I have always wanted to be a working mom. Looking back, I am not sure when I made this decision or really why. But now here I am – after having my baby girl in October, I am finally faced with heading back to work next week. To my surprise, I have really been questioning whether returning to work is the right decision. One day I am bookmarking slow cooker recipes, planning outfits, texting work friends, and thinking, “I’ve got this.” The next day I am a wreck, sniffling over the baby as she naps, and contemplating life as a stay-at-home mom. One reason for the emotional roller coaster, I think, is the fact that many of the reasons I have always wanted to be a working mom do not seem to matter or make sense anymore. Some examples:
“I want to teach my daughter that she can be whatever she wants to be.” I will be equally proud to one day see my adult daughter choose to stay home with her own children or go to work – or to not have children at all, for that matter. I used to think that it was important for my child to see me working so that she can see the number of things that a woman can do. But being a full-time mom is also one of those things. So… why does it matter whether I work or stay at home as long as it is my choice?
“I spent too much time and money on grad school to stay at home.” Oh, pre-baby Emily, you adorable, naive little thing. As much as grad school sucked and made me miserable and poor for a number of years, that alone certainly does not justify me being away from my child for 40 plus hours per week.
“Everyone else does it.” It seems like someone at work is always having a baby and that they always eventually come back to work. I also have a number of friends who have babies, nearly all of whom have returned to work. So that’s what I’ll do. Because… of course it is. It is a bandwagon I have never contemplated jumping off – until now.
“We need the money.” But… we could also sell one of the cars and cancel the cable and turn the thermostat down to 64 and eat Cup Noodles for the next five years.
“My career is important to me.” When I got the job I have now, it was one of the first times that I had ever really felt like a goal or dream of mine had been properly fulfilled. Stressful as it can be, I am proud of my work, and I generally look forward to going in every day. All of these things point to me returning to my job, but now it somehow feels as though I am making a statement that I love my job more than my child. Though I know that this is not true for me or for the millions of other working moms out there, I am feeling really conflicted about this, and it is weighing heavily on my mind..
In the end, I am going back basically because I like my job, and some of this life still needs to be just mine. This is me putting on my oxygen mask. I am honestly not sure whether that reason is good enough or whether this decision is the right one for me. But at this very moment, it seems like it is, and “seems” is about as definitive as anything has been since I became a mom. So that’s that.
And also, I need to get out of these pajamas.