Full disclaimer: This is NOT about working moms vs. stay-at-home moms.
I am not trying to pick a fight, pick sides or tell anyone what decision they should make for their family. So please, for the love of all things motherly, stop making me have to defend my decisions.
I recently stepped out of my bubble.
I walked away from my work friends, my mom friends and my family, who all know me so well and have been by my side as my husband and I have built a life based on the sum of so many small decisions. These people in my bubble love, respect and support me, and don’t (usually) freely and openly criticize me. In general, I feel safe here to whine, to complain and to generally disclose things about myself.
So imagine my surprise when I peeked out into the world of strangers and discovered so much judgement frolicking out in the open.
I went on a cruise. Specifically, I took my mom on a cruise to Alaska, a bucket list item we had been meaning to do. For my typically extroverted personality, it was kind of like being a kid in a candy store. Or maybe more like being a freshman at college in the dorms when you know your new life-long best friend is there waiting to meet you. (Sorry introverts, if you don’t understand).
What’s your name?
Where are you from?
What do you do?
You are constantly asked these three questions by everyone you meet on a cruise. At lunch, when there is no room to sit alone and you have to share a table: “Hi, my name is Rachel, can we sit with you?” At dinner, where you are seated each evening with new table mates in your best formal attire. On the bus to each tourist trap.
So. Many. People.
Many people are naturally social. They pick up on things, a glance at your wedding finger, a nod to your look-a-like mother followed by, “So, where is your husband?” Innocent enough, but amazing to me how over and over the response is the same.
“You left your husband at home with three kids aged 5 and under for a week?! Alone?”
Yes, I did. He is a big boy, he can handle it. (He travels about a week a month for work and has for years. No one ever seems shocked that I can handle it.)
THEY WILL BE OK
“No, he didn’t take the week off from work.”
“Yes, I am sure they are fine.”
“Of course I miss them, but no, I am good right now, I am enjoying this wine, sleep, quiet and uninterrupted bathroom time.”
This is the first time in almost 6 years I have left for more than a couple-day work trip within driving distance of home. I am not pregnant or breastfeeding or dealing with any other type of crisis for the first time in so long I don’t remember.
I saw my window and I took it. And it was glorious.
But apparently, the most interesting thing about me is that I am willing to sacrifice my children to daycare. Day in and day out.
“What is your husband doing with the kids?”
He is dropping them off at daycare like we do everyday. (I get the same thing when people ask me at work what ever will we do with the kids when school gets out if I am at work? Summer doesn’t really change our schedule. There is drop off and pick up and work in between.)
“Well, how do you afford to send three kids to daycare?” Okay stranger, let me tell you about our finances…
Inevitably, I end up conceding that yes, it was a difficult decision. I do feel guilty. The baby cries when I walk out of the room and it breaks my heart. We are always stressed and racing to get there before pick up time. I don’t see all the plays, help paint all the pictures or provide all homemade snacks.
It. is. so. hard.
And this usually satisfies the inquisition.
But then I feel defeated, demoralized and defensive. It is not enough that I love my job and am good at it. That truthfully, having a routine and separate self identity makes me a better mother.
Some moms are meant to spend every second of every day with their kids. They choose for themselves what makes them personally happy.
SOME MOMS CHOOSE TO BE WORKING MOMS
When I went back to work after each baby, it was hard dropping them off. Working and pumping is horrible and stressful and the schedule is exhausting. But drinking a whole cup of coffee at my desk, quietly before it gets cold… this is what made me happy.
“I like to work and I like my job.” That is all anyone should ever feel they need to say.
But in this world of criticizing eyes, that doesn’t even make my top three defenses:
- “I went back to work because I had to finish my licensing and pass the P.E. before I could stay home, I had worked so hard to get there.”
- “I came back to work from my second and third pregnancies to promotions and economically, it made more sense for me to stay.”
- “Getting back into my field after taking time off would put me at a severe disadvantage later when I try to come back.”
And truthfully, missing out on benefits and time accrued towards retirement, as well as the over all time cost of money, really would have put me at a serious disadvantage. But darn it, I shouldn’t have to feel like it is necessary to sell all these points to total strangers. I just like my job. Full stop.
So the next time you meet a new working Mama outside in the world, don’t ask how the kids manage without her, ask what she loves most about her work. Try not to assume she regrets her decisions, she too might be a better mother despite “abandoning” her kids.
A total stranger recently said to me, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but what is the point of even having kids if you are just going to send them to daycare.”
I swear, this is a direct quote. I honestly don’t think there is any way to take that but the wrong way.
For me and that new Mama you meet, it is probably hard enough to feel confident that each decision we’ve made was the right one without the help of the collective sewing seeds of doubt in our minds.
So be bold, be confident and be proud. And stop defending yourselves. I will try to do the same.
Love you, all you Mamas. Hustle on.