I read an article in Time magazine this morning (Working Moms = Healthier and Happier) as I sat on one of the most boring conference calls of my career. I had my venti miso and a slice of banana nut bread, however, which I enjoyed thoroughly in my quiet office free of screaming kids.
My initial reaction to the article was one of relief. After all of these years of battling the guilty mother syndrome, studies vindicated that my decision to work was a smart one. I would be healthier and happier than my friends who decided to stay at home with their children. I wanted to call all of my mommy friends and announce the news; throw a party at the office for my mama colleagues. But after 10 minutes of jubilation, I thought back to an article years ago that reported that studies showed working moms produced less attentive, more needy kids. I thought about my reaction to that article – how I could not fall asleep that night because I questioned whether I was doing the right thing for M&M. I doubted my love for M&M if I would choose to work everyday and not be home with them. I scoured the internet to find articles that affirmed my decision to be a working mom. And then I took a deep breath. Turned off the computer. And took M&M out for a bike ride.
I tune out these articles anymore because in the end, don’t they all say the same thing? The more love and support and encouragement that you provide to your children, the better off they will be in this world. If I stayed at home all week with M&M, I do not think I would feel as fulfilled and as balanced as I do as a working mom. I can’t say that for sure, and maybe in another life I will find that being a stay-at-home mom is the most incredible experience ever, but in my current life, this is how I feel. I have worked hard to get to where I am professionally, and I enjoy the work that I do and the people I meet. I want to be able to retain my connections and continue to work because I know that I will want that when M&M are older and in their own lives. When they go off on their own in high school and college, I want to have my career and colleagues intact. And I don’t feel like because I have my career now that I am forever scarring them.
did have my doubts when they were younger, and I still think that in a perfect world moms should be able to stay home for the first year of a newborn’s life (maybe the US will adopt Germany’s approach), but that was not a possibility for me at the time. I had Maria when I was in the prime time of my career – six years out of law school and gaining expertise in the employment law area. Again, who knows? Staying at home at that time may have been better in some ways for Ri or even for me, but decisions have to be made with the facts at hand in the moment, and at that moment, I thought that I should stay in my profession and be a mom, too.
I don’t like that the articles about stay-at-home moms versus working moms seem to pit one group against the other. I don’t want to be one of those corporate moms that looks at a stay-at-home mom eating lunch with her kids and chides “Must be nice to stay home all day…huh?” And I also don’t want to be the stay-at-home mom who shoots a condescending look to the working mom who just divulged that her kids go to day care because she works during the week. I want to be the mom who sits around with other moms and appreciates that we are all different in our wishes and desires and hopes and dreams – for ourselves and our children. What is right for me will not be right for everyone and that is OK. M&M are pretty happy kids (albeit ornery at times, but happy!) and I don’t think that came out of the blue. Jon and I worked our butts off loving them and holding them (all night long on many a night) and recognizing them and believing in them. Let’s get some studies that recognize moms for those simple yet indispensable tasks.