Why being a working mom is the best thing even though it doesn’t always feel like it
As a working parent of a toddler, I find that some days are harder than others.
There are days that whiz by and I find myself surprised at the end of them that I didn’t spend more time thinking about my little one. More often though, at some point during the day, I’ll find myself looking at a picture of her, reading an article – often a tragic one – about children, or talking about her, and I’ll suddenly miss her so much it’s like a punch in the gut. I’ll start thinking about all the precious time I’m missing that I can’t get back. I like my job, but one day sooner than I will be ready my daughter will want to spend less time with me, and I worry that I will regret time spent away from her now. Add to that the prohibitive cost of childcare, which can make working hardly worth it for many, and one might think “Remind me again, why the hell am I doing this? Something about leaning in, right?”
The reality is that, if we lived on a strict budget, my husband could support us for longer, until she’s ready for school, but I went back when she was 10 months old.
Why? Sometimes I don’t know.
While going back to work with a young kid is common, that doesn’t mean everyone does it. A 2009 Stats Can report showed that nearly 35% of women with children under age three, and nearly 30% of women with children under 16, were not employed. Data also shows that the number of stay at home moms in the U.S. is on the increase, not the decline as many predicted in the 1990s.
In case you are a working mom (or parent) who also finds herself wondering why the hell she’s doing this, here are the things I tell myself. I’m sure you can find your own reasons too.
Your kid(s) won’t be (a) kid(s) forever. The same reason I often regret working is one of the main reasons I work. I’m 43 and my daughter is two. Soon she will be in school and will want to spend time with friends, then she’ll grow up, and I will want/need to work again. I work in tech media. If you’re out for one year you have to catch up. Three or four would be suicide. This is the reality for a lot of jobs in the tech-driven economy – you snooze you lose. I have to work now so I can work later.
You’re a better-rounded person. I wouldn’t be at my best if I spent my days chasing a kid around a playground and doling out grapes and cucumber slices. I like news, numbers, analytics, and strategy. I like production targets and grown up conversations. When my husband and I talk about our respective creative jobs we make our home environment even more energetic and exciting than it would otherwise be. We like each other’s ideas and stories and that makes our relationship better, which is good for the whole family.
The caregivers are better with kids than you. This hurts but it’s true. The daycare lady is a fountain of awesome ideas for entertaining little kids and enriching their minds. They are childcare professionals, and as such know how to entertain kids for eight or nine hours, five days a week. It’s what they do. My ideas, by contrast, are limited to parks and finger painting. Also, I think it’s good for kids to be socialized with the other kids at daycare. Like puppies.
Children of working moms are better off in the long run than stay-at-home moms, according to science. A recent study found that daughters of working moms grow up to have more successful careers, and sons of working moms grow up to be more likely to contribute to childcare and household chores. It’s win win.
At the end of the day, I can’t guarantee that I won’t regret this decision. It sometimes feels like no decision is going to be the right one. But this is what I’m doing. So, I hope it is.