This entire thought process was sparked in my mind today, when at our family Sunday dinner, we were talking about college expenses and plans with my cousin, who is a HS Junior. From there the conversation transitioned into a discussion about my daycare costs and the financial burden that adulthood and adult decisions can lead to. In talking about all of this, I stated that "I didn't put myself through my M.Ed. program so that I could stay at home."
To this, both my mom and aunt, hesitantly brought up the fact that I have two children and that when they had their children "they were lucky" that they could be home during the day. Then they quickly acknowledged the fact that in "this day and age" for a family to have a house, live well and do things they want to do, both parents have to work. It's almost like they can see inside my heart and are playing into my worst fears and doubts - "does working make me a bad mom?"
For my family, both of us working full-time makes the most sense. There are a variety of reasons we both work. It's not only financial, but also about quality of life for us as a family. I never realized how people would view me as a working mom, or how I would view myself.
I wonder everyday if I would be giving my children MORE if I could stay home with them. Would it make me more of a mom? Would it make me a better parent? Would my children turn out more well rounded? What if Dave quit his job, got a job working nights and weekends to stay home with the kids during the day - sure, we'd save money, but would our kids be ready for pre-school? Would they be better off staying home with their dad? These are questions I wrestle with on a daily basis.
I do realize that my children go to a daycare setting where they both are happy. Olivia LOVES seeing her friends each day and Benjamin is just a happy soul. They are well rounded kids. They have a healthy home to live in, food on the table, toys to play with, clothes to wear and warm beds to sleep in. During the day, they are under the care of a woman who loves them and treats them with respect. She educates them, plays with them and in my opinion, has been an amazingly positive influence in their lives thus far.
I guess the part then frustrates me about being a working mom, isn't the working part. It comes down to the biases and cultural expectations on moms. Some of this is my own perception of my parenting. It is about my inner struggle to be the best mom I can be while not losing the parts of me that make me the best person I can be.
Truth be told, I want to be a great mom. As much as I dislike getting up early, there is nothing I'd rather do at 4:50am than see baby B's face as I go up to get him out of his crib. He is just a gentle, loving soul. He is happy just to be. There is also something magical about baking cookies with a three year old girl. My daughter is a force to be reckoned with. She is powerful, opinionated and driven to get what she wants. I can see that in her now.
The truth also is that I love my professional life. I worked for and am still paying back both my B.S. and my M.Ed. I took out loans, did the work and got the grades that allowed me to graduate from both of my programs with honors. I feel a huge sense of accomplishment in my work. I take pride in my job and feel humbled and honored to work with families and students as an educator. I know that I am a better mother because I am a good worker.
I don't think that it's fair to constantly make me or any other mom, working or not, feel like they aren't doing what's necessarily right but what is "understandable in this day and age." I think that regardless of my financial needs, working provides me with a sense of purpose and a sense of control. I like to work. I was raised to see college and a career as an attainable and expected outcome. I was also raised to see having children and a family as an attainable and expected outcome. Is it so wrong to have both and work on finding the balance between the two?
And for the record, I do NOT want a puppy. Now, there is something that would just be too much work...