“Hey! Is that your chocolate in MY peanut butter? NO – that’s YOUR peanut butter on MY chocolate!…”
Yes, I am dating myself here by admitting that I actually remember when this campaign was popular for the Reeces Peanut Butter Cup. But the messsage was that – duh…you can have both and be pretty darn happy.
I have been on both sides of the fence of the working mommy or stay at home mommy debate. The magic answer? They can both be right. There are pros and cons to both sides. The worst thing you can possibly do is judge some other mommy for not making the same decision you have resolved as “the best” choice. Because you have not walked in her shoes.
Whether you are a stay at home mommy, full or part time career mommy – you can be pretty darn happy. The challenge is maintaing a balance. You know – you don’t want too much peanut butter…or too much chocolate (wait…is that possible?) – you want it just right.
Same thing with being a stay at home or working mom. There is a balance to be found.
First the issue of guilt must be addressed. I would be remiss if I didn’t address the elephant in the room. Hello ladies…I’d like you to meet guilt. Guilt…meet the ladies. Just wanted to get that introduction out of the way, because you two will be getting to know each other quite well now that you are a mom.
Guilt. The whole damned if you do, damned if you don’t dilemma. As a stay at home mom, you can feel dreadfully guilty for not bringing any cash flow into the family finances. This leaves the husband as the sole breadwinner and could potentially stress him completely out. On the other hand, a working mom can be completely guilt stricken over handing over their little lovies for 8-10 hours a day – basically letting someone else become a key factor in the rearing of their child.
Looking at it like this – there is no winning. Later I will come back to this and we will look at this from a completely different angle. Let’s put this in the “parking lot” for later, shall we?
Deeper than guilt – is determining the real answer to this age old question of stay at home vs. working mom. How do you know the right answer? It comes down to your gut feeling…and sometimes circumstances.
If you are a working mom and you are constantly preoccupied, miserable and distracted with the desire to be at home with your baby and you actually have the choice to do so – maybe you are being prompted to try it. You’re biggest challenge is possibly a lifestyle change. For instance, I turned in my BMW and we went down to 1 used car for 2 years.
If on the otherhand you are at home with your babes and you are resentful, miserable and feeling like a complete failure for not automatically being the Mary Poppins Stepford/wife ideal person you thought you would magically turn into just for giving birth, then maybe you are being prompted to seek some type of employment. You’re greatest challenge is finding quality childcare where your babe is happy, yet you still make some net gain after paying them. Also – it can be challenging to find the right “fit” for you in a job place – especially when the market is as lean as it is.
There is no magic eight ball answer, unfortunately. It takes a lot of soul searching and honesty. The answer may not always be what we had expected. I have known some women who spent their entire careers striving for the top rung of the ladder and somewhere along the way or near the top – they walked away from it all to stay at home – shocking themselves and their peers. I have also known women who dreamed of being stay at home moms, equally surprised and shocked to find out they nearly lost their minds trying to do it and found that working was a better choice for them.
And then, there are times in life, where you don’t have a choice. Like me now. I just have to make the most out of being a working mom. I have to figure out how to find balance and peace of mind.
In all my experience in both the stay at home and working mommy worlds…the key to the balance is not at all what I thought it would be. Once you get the guilt thing under control – ironically the other major key factor to achieving balance is…YOU time. Yes…time for YOU. Something I had always felt terribly selfish for before I learned the secret to what all honestly happy moms know – that “you” time is critical to being balanced and, well…SANE!!!
If you are a stay at home mom – the risk is that every moment is spent caring for, teaching and disciplining your child(ren). You can be consumed with housework and children activities in and out of the home. As a working mom the risk is working like a dog, speeding home to do a sprint of homework, dinner, some kid related activity, bathe them, and get them to bed. It’s very easy to lose yourself – on either side of the fence.
Just a little hour here or there or a night out now and then – where you take a little time to recharge your batteries and are not responsible for the life or death of a little hobbit lovie, and don’t have to be aware of thier every little bodily function at any given time.
That is what it takes to make either situation bearable – a little break. Because motherhood is very, very hard. No matter what angle or side of the fence you are on. It took me about 6 or 7 years to really find this out. I am a pathetically slow learner when it comes to life lessons.
When I had my first daughter I had an awesome career in logistics. 10 years of supply chain management and about 4 years of my biological clock ticking away somehow made the decision to walk away from a coveted position with awesome perks (like, say, a BMW, for instance) fairly easy.
I went from design changes to diaper changes nearly overnight. I was finally living my dream. But my husband traveled extensively and was just not around to share in parenting. When he did come home, I would spend all my time with him and us as a family because that was such a limited and rare thing. Then he would be off again. I had no me time. I felt “guilty” for even wanting it. I was also confused as to why I was so depressed when I was finally doing what I had wanted to do all along.
Isolation and depression set in. Over time, I became worn out, bitter and resentful. I didn’t even know why anymore. This routine of life had become my identity. The real me had been snuffed out. I had no real hobbies any more. All the things that made me “me” had been replaced wtih “craft time”, tinker toys and play dates. Adult conversations were minimal, always interrupted, and usually centered around…children. “So…what is Johnny doing now? What milestones is he hitting…etc.”
I cannot stress enough – if you are a stay at home mom – get out – meet other moms – get out of the house and your comfort zone to connect with folks and make friends. Isolation is the worst thing you can do for you and your family. Figure out how to make some time for you. It is not a selfish thing in the long run. Even a jog around the block can do wonders.
On the flip side. As a working mom I remember pulling 90% of the parenting responsibilities, working the same amount of hours as my husband, then coming home, making a full dinner, bathing the baby, putting her to bed, etc., while my husband worked out, or did some things just for him. At this time, I also don’t remember us making time for even a date night. I felt so guilty for working so much that if I was not working, I felt I HAD to be with my baby. So I had no me time…and again felt guilty for even wanting it.
I wouldn’t call this isolation, because I was out in the work force. I was at least feeling utilized, appreciated, recieving some accolades for a job well done and getting to make complete sentences with adults. I just had lost ‘me”. I was buried somewhere deep beneath deadlines, meeting minutes, and baby scheduled events. The thing to stress here is if your spouse takes some “me” time – you should do the same.
As a side note here – I have to say – that given a choice…I would still choose to stay at home. Even though I admit and have learned that it is the hardest job out there – hands down. I still struggle with the fact that other people are raising my child – for the majority of their “awake” moments throughout the week are spent with someone else. This is a hard pill for me to swallow.
But I am forced to admit that I can’t be everything to my child. I have had to step back and see the strength in letting go just a bit and having other positive influences in my child’s life. This has given my child some different perspectives and flexibility. It has given me a chance to observe my child through a different set of lenses. It’s not always a bad thing.
After two divorces and learning the ridiculously hard way…I have no choice but to take time for just “me” sometimes. In a very strange and convaluded way, divorce forced me to take some ME time. I am fortunate to have married good daddies – just not great spouses. Thankfully, they still want to be part of the girls’ lives. So during visitations…all I have is…me (Luckily for me, it is still a 90/10 mix. I personally couldn’t honestly imagine it any other way…no matter how hard or self sacrificing that makes my life – no matter how much I may have ranted to a certain select group of friends…namely Jen).
It’s a bit sad to admit that my first months of being forced into having ME time…I had no clue what to do with myself. In the beginning, I found myself just driving around town…wasting time. I was lost. What do I do without my kids? My little extentions of myself. Not to mention the sadness I was experiencing from the loss of the marraige too. I didn’t know what to do, where to go. I mean…what do I do all alone…with just ME?
Umm…TONS OF THINGS!
It took me a few months, maybe even a year to be fully comfortable with it. I moved from feeling guilty and even depressed to feeling liberated. Then I started reconnecting with “me” – remembering some of my passions and hobbies and actually doing them. I started waking up from a seemingly deep freeze.
Now that it has been 2 years – I am a pro at it. I even find myself getting a bit riled up if my “me” time gets nixed by a change of plans. Because this “me” time has become my little oasis. I can do anything I want at that time…even if it is nothing at all, or just having some quiet time, or a hike. “Me” time doesn’t mean self indulgence or shopping spree time…but sometimes it can be.
I am finding out the key to being a good mom and having happy kids while even having a career…the key is a balance and yes…some “me” time.
No matter what side of the fence you are on – it doesn’t have to be that pessimistic “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” way of looking at things. It is all perspective…and though you may still have moments of slipping into this way of thinking because some days are just harder than others where you feel like an all around failure – the real way of spinning that around is something like…”Charmed if you do, charmed if you dont'”. Honestly – this is how the majority of your days should feel if you are doing a graceful job of this delicate balancing act.
Forgive the cheesy undertone of it. Honestly I can just hear John Ratzenberger saying it in his best used car salesmen voice. Come on – let’s do it together – in your best cheesy voice read the following, “I mean come on…I always say…charmed if you do, charmed if you don’t…I mean for crying out loud…this is your life I am talking about here…am I right, or am I right?”
Ok. you get the point. Perspective. Balance. It’s the libra-nitus in me. I can’t help it. And now I am just rambling for the sake of rambling because I haven’t blogged in so long.
I’ll leave with this last anaolgy that has stuck with me.
There were two lumber jacks. They decided to have a contest to see who could split more wood in a day. They both were on pace for awhile, but a few hours into it, the older lumber jack left for a few minutes. The younger one kept chopping thinking to himself he was going to win by a landslide…especially when the older lumberjack did this a few more times before the end of the day.
At the end of the day they stacked all their wood in individual piles and the older lumberjack won by a significant amount. The younger lumber jack who had not taken a break all day was completely baffled. He asked the older one what his secret was. The older lumber jack answered that while he had stepped away for a few moments he was actually taking time to sharpen his axe.
So ladies – and even some of you self martyring men out there…take some time to sharpen your axe so you can actually be the productive super hero you were designed to be. You’ll be charmed if you do.