She responded to an email I’d sent to the neighborhood mother’s club. She asked if I’d be willing to talk to her about going back to work after having a baby. This was her first and she was riddled with anxiety. Her return date was fast approaching.
Later the same night, another momma sent me a message on Facebook. I don’t know how do you do it? Aren’t you exhausted? You deserve a gold star.
These two notes aren’t the first I’ve gotten, but receiving them this week, so close together, reminded me of our modern day plight.
We’re facing challenges different from the mothers before us. Many of us had children later in life and had already established career reputations. This sweet new momma I talked to over the weekend had worked for ten years in the oil and gas business before having this first baby and had an exciting job to go back to despite the downturn.
But we also are juggling more: older parents, high pressure parenting expectations (think Pinterest parties and private preschool athletic coaching), the intense promotion phase of our career, community engagement, and marriages we want to succeed.
I’ll lead with the same words I encouraged this new mom with, There is no one solution. Everyone is different, so what works for you will be different than what worked for me.
For me, going back to work was never an option. I had to go back to work. But at the same time, the actual choice wasn’t a dilemma. I wanted to go back. As delighted as I was to become a new mom, I knew I would totally stress my kids out with my ambition and drive unless I had a career where I could funnel those traits.
For others, it is a very real question. Sometimes, it doesn’t make financial sense to go back when the take home pay is measured against child care for multiple children and commuting costs. Sometimes, there’s just no way you can bear to go back. I had a relative who went back, was miserable, and promptly decided staying at home was the choice for her.
My recommendation when you’re torn is to try going back and see how it actually works. Give it a few months. This is an intensely emotional period for moms, and for me, my emotions didn’t really level out for almost twelve months. I can barely remember those first few months back to work. I remember being utterly exhausted and pumping on my commute to and from work and trying to understand how to juggle this whole working/parenting/wife-ing thing. I did nothing other than show up for work and show up at home. I dropped every single other commitment I had as I learned how this new phase would work.
But I’ve also received notes from mommas who have gone back, know it’s the right choice (or the necessary choice), and are screaming, hhhhoooooowwwwwwww? It. Is. Hard.
We’re studying perseverance this month in the kids Sunday School class. I shared a story on Facebook Sunday night about yet another mom fail I’d had:
I’m solo with the kids tonight, and we sat down to eat at the nice table while the eldest started shredding my beautiful table runner. I lost my temper because I was so tired of them not taking care of things. When the baby asked what was wrong after my outburst, I replied, “I’m tired of you all not taking care of things and I’m tired of me losing my temper.” They shouted, “Mom, PERSEVERE!”
There’s a lot of truth there. Working and having young children is hard. So my recommendation if you are working and parenting IS to persevere! But don’t JUST persevere – recognize the daily beauty in these times too.
A lot of you know my story, so you know I almost didn’t get to be a momma. I don’t want to be so exhausted and overwhelmed I miss all the awesomeness of this time. I know it is hard, but I also know I will long for these stages when they’re gone.
Even though the kids are six, they still want to be picked up. It’s none too easy, but I’m going to do it until I can’t. Little bit called me her best pal the other night as we snuggled in bed. The eldest told me it wasn’t possible that I loved him more than he loved me (I argued the point). The baby told me this weekend I was his favorite thing right now. They’re reading now so we curl up in bed and take turns reading to each other. I paint toes and throw dodge balls and watch their bike races.
I do not regret working. It is a choice I made, and I’m a better mom and person because it was the right choice for me. I sometimes regret the frenzy and the rush that leads to short tempers and frayed nerves. I wish I never lost my temper. I wish I could make all the special events at their school. I wish I had time to whip up healthy, hot, organic dinners.
But when asked how I do it, I say I do it with a lot of prayer, a rock star husband and family, and encouraging mommas who form this team to cheer each other on and who know we’re all in it together.