by Lela Demeter
I am a working mom. There I said it. In the 21st century, after a historic presidential election, when we live in a time where we have more access to information than ever before, this is almost seen as a surprising phrase. Why?
Being a working mom does not mean that I don’t love my child or that I am so career focused that I couldn’t give it all up to stay at home with my little cherub. It doesn’t mean that I care so little about my child that I would “dump” him on anybody who would take him. It doesn’t mean that my husband and I are so enamored of our “country club” lifestyle that I work so we can afford vacations, new cars, and lots of toys (for ourselves).
What does working motherhood look like in 2009? Well, my version of it is simple. I CHOOSE to WORK. There I said that too. But, why? First, and foremost, it is an economic necessity in my house. My paycheck covers basic necessities like the family house and food. I may not make millions but my contribution is necessary. When my husband’s company discussed layoffs, the thought that helped us sleep at night was the idea of my income and insurance if the worst did happen.
Secondly, does this make me love my kid less? Absolutely not. In fact, it makes me appreciate him more – every minute I can spend with him is important. Do I have “mommy-guilt?” Absolutely. The only way that I feel comfortable with this whole situation is because my son is looked after by the THIRD most loving caregiver that exists – his own grandfather. I will say without a doubt that my experience is the best possible situation out there for daycare. My retired father is willing and able to take care of my son during working hours. This creates a place for THEIR relationship to grow. And growing up without grandparents definitely made this a priority for me to foster.
Finally, would I work if I didn’t have to? Actually, yes. Why? Sure, its stressful. I basically have two careers. My house is a disaster and its lucky that I am wearing matching socks in the morning. So why would I do it if I didn’t have to?
Working makes me a better parent. A SAHM asked me if I had joined any Mommy and me groups, and I was able to tell her no – because I was fortunate enough to have peers at work who were like me – working moms.
I am the first female role model to my son and its important for me to show him that girls can do anything – that Daddy isn’t the only one that works and that Mommy isn’t the only one who works around the house. Working allows me to feel no dependence on anybody – yet its because of the help of others (namely my parents and my husband) that I can swing working and parenting. The best perk about working? Sitting down to a half-hour lunch.
It also gives me a sense of self-worth and belonging. This doesn’t mean that I don’t feel valued as a parent – this is still a major piece of my life. The problem that I faced as a new mom was something I had never felt before. Prior to the birth of my son, I juggled work, marriage, graduate school and my hobbies. After my son (during my maternity leave), all of that came to a screeching halt as I cared for my baby. After the shock of birth wore off, I began to feel terribly isolated, waiting by the door for my husband to get home – not to get relief from my infant, but to just talk to another adult. I had absolutely no experience with infants and here I was, every waking minute connected to an infant. Getting out of the house for seven hours gives me the opportunity to get a break from the constant demands of my child and allows me to come back to him with renewed purpose. I looked forward to going back to work because it forced me to make time management a priority. But it also made me realize that every second I have with my son is a gift and that I needed to make sure that the QUALITY of time was more important than the QUANTITY.
I envy SAHMs. I do. I would love to be financially stable enough to stay at home – many SAHMs are sacrificial lambs in the “mommy track.” Sometimes I do feel like it is pretty selfish of me to work while someone else is “raising” my child.
I also never get a day off – it is hard for me to ask my parents to baby-sit when my dad puts in 40 hours a week in daycare – not to mention that I will be missing out time with my son. But I also remember what tremendous sacrifice my parents made so my mom could stay home and its the look on my dad’s exhausted face after working 18 hours to support us that sometimes gets me in the car in the morning and off to work. Some mornings I get up and think I am crazy for doing this. But I do it for my family because I am the mom and this is my job.
Lela Demeter is an educator, technologist and mother of one.