During most of the time I’ve had children, I have worked in an office. Depending on our lives through the years, sometimes this even has been necessary for our family, and I was really thankful I had my job. But if I’m being really honest, I know I’m a better mom because I work. I don’t say that without guilt about sick babies and missed field trips, sadness over the time I don’t have with them and the rainy days I’d rather snuggle with them on the couch. And there are definitely times when it would be so much easier logistically for our family if I didn’t work, but for the most part, I know working makes me a better mom.
I didn’t know I would feel like this. When I was pregnant with my first child, I went on maternity leave fully planning to not return to my job. Everyone around me was staying home. My closest friends did. The women in my neighborhood did. I wanted to try being a stay-at-home mama, and I was fortunate to have the opportunity to. But within two years, I found myself grouchy, bored and unhappy. This, of course, had nothing to do with my beautiful daughter. I will always hold close those sweet precious moments with my first baby and the baby-mama lunches, playground trips and wine playdates I loved sharing with our friends. The sadness and frustration I felt with my life at the time was never about my baby girl — it was all me.
At first I felt like a terrible person and mother for thinking and feeling like this (sometimes I still do). I wondered why everyone else seemed happy and content, and I was miserable. Then I realized there was something about working that fulfilled something inside me nothing else did. A chance to be really challenged, to use what I’d learned after almost 10 years of working before I stayed home. A chance to tackle a problem and fix it. Strategize. Interact with a wide breadth of people. Be more involved with my community and help others. And to write — something I’ve needed and loved to do since I was a child — and get paid to do it. Maybe it is my personality or how I was brought up or just my temperament. Maybe it was how much I enjoyed my jobs before I stayed home. But once I started back at work — in a job that still allowed time with my daughter — I felt like ME again. And that helped me be a better mom.
Being a mom is the biggest change I’ve experienced in my life and has been the biggest challenge. Being a mom was something I’ve wanted every since I was old enough to babysit my neighbor’s kids. But it never, ever occurred to me that becoming a mother forces you to lose and give up so much of yourself. In some ways that’s a great thing — I’m so much more patient and forgiving of others now! In other ways, it isn’t. Working outside my home has been one way, for me, I’ve been able to hold onto who I am as a person. I know that’s not true for everyone; some people know they are better moms because they stay home, some work part-time and get it all done, and some moms want to stay home and aren’t able to and are great moms. We all do what we have to do in the way that works best for us at the current phase in our lives and no one choice makes someone a better mother.
For me, working makes me a better mom because I’m fulfilled in ways I am not as THE MOM. There are other ways I manage this, too, of course — nights out with friends, running, my church group – everyone has their thing and we all probably need to spend more time on ourselves. Parenting advice always tells parents to put their own “oxygen mask” on first (take care of themselves first), so that they can then help and be really fully present for their child. I know, after some experience, work helps me do this. I’m thankful every day I work with great people, in an amazing place, and we have really wonderful child care. This allows me to work for myself, to be the best me I can be, and when I’m my best self, I’m also the best mom I can be. My children are, without question, the most important things in my life, and I know that when I’m working, I’m giving them the best mom I can give them!