How The Mommy Wars Was Won is a weekly series where moms tell the story of how they made and are living with the big parenting decisions of early motherhood. It ‘s an attempt at putting a stop to all the “mommy wars” media hoopla. As moms, we’re all in this together and we’ll be damned if we let the media pit us against each other. If you’re interested in ending the war that never was, read the original post here.
Today the series kicks off with my own story of going from working full time in corporate America to chasing down freelance writing dreams.
My mother was home every single day of my life. It drove me crazy.
Actually, it drove her crazy, too. She spent her homemaking days complaining all about her hard work and how little she was appreciated. Her attitude was a tough pill to swallow for this overzealous optimist; but I knew her role was valuable.
My grandfather reminded me (often) of her tremendous sacrifice for our family and how lucky I was to have her there all the time. As a teenager, I begrudgingly smiled and nodded, quietly noting to myself to choose a completely different path in life.
By the time I got married and pregnant, I had pretty much made up my mind to send our firstborn to daycare and return to my corporate job full time. It all changed the second my daughter arrived. I felt so deeply called to motherhood and this little being, I couldn’t fathom leaving her to someone else to care for. My instincts told me to follow in my own mother’s footsteps.
My heart, and our bank account, were not prepared for this sudden affection for the values of my upbringing. So, without the financial planning to support what I really wanted, I took my six months of maternity leave, dropped my baby off at daycare (1 day with grandma and one with daddy) and went back to work.
I negotiated an alternative work schedule so I could pump, breastfeed and facilitate picking up my daughter without being charged extra money for, you know, working to pay to send her to daycare. This schedule made the work situation work . I was home at a decent hour and felt like my role as a mother was being respected. How did I make the small window between my 5pm arrival home and my baby girl’s 7pm bedtime work? Breastfeeding. I nursed her to bed every single night and really think it was my sanity in having to leave her. It was our special bonding time every night.
Fast forward two years and we’ve got another baby. Again, I’m plagued with a deep-in-my-bones desire to be with my girls. The idea of leaving is like asking me to walk and speak backwards for the rest of my life – possible but completely against what feels natural. The work situation is a bit different this time. I’m with the same company in a different capacity and every day is sucking the life out of me.
Motherhood lit a roaring fire in me to raise amazing women who follow their paths and here I am at my soul sucking job pursuing…I’m not sure what. I felt completely fake. It made my stomach turn in knots thinking I’d have to lie to them their whole lives (“Pursue your dreams, little women! You can be anything!”) while I plugged away at a job I didn’t care for. I can honestly say it’s the only thing in this life that’s ever caused me any kind of anxiety.
We found ourselves with another baby and an unprepared bank account (note to daughters: save your dollar bills, y’all, because you might be pulling your hair out with me home all the time but mama nature might kick in and make you want to stay home, too, be prepared). On paper the decision made no sense but we knew we could sacrifice for a few years to build the family lifestyle to fulfill our hearts. At the end of the day our values outweighed our desires to keep up with the Jonses. No trips to Disney just yet but a childhood full of moments together, memories for them and for us.
It was a no-brainer for me, a born optimist; but the decision was harder for my husband who’s a natural worrier. The turning point for him was talking to his own mother who had worked full time all the years of his life. When he turned to her for wisdom, she said her only regret in life had been not being able to spend more time with her kids when they were young. Her and her husband had taken the financially more stable route and so she worked full time. I am forever grateful to her because I’m pretty sure it’s what tipped the scales for my husband.
And so, here I am holding down two full time jobs. The first job, stay at home mom, is ten times more difficult than my corporate job. The bosses have no reason and sometimes resort to shouting gibberish and crying. They make demands all day long and then change their minds and blame me for it. They also expect me to work non-stop without a break, weekends and evenings included. I’m not complaining. Being with them is fulfilling and satisfying in ways I didn’t know were possible. Job number two as a freelance writer is just taking shape and I’m learning. It feels amazing to work towards my own dreams. It feels even better to know I’m leading by example. It will feel incendiary when it’s thriving.
I stopped working outside of the home to work my buns off quadruple as hard at home. I’m learning to juggle more than I ever knew I could and I’m pretty sure it’s possible because there’s so much more at stake.
I’ve been on all sides, working out of the home, staying home and working from home while mothering my girls. Each has it’s perks and each it’s headaches. What matters is finding the joy in your situation. It’s what I try to do whatever the circumstance. I remind myself my daughters are constantly watching me, observing, absorbing. So I find the bright side of every decision because one day I want them to be able to do the same for themselves.
3 Lessons I’ve Learned From My Decision(s)
1. Get creative and ask for an alternative work schedule. The worst that can happen is they say no. Don’t be deterred if it’s not common practice. Sometimes management doesn’t have a point of reference for being asked so consider it a kind service for future moms.
2. If you’re home all day with the kids, for heaven’s sake get out by yourself on a regular basis. Your sanity, and your family, will thank you. No one can put a price on a stay at home mom’s time alone with her thoughts. Model healthy self-care for your kids. Trust me, they’ll notice the difference in you.
3. When you’re working from home with a family running wild around you, teach the kids from day one how valuable your work is. Make sure they understand you need time to get work done. And as soon as you’re done ignoring them for a half hour, an hour or more, shower them with your attention. Create a ritual out of it and every time you get chunk of work done, do a special dance, play a little game, tickle them silly.
4. (an extra for good measure) Pick up a part time/freelance/contract/consulting gig (or volunteer, even) here and there as your schedule allows. Since deciding to stay home I’ve worked jobs here and there and it’s been instrumental in keeping me in the game. It helps flex your working girl muscle which should always be ready to go.
The stories in this series are generously contributed by real moms with real feelings. If you’ve got nothing nice to say, keep it to yourself. Comments will be moderated.