By Kate Hayes
After giving up a job that I loved when my husband’s career moved us from St. Louis to Boston this past May, I’m ready to get serious about looking for a new job.
I feel like I did the right thing by taking the entire summer off with my kids to play and explore and get adjusted to living in a new part of the country. We have certainly had a great time! Now, Anna will start kindergarten in less than a month, and I feel like we are ready for the next change.
I am pretty excited about the possibilities that lie before me…the unknown of a (fun?) new career in a place like Boston. Boston is a happening place! Just think of all the things I might learn! Just think of the people (future friends?) that I might meet!
Then I think about the guilt I feel about once again sending my children to daycare (or before/ after-school care) so that I can have a career. And the excited part of me feels very, very selfish.
Why can’t I have the excitement without the guilt?
The guilt is not entirely self-imposed. Even though our post-modern society supposedly embraces the working mother, there is still a large segment of the population that wholeheartedly believes that we (moms) are doing our children a disservice by returning to the workforce. So we get mixed messages. Some people applaud us, and others shake their heads at us. Here’s an example:
About a week ago, I really enjoyed reading a post entitled “Working Moms are Fine for Kids” on the New York Times’ Motherlode blog, written by Lisa Belkin. You can probably imagine why I liked it from the title. Belkin writes about recent research done at the University of Columbia that found that “working mothers displayed greater ‘maternal sensitivity,’ or responsiveness, toward their youngsters, had a higher income and were more likely to find higher quality child care. In the end, the effect on a child’s intellectual, physical and emotional development was a wash.”
The “wash” part refers to the fact that a study done eight years ago by the same researchers said that children of working mothers were cognitively delayed in the first year of life, compared to the children of mothers who stayed at home. Basically, the more recent study showed that those children caught up, and showed no lasting ill effects. Good news for working moms, right? I thought so.
However, when I posted Belkin’s blog post on my Facebook page, one of my 400 “friends” left this comment: “I like the idea of one parent (either one) staying home with kids. What the heck benefits are there for kids of working moms? I don’t mean to be hurtful to any of the working mothers…I don’t want anyone to feel guilty. But I think it’s better for the kids to have a parent stay at home. Kids need someone watching them. They need boundaries…”
And now I’m sitting here wondering…what am I supposed to say to that? I know that he says he doesn’t want anyone to feel guilty. Yet I do.
So I revisit all the reasons why I feel I should go back to work:
I enjoy working. I love being able to “use my brain” and be creative on a daily basis. I love feeling like a productive member of society.
I think working actually makes me a better mom. Instead of being cooped up at home with my kids, feeling stir crazy because I can’t always keep them happy…I am eager to see them at the end of work each day, and am able to devote myself fully to them when I’m not at the office. Working mom weekends are the best, because you really appreciate the time at home with your family!
I think that my KIDS prefer the structure (and the playmates) that daycare provides. If we’re not out and about doing things, my five-year-old daughter is constantly telling me how bored she is. I cannot be a full-time entertainer.
I worked really hard to go to college and build up a solid resume of work experience for the past ten years. I feel like I need to keep that momentum going, so it doesn’t go to waste.
And last but not least: we could use the money. My salary used to be more like a “bonus” for us when we lived in the Midwest. Now that we have moved to the East Coast, where everything costs at least twice as much (including our house), it doesn’t really seem like the best time to pare down to a “one salary” family. I think the benefits of growing up in a family that is not financially burdened must at least compensate for any negatives suffered by having a working mom.
Are those selfish reasons?
I know that I’m not the only working mom who waffles back and forth from feelings of excitement to guilt, so I would love to know how you handle(d) them. Whether you have any advice for me or not, thanks for listening to my “Mommy Moment.” Sometimes we just need to vent.
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