In honor of Mother’s Day and my hard-working mom, I thought I would share my “wisdom” for all working mothers out there in hopes of ending any guilt they may feel about not staying at home.
I am not writing this from the perspective of a working mother, which I am, but from the perspective of a daughter whose mother went back to work while I was very young. She did not have the luxury of staying home and when our family needed more money, she simply went back to work. I don’t think she wanted to work but she did so without complaint. After several years out of the work force, she could not get a good-paying job; in fact, she toiled for many years with little financial reward. After many years, she found a better paying job and got several promotions at that company before retirement.
Luckily my mom worked mostly during the pre-Internet era; otherwise she might have hopped on parenting forums and blogs where there are endless working moms vs. SAHMs discussions with a lot of guilt-inducing arguments against working moms. For those women who do work, or are thinking of having kids and working, I hope my thoughts will obliterate any sense of guilt about working motherhood:
- I don’t want someone else raising my kids. This statement makes zero sense. If this were true, that would mean that most fathers don’t raise their kids because most of them work. While my parents worked, my grandmother took care of me during the day. I love my grandmother but I never doubted that my mother (and father) raised me. Her influence in my life was not diminished because she wasn’t physically with me all day.
- Staying at home does not automatically make you a good mother. Oftentimes there is an implication that the SAHM is a better mom. While I do agree that if you’re less frazzled and stressed, parenting is easier, I don’t agree that it makes you a better mother. If you are normally impatient or critical, you will still be so whether you stay home or not. If you’re naturally generous and giving, you will still be so if you work. I know many people who have difficult relationships with their SAHM because their mother was overbearing, cold, critical or impatient. I was fortunate that my mother is naturally loving, patient and kind and those are the qualities that make you a great parent.
- Kids are more resilient than you think (and don’t need to be the center of the world). Yes, infants are needy and should be held even if you have to keep them in a Bjorn 24/7 and you can’t shower or eat (oops…sorry for the sidetracking due to my recent experiences). However, once kids are a little older, it’s fine to show them a larger world with other caretakers. I think my grandmother generally followed the guidelines set by my parents; however, I’m sure she may have indulged us more or done things differently sometimes. In the end, it just makes you see the world through different perspectives vs. the isolated world of “Mommy and Me” times.
- It’s OK to want retirement savings (and vacations). Many women justify the cost of staying home by saying that they would make about the same as daycare costs. However, I know many who quit because they would only make $5,000 more per year after taxes, gas, drycleaning etc. While this amount may be true, $5,000 more per year can be critical upon retirement. $5,000 more per year can mean a well-deserved vacation. Most people also conveniently forget to factor in raises or promotions during those working years. More importantly, many forget that if/when they return to work, they’ve missed out on their prime earning years and may not be able to find a job at all. Sadly, I know several women in bad financial situations because they are afraid or unable to find work after years out of the workforce.
- You’re A Role Model. I read once that women who have daughters are more likely to work and that men with daughters are more likely to promote women. It makes sense to me. If you have a daughter, you want her to reach her full potential, and that may not only mean motherhood.
- Grandmothers are great! If after reading reasons #1 through #5, you still feel guilty, think about how much you can help your grown child when you retire from work and offer to help with grandchildren. That’s really all you have to do to alleviate any guilt from your absence during your child’s early years. I am fortunate that my mom is a very willing babysitter. While I think a child is fine at a good daycare center or with a good nanny, nothing is better than a loving grandparent!
I admit that I have mixed feelings about working, but I don’t want anyone to make me feel guilty or feel sorry for me because I work. Everyone needs to do what is best for their families. In this day and age, two incomes does not necessarily mean cable TV or fancy vacations, it can mean the difference between a stable financial environment and retirement. And if it does mean allowing for extra indulgences, that’s fine, too. Life is too short for guilt. Happy Mother’s Day!
For a hilarious take on working mother guilt, or anything related to motherhood, check out Rants from Mommyland.