When the time comes to decide to stay home or return to work, there are so many things to consider – daycare costs, income sacrifices, leaving baby with strangers, socialization, missing milestones, etc. For me, the choice was not always clear, but I know now I did the right thing for my baby and me.
We spent two and a half months together, Stella and I. We played in her play gym, occasionally visited family and friends, danced around the house and cozied up and watched Netflix. I thought I’d want more time with her. I dreaded going back to work and worried she’d forget about the bond we developed. The thought of someone else taking care of her and missing her “firsts” made me well up. But after a wonderful 11 weeks of leave, I decided that I would be a better mother to her if I continued working.
I felt awful saying “I’m ready to come back to work” because society tells us women should feel guilty or ashamed for wanting a career outside of the home.
Am I a bad mother for wanting a break?
For wanting to pursue a career at a place I love?
For wanting more disposable income?
For wanting to be social and among friends and adults?
For wanting Stella to make lifelong friends and create bonds with other people beside me and her father?
Telling others I work full-time often results in people saying “I’m sorry. Maybe some day you won’t have to!” See, I’m not sad or ashamed, nor do I feel forced to work. I’m proud of my choice and will happily defend it. Honestly, even if I could, I wouldn’t want to. It’s just not my cup of tea.
Reason #1: I love structure and routine
As a Type A person, I pride myself on checking off to-dos. I base my self-worth on how productive I am. When I was home with Stella, I ran around like a chicken with its head cut off. There was so much to do and so little time. I couldn’t just lay around all day and look lovingly into my baby’s eyes. I was scolded weekly by my husband and family to take it easy and enjoy the time I had at home, but secretly knew I couldn’t be happy there – not all day, every day. Things at home didn’t have structure. Stella was never on a schedule, which meant things often went undone. And without help, it stressed me out! On top of that, I was a horrible housewife. Dishes were not put away, laundry piled up, and dog hair accumulated in corners of the kitchen floor.
Now, I am not dissing on stay-at-home mamas at all. I have the utmost respect for y’all. I think it’s great you’re able to stay home with your little love bugs and not miss a single moment. You’ve established a tried-and-true routine, have amazing organizational skills, get to spend precious time with your kiddos that you’ll never get back, and hold one of the hardest jobs out there! But personally, I just couldn’t do it. I thought I wanted to after creating such an amazingly strong bond with my daughter, but I felt more accomplished in the workplace. Although Stella was with me every day, I still felt something was missing in my life. Secretly, I was worried I’d lose my identity if I stayed home.
Reason #2: I was bored and lonely
I very rarely skewed from our norm. We didn’t go out much because it was winter, so we were often stuck inside – doing the same thing day in and day out. While I loved and cherished my time with her, I was often bored. I missed speaking to adults. I missed my friends and co-workers. I missed contributing to something bigger. I missed my disposable income. I missed my beautiful commute through the countryside. Stella wasn’t interactive and couldn’t really “play” during my maternity leave, so I found myself feeling lonely.
I love my daughter with all my heart, but I feel like a better mom when I can miss her. The face she makes when I visit her in daycare makes me melt to pieces. At the same time, my heart fills with joy when I see her playing with the teachers and other children who love her. She’s thriving in daycare and loves the constant entertainment, socialization and sensory activities.
Fortunately, working full-time was made A LOT easier by having an on-site daycare. I truly have the best of both worlds. She gets dropped off downstairs and I get to nurse/cuddle/visit her anytime I want. I love being able to pop down at a moment’s notice, so I never miss a milestone or feeding. Once she’s sleepy or needs changed, I hand her off, go back upstairs and resume my work. I also get emails, phone calls, and pictures along with a “report card” of how Stella did that day. In addition, it helps that I love my job and the people I work with. And the cherry on top? Daycare is subsidized, meaning it’s a fraction of what other Cedar Rapids daycare centers cost. Honestly, I couldn’t be happier.
Reason #3: I like getting paid for my work
For me, working full-time works. I feel accomplished and productive at my job, and I love that I can be a part-time mom in between meetings. I haven’t lost my identity. Furthermore, I no longer feel bored, unproductive, lonely, or stuck in an endless routine without a break. Honestly, the paycheck doesn’t hurt, either. I don’t get paid to be a mom (even though some days I wish I did!) and I think working 24/7 without some sort of compensation would burn me out.
During work, I can take a walk through the prairie, write for the company blog, run on the treadmill or practice yoga, eat an organic meal among friends, and focus on and hammer out projects in peace. I’m Stella’s mommy, but also Kailee, the co-worker, writer, gym partner, mentor, friend, sister and wife. The work-life balance is perfect, and for that I’m blessed and thankful.
I’m not embarrassed, guilty or ashamed to say I love to work, and I wish more moms who work full-time would say it. I’m proud of what I’ve built and I hope someday Stella is proud of me, too. We all parent differently and have different reasons, circumstances, and desires when making the choices we do, but we all love our children the same.
At the end of the day, that’s all that matters.