In Defense of Work

After my son was born, I had a rough time. Sore, depressed, and exhausted, the only clear, distinct thought I remember having in the first few weeks after my son was born was, “My life is over.” I thought being a mother would fullfill me. I thought it would make my life complete. It made me miserable. The irony was, I had help. Parents, in-laws, an amazing husband. I had more help postpartum than probably any new mom in history. And I couldn’t appreciate it. I loved my son, but I wanted to sleep again. I wanted to wake up without some part of my body hurting. I wanted out, and my out was my job.

I could not wait to get back to work. I would check my email in the hope that there was some pressing question that only I could answer (there wasn’t). I started several emails to my boss, requesting to start back early, before seeing my son’s smiling face and deleting them before I could hit “send”. I felt terrible, but I couldn’t shake that restlessness. It wasn’t enough that I was basically the sole provider of comfort and nourishment to the newest, most important person in my life. I wanted to be recognized. I wanted to be appreciated. Most of all, I wanted time for myself, outside the home.

Once I actually did go back to work, I did regret not seeing my son so often. And it’s not like it was easy – pumping breast milk at work is a HUGE pain, especially on days when the phone was ringing off the hook. I would come home bone tired, and formed a serious coffee habit. On top of that, I still felt guilty for leaving my son at daycare all day, but, even so, mentally, I got a break. I got to have adult conversations. I got to think about something besides how to kill the time between now and the next dirty diaper/feeding/nap. I enjoyed having something that was only me, that I didn’t have to share with my husband or my son or my in-laws. I still do.

Also, I feel like, in some ways, working has helped me be a better mom. The time I spend with my son on nights and weekends is that much more precious. I’m more likely to be patient. My husband and I can more equally share the housework, because we’re there the exact same amount of time, which means we don’t fight about who works harder or who is responsible for what chore.

I still sometimes feel guilty about choosing to work. I once calculated the time he spends with his daycare teachers vs the time he spends with me, and it just about breaks even. But I have never once regretted my decision to go back. It isn’t about the money. It’s about my sanity. Maybe it’s selfish, or maybe I’m a bad mommy. But I won’t be giving up my job anytime soon.

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6 thoughts on “In Defense of Work

  1. I don’t think you’re a bad mom. Some people really love staying home. (My best friend LOVES it.) I cried…often…I’m returning to work full time next week, and I’m really excited! A good mom takes care of her children, whether that’s by providing financially for her family through working or staying at home. Your sanity is worth something. 🙂 Be encouraged.

  2. I’ve just discovered your blog. Clearly I need to do a better job stalking you online. I’ll tell you the worlds best kept secret about how to be the worlds best mom…. You ready?
    The secret is…
    …there is no secret. There is no rule that says “do X and all your child rearing problems will be solved.” The best thing you can do is 1) Keep yourself sane. If that means work, work. If that means medication for depression/anxiety/stress take pills. If that means sitting home all day every day with a baby you don’t want to leave, (if you can afford it!) do that!
    2) Remember that your kids need your actual attention. It’s funny, you go to work, and yet I know that when you’re home you’re the best mom ever. I think some parents mistake “being in the house” with parenting. If you don’t even know what your kid is DOING 90% of the time, just because they’re in the next room, you may be unpleasantly surprised by them developing bad habits.
    I think if you do both those things, you can basically be confident that your kids going to grow up as well as they can. Sure, you’ll have the occasional teacher or other parent that convinces you, if only for a moment, that there’s so much you AREN’T doing, or so much you’re doing WRONG. Unfortunately parenting means guilt… lots of irrational guilt about tiny things… Just don’t let it slow you down.
    *hugs* You’re awesome!
    Liz

    • Thanks, Lizzie! You are an awesome mom, so I will definitely be taking you advice. Love you!
      P.S. I saw your blog, too! You are such a great writer.

      • Aw, thanks! I wish I blogged as often as you did. Lately I’ve been getting a complex over whether my blog posts are ‘good enough’. I really shouldn’t take it so seriously… but, my brain, it obsesses. 🙂

      • I was kind of worried about that, which is why I put off starting one for so long. But it is more just for fun. Plus the sleep-deprivation helps. My brain just goes “Eh, good enough, Time for bed.” Hopefully my English professors aren’t reading 😉

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