Shhhhh….I have a dirty secret.
Okay, maybe not so dirty, not in the way you’re thinking. But sometimes it feels like a dirty secret.
My secret: I like to work.
That’s right. I do. While pregnant with our third and fourth babies (surprise, twins!) many well-meaning people, women especially, asked if I was going to stay home after the babies came. I mean, four kids, plus a full-time job? Are you crazy? And although staying home had crossed my mind, for like, a second, when the doctor showed me the two heartbeats on the ultrasound monitor, I just smiled and said no those kind inquirers. (I’m not being sarcastic, they were all genuinely concerned about my well-being, and I am thankful for that.) I said no, truthfully and without wavering, because I’d been there before – I had stayed home for almost two years.
One rainy afternoon six years ago while my baby girl watched Barney I realized I was having a contest. With myself. About getting the laundry washed, dried and folded and put away, all before my husband got home from the office. And at that point, I knew. I needed to go back to work. Do not for one second think I am knocking stay at home moms. That time of my life was hard, really hard. In so many ways. I can cheerfully say I pretty much failed at it.
And yes, now there are days that make me second guess myself. Frustrating days at work, figuring out child care for sick babies, missing the first-grade awards ceremony, seeing my friends’ Facebook pics of trips to the zoo on a beautiful Wednesday morning while I am sitting at my desk–I know I am missing out on a lot with my kids. But everyone does what works for their family and their life, and that’s how it should be. And I know staying home with four kids isn’t best for me, and it’s not what is best for my family.
Maybe because we live in a more traditional southern town, maybe because most moms I know don’t work outside their house, maybe because of my four kids, I often feel guilty about the fact that I like to work. I feel as though I should be ashamed of liking it and actually saying so out loud.
But I thrive on the personal satisfaction I get from working. I always have, even in college or through high school volunteer activities. I was happier when I was working. There is a need inside me that somehow only good solid work can fulfill. I also like what I do. I like editing and writing and communicating. I like the adult conversation, the challenge of a new project, figuring out a budget, making new connections, growing as a person mentally and professionally, coming up with ideas. I like checking things off my list, working in excel, planning and organizing. And getting paid for it. Selfishly, on the difficult mornings, I feel a sense of relief when I drop off my squabbling kids, because I know in ten more minutes I’ll be sitting at my desk and drinking my (twice) microwaved coffee. In silence.
Nothing about being a mom is easy, whether you stay home or have a full-time job. I’m so fortunate I have a job that works for me, in my situation, right now. I will continue to work as long as whatever job I am doing works for my family. The right job makes or breaks life in the working mom-home balance conundrum. I also know logistically our lives, with four kids, would be infinitely easier if I stayed home again. Maybe I’m self-centered for not staying home. Maybe you think I’m a bad mom for not sacrificing my own feelings for my family. But I know I wouldn’t be as happy, as personally fulfilled, and as good a mother if I didn’t work. I’d probably be an often irritable, bored and grouchy mom. And that wouldn’t be good for anyone – me or my kids.
So I’m going to share my secret with you: I like to work. And I refuse to feel ashamed about it.