Before I had children, being a stay-at-home mom was my idea of bliss. I dreamed of lazy mornings in bed with my kids, fixing them breakfast, learning new things, having adventures. I thought that the life of a stay-at-home mom was the life for me.
When my daughter came, it didn’t take long for me to discover that I was wrong. I stayed home with my newborn for four months (and I feel grateful that I got that much time with her-standard maternity leave in America is a measly six weeks), and while I felt a pang of sadness the day I handed her to my mother-in-law and returned to the workforce, I knew in my heart that it was the right decision. From that day forward, I became a working mom and have never looked back. I love being a working mom, and here are a few reasons why.
It fulfills me in a way staying at home can’t.
Everyone’s definition of personal fulfillment is different. For some women, it’s motherhood and marriage (or just motherhood or just marriage). For others, fulfillment is found in the pursuit of a career and success in the workplace. I feel fulfilled when I get a bit of both worlds. At home, comforting my daughter, making her happy, seeing her learn, snuggling with her and spending time together makes my heart swell with love. At work, brainstorming sessions where my input and ideas are not only heard but used gives me a sense of personal pride and accomplishment. I love being part of a team of amazing, innovative, driven people. Staying at home wouldn’t give me these opportunities, and I’d miss that.
It gives me grownup time.
I’m going to be honest: I am more of an “adult person” than I am a “kid person.” There are children whom I like (and, of course, there is my daughter, whom I love more than life itself), but overall … I’m not a big fan of kids. I don’t know how to interact with them; I suck at playing with them; and, honestly, I just prefer the company of other adults. Being in an office full of grownups that I get along with keeps me sane. If I had to spend my days at home, alone, with a small child (or children)-EVEN if those children were my own beloved offspring-it’s likely that I would go crazy.
It gives me a break.
One of the most tiring aspects of parenting is that your child needs you all the time. It gets easier as they get older, but when I’m home with my daughter, there is always a toy that needs finding, a glass of milk that needs pouring, a dress that needs donning. I’m happy to do these things for her-but after a while, it wears on me. There’s also the fact that she and I butt heads like nobody’s business. I don’t know if it’s a mother-daughter thing, a personality thing or a combination of both. Whatever it is, it makes me crazy. I’m also impatient. It’s not a trait I love, but it’s part of who I am-and instead of driving my whole family nuts by trying to be something I’m not, I accept that I’m a better mom when I get breaks. Dropping my daughter off at day care and having eight hours with no one arguing with me or asking me to wipe their butt or their nose or why tigers poop is essential to the mental health of everyone in my family.
It protects my identity and sense of self.
I consider myself a lot of things: a woman, a wife, a mother, a writer, a singer, a runner. It’s taken me 30 years to learn to like this woman I’ve become, and I feel a fierce desire to protect and preserve her. Right now, to many people, I am Nellie’s mom. I will be known as Nellie’s mom for many years to come, but as she gets older, she’s going to need me less. That part of my identity will become less prominent until, one day, it will fade into the background entirely. If I identify as Nellie’s mom and nothing else, what will I have left when she is an adult with a life of her own? I’m determined to nourish and protect the other parts of myself so that when my nest is empty, I won’t find myself lost and wondering who I am or what to do next.
I have heard other women say that staying at home is the best. That deep down inside, no woman would choose to work; that if their families didn’t need their financial contributions, they would stay home, because working isn’t as fulfilling as motherhood. While some women do find their ultimate contentment and happiness in caring for others, many others don’t. I can tell you with 100 percent certainty that even if my family’s financial success didn’t depend on both me and my husband working, I would still seek a job outside the home.
The bottom line is that while I love being a mom and doing things for my family, it’s not the core of who I am. I am not a caretaker by nature-and I refuse to feel guilty about that. I don’t feel bad for loving my life as a working mom. I don’t feel like someone else is raising my child, and I don’t feel like I’m missing out on her entire life. Everyone is different, and I think that when we acknowledge and nurture who we are as people, then-and ONLY then-can we truly be the best parents possible to our kids.
Natalie Green is a Chicago girl living in Chattanooga with her husband and their 4-year-old daughter. When she’s not working full time outside of the home, she enjoys reading, writing, singing, zombies and running. From zombies. And also beer. You can stalk her blog, Mommy Boots, or follow her on Twitter @mommyboots; or you can email her directly at [email protected]. She also has an (Im)perfect Parenting Facebook page. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.