August is here. I don’t know how that happened. Suddenly there are school supplies out at Target and teacher friends working in their classrooms. Sigh. The end is near. Summer is such a beautiful, beautiful thing, and it has evaporated right before my eyes. I love being a stay at home mom for two months out of the year.
When I was pregnant with Claire, Chris and I talked about whether I would stay home or continue working. We sat down, looked at our budget, talked about the future, and I decided I would continue teaching. It would be the best choice financially, and I absolutely love my job. No problem.
Then Claire was born. She rocked our world and filled us with a brand new kind of love. I remember standing in her room, holding her, and crying my eyes out the day she turned 1 week old, my heart breaking, because she was growing up so fast. Going back to work when she was 12 weeks old was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I cried every single morning (and sometimes throughout the day) for weeks. I missed her so bad and I felt so guilty for leaving her. Honestly, I felt like a second-rate mom.
This is a battle I’ve struggled with all along the way, and although I’m much more at peace with things, I still have a hard time with it now. I have come up with so many schemes to make staying home possible. (Even though these plans would entail me working – in my mind, it would be better because I would be home.)
- Opening a catering business
- Selling my breast milk online (My personal favorite plan – sitting around and pumping all day – how hard can that be?)
- Opening up a preschool in our home
- Writing children’s books (This plan almost panned out.)
Obviously, none of these plans panned out for our family. So here I am, a working mom. Now let me say, I love my job. I love teaching. I am so thankful for the chance to influence young lives each day. I’m thankful for the hugs and the smiles and the joy of learning. Of all the jobs I could have, I am definitely happy that the one I have is teaching.
But as much as I love my job, I still feel an ache in my heart when I leave Claire in the morning and when I think about leaving our next little one with a sitter. I worry, worry, worry, over the damage I may be causing them. And I feel so terribly, horribly guilty.
Guilt. So much guilt. I think that is the worst part. I feel like I’m damaging Claire, not putting my family first, and choosing myself over my child.
So much of this guilt comes from the other side – the stay home side. They probably don’t try to make us working moms feel guilty. They don’t try to make us feel like less than. And most of them don’t. But sometimes they do. I’ve heard some hurtful things from stay home moms and they sting. And they stick. But it’s my fault. It’s my fault for taking on the guilt. Stay home moms aren’t the judge of what a good mother is. I make the choice to feel guilty or not.
Things also swing the other way. I know it’s easy for working moms to have a low opinion of stay home moms. We think…What do they do all day? What do they have to complain about? But they work hard too. All day long. They take care of their kids from 9 to 5 and then they take care of their kids from 5 til bedtime. We are wrong to judge them too.
Why does it have to be us against them? Why does one have to be better than the other? Isn’t being a mom tough enough without judging each other for the decisions we make for our families? Aren’t our own criticisms of ourselves damaging enough without doing it to one another? What if we just choose to love each other? Encourage each other? Pray for each other? Respect each other? Wouldn’t that be better for all of us? I think so.
I know stay home moms who complain constantly about their kids and working moms who complain constantly about their kids. Stay home moms who cherish time with their kids and working moms who do the same. It is what you make it. It’s not one or the other – it’s making a choice to be a good mom who is present with your kids when they’re with you – whether that’s 10 hours a day or 4.
If you’ve chosen to be a stay at home mom, that’s great! You’ve made a sacrifice to be home with your family and that’s something to be proud of. You get the honor of spending your days with your kids – taking them to the library, playing on the floor with them, doing chores together. You get the joy of spending the day together. You are a great mom and you love your kids.
If you’ve chosen to be a working mom, that’s great! You’ve made a sacrifice to provide for your family and that’s something to be proud of. You get the honor of working hard to provide a good life for your family – living in a nice neighborhood, traveling, taking piano lessons. You get the joy of “I missed you” hugs and evenings spent together. You are a great mom and you love your kids.
I’m preaching to myself here. I need to remember all this. On the day Claire cries at drop off and when I leave our new little one with the sitter for the first time, I’ll cry. I know I will. It will be hard and my heart will ache. But I’m going to try so hard not to feel guilty. I don’t need to. And when I pick Claire up from school and feel her little arms squeeze around my neck, I’ll cherish that moment. And I’ll cherish the many more I get to spend with my family.