching his reaction when he goes to the aquarium for the first time, meeting up with friends for play dates, and all of the other things that working moms miss out on. I cringe at the thought of day care and all the germs and bad behaviors he will likely absorb there. I know he won’t get the attention he deserves, no matter how good the day care is. Because no one else will do as good of a job of it as me. It is just a fact.
I have toyed with the idea of staying home for a few years while my babies are young. I have not ruled this out. But its hard to imagine what I will be missing out on career wise if I have such a leave of absence.
I remember listening to an attorney who spoke at my law school during my first year. She was a mother, and she was a partner in a big law firm. Someone asked her about how she made her choice of whether or not to stay home, and her answer has played over in my mind a thousand times. She said “Well, you are going to have to choose your tears. You are going to cry over missing out on a career and the people you could help, or you are going to cry over missing out on staying at home. So choose your tears.” And that is really how I have felt every day since becoming a mother. I have never been torn between two choices the way I am with motherhood and a career.
And here is another fact– I feel like a better mom when I work. I miss my son ALL DAY. Every chance I have I am looking at pictures of him, watching videos of him, reading articles on how to be a better mom. I don’t do that when I stay home. I don’t cherish it as much. I know that is not true for everyone. It is just my experience.
I took a “Sociology of Occupation” class during my undergraduate course work. The only thing I remember from that class was a study (I found a similar one HERE) that tended to show that the quantity of time parents spend with their kids did not result in more positive outcomes for kids. What mattered was the quality of time that parents spent with their kids. (Quality time meaning doing things like reading with your child or otherwise engaging with the child one on one). That has given me a lot of comfort as I worked full time this last year. When I’m home, I am home. I give him my full attention.
In the end, I have to believe that these two things are not mutually exclusive. I can be a good mother and a good attorney. I will have to make sacrifices in both areas. There may come a day when I miss a soccer game, or when I show up late to court because I was up with a sick child all night. But I will keep trying and keep fighting.
For me, for now, I will work. I will work because I get satisfaction out of helping people and solving problems. I will work because we are in a financial crisis with the amount of debt we have. I will work because it makes me appreciate my son and my husband more. I will work because it is part of who I am.
I feel strongly that I will be able to find jobs with flexible hours so that I can be there for my family. I can create a job like that.
And of course, this could all change at any given moment. Maybe tomorrow I will want to stay home. For now, I am going to go stare at my son while he sleeps and soak in this time that is so fleeting.