Tuesday, February 28, 2012

working versus sahm moms

After working full time for about 2 months now, I think I am finally ready to take on this post. Ever since L was born, I've had a lot of internal conflict regarding working or staying at home. Everyone has an opinion about it. There are two camps: On the one hand you have the woman who tells you to stay at home with you child(ren). That you can tell a huge difference in the child who has a mother home with them during those young, precious years and those who were shipped off to daycare. They tell you that (a) they did it and they don't regret a single day of it, or (b) they wish they could have, and if single parenthood or financial hurdles didn't exist for them, they would have stayed at home in a heartbeat. And the fact that there are major, scientific, irrefutable benefits of being at home with your child during the first year to two of their life, and doctors are continuing to cite the many, many benefits of breastfeeding as well as attachment parenting and baby wearing, which both for the most part requires a mother to be at home full time with her baby. *Not familiar with the benefits of breastfeeding or attachment parenting or babywearing? Take a quick look at a few articles here & here.
On the other camp, you have the busy, independent woman who has worked her whole life who thinks a mother who stays at home is stuck in the 30's, bored, or regards as someone who is "playing house." Wherever I go, people will ask. And they will throw in their two cents or otherwise let you know through their attitude which camp they are in.
So here I go. The day I was legally old enough to work, I was filling out job applications anywhere that was hiring. I was actually babysitting long before then, but you get the point. My first job was at Dunkin Donuts (jokes entitled) then went on to lifeguarding, then onto retail at Abercrombie & Fitch, hostessing, and then back to lifeguarding during my summers home from college. All throughout law school I worked. I clerked, I interned, I externed, did pro bono. I really enjoyed working, as it gave me real life experience in the career path I chose and I loved having the extra money. I never once in my life ever envisioned myself as a stay at home mother. I would think about myself as mother in the future, but as a power career mom, with a fabulous job in sleek business attire and weekly manicures coming home to whip up a fantastic dinner and tuck my little ones in bed.
Enter reality. Where daycare costs just about as much as I would make an an entry level attorney post economic downfall of 2008. So there was really no doubt in my mind that I was going to stay at home with L for the first several months after his birth. I enjoyed this time. I baby wore. I cloth diapered. I breast fed. I was proud of myself that Landon was solely fed breast milk for the first 6 months of his life. I also planned our wedding. We got married. I was a great mom. Landon was the happiest and most easy-going baby to hit the planet. And I basked in all the credit given to me.
But my conscience listened to the women in camp #2 and ignored the women in camp #1. I felt a tremendous amount of guilt spending any money on myself. I got anxious about my law school loans. About buying a home. About L's college tuition.
So when Landon was 6 months old, I started watching another little one in my building and began covering court calls for other attorneys on days I wasn't home with the babes, as well as working from home for another attorney out east. I thought it was great because I got to be home with Landon while I also got some sporadic courtroom experience, while also having the flexibility to work from my home computer whenever I wanted and around nap/bedtimes. But it was definitely a very difficult time in my journey of motherhood to date. I give anyone with multiples or two under two a lot of credit. I would wake up at 5 but there were many days I wasn't even able to brush my teeth or my hair until well past noon. My court calls were stressful. I was overworked, and I refused to give myself a day off  and pay for a sitter unless it was strictly during the hours I was at court. I ended up working one job just to pay the taxes on another. And in retrospect, I wasn't even being a good mom to my son. I couldn't play with him and work with him on the developments I wanted to because I was too tired taking after two babies, and one who was younger and needed more attention from me. And I didn't have the time between that and my legal work and all the housework - the laundry, the cleaning, the cooking, the food shopping was never ending.
9 months of all this later, after spending two weeks in Hawaii, I decided I wanted to work but that I needed to stop doing what I was doing.
Ideally I wanted to find a part time attorney position where I could still be home with Landon for a few days out of the week and then also get out a few days with a more stable/regular schedule. My current job opportunity totally fell in my lap. Which happens to be full time, but it was capped at 40 hours a week. I knew it was temporary, so if working full time life ended up being too stressful and I couldn't also be a good wife and mother then I would fulfill its term and then know I wasn't ready for the workforce yet. Turns out, it was not what I expected at all. I do not have a tremendous, or even any amount, of guilt for leaving Landon with someone else for 9 hours a day. *Sidenote: Of course this largely depends on who you are leaving your kid with. If your child isn't an infant, you will probably only feel guilty if you are leaving your child with someone who you don't fully trust and who does not give your child undivided attention and show you they truly care for your child. But back to what I was saying - working full time was the opposite of what I expected - I actually have the energy to wake up every morning at 5:00 and get an hour workout in 5 days a week while Landon is still snoozing. And I have a good, healthy meal on the table every night for dinner, as well as healthy lunches packed. I'm able to take care of myself, have thoughts for myself, eat for myself. & of course wear my beloved heels & get dressed again :) And on top of all that, it is the most relaxing, non-stressful time I have ever had for myself since becoming a mom.
Which leads me to the purpose of this post: Stay at Home Mothers Have A Much Much Much Harder Job Than Anyone Who Works and Any Professional. Let me actually repeat this in case you are speed reading through this post: stay at home mothers have a much harder job than anyone who works and any professional. Anyone who has done both will tell you this. It is the only job where you literally work 24/7 around the clock, with no benefits, no paid vacation time, no sick days. I repeat: no sick days. Try going to work next time you are puking your head off and can't get out of bed. And you have a very cranky boss who is very, very demanding. There is no such thing as deadlines, only "I need now" and if you don't give it to me I will scream and yell at you until you do. Being a full time mom is hard work. You are responsible for another little life. For feeding, nourishing, teaching, instructing, loving, and for raising & bringing up into this world another little human being. And no one on the face of the earth can do that like their own mother can.
So which camp am I in??
Neither. I see and have lived through the benefits and downsides of both. Giving birth and being a mother is hands down the most rewarding and purposeful experience of my entire life. But being a full time mom is challenging, and at times feels extremely unrewarding for yourself. I know what works for me now, but that may also not be what works for me when we have another baby. And then that may not be what works for me when all our children are off at school. And whatever I choose may not be what works for other mothers and for other families. But the point of it all is just that: Respect other women for their decisions, do not try to make your opinions heard or count because everyone is facing a different battle. To each his own, let them do what works best for them and their families. And maybe then we can all put an end to this stupid, cold war between working and SAHMs. Just love your child and bring them up with all the unconditional love and undivided attention and guidance you physically, emotionally, & spiritually can give them. Whether that comes through you working full time, part time, per diem, or not at all, is not what matters.


  1. The timing of this post is absolutely perfect! I start back at work tomorrow and I have been worrying about what it may be like. I am very lucky in that we have both sides of the family able and willing to care for our daughter but I still couldn't help but worry. But reading that it is totally okay and doable makes me feel much more confident in going back to work.
    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  2. It is great you found a position with family friendly working hours. As both my husband and I graduated from law school JUST AS the legal market took a dive, we have had to work 2 jobs (full time during second shift being legal researchers and part time in the morning teaching at a career college). Our school has been great about making sure that our classes are never scheduled on the same mornings (probably because I get to schedule my department's classes and the other directors like us) so we each get one-on-one time with our son. We lucked out on our daycare provider and because we work odd hours, our son gets one-on-one care in the evenins so the alleviates some of my anxiety.


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