To Work or to Work, That is the Question

I’m grateful to be a woman in the 2010s and not the 1950s. Grateful to the women who beat their heads against walls in Mad Men-esque work environments but never stopped, pushing for opportunities that would acknowledge and utilize female talent –not just for themselves, but for the generations to follow. Grateful that motherhood was not an expectation but a choice, and that pursuing a career outside the home is an option even after choosing motherhood.

These choices are complex, difficult, and deeply personal for every family. They include factors of sanity, childcare availability, career, financial reality, personal preference, and familial and community support (or lack thereof). Every family has its own unique algorithm to decide how to arrange its responsibilities such that its members are fed and cared for, and each arrangement has its trade-offs.

Staying at home has been eye-opening. In another instance of me being a jerk, I remember hearing about a stay-at-home-mom whose children went to daycare, to which I responded, incredulously, “What does she do all day?” Plenty, as I learned firsthand during my time at home while my child also attended part-time daycare.

She catches up on sleep since her child decided she was hungry four times and wanted to play once during the previous night. She pays bills and does chores that her child’s incessant needs prevent her from doing the rest of the day. She practices yoga and basks in alone time since she’s attached to a person the rest of her hours. She misses her child, which allows her to greet her child with renewed enthusiasm upon their return.

Staying at home is a misnomer. Sure, there are napping and playing times at home, but there are many more times when your child is only content strolling around the neighborhood in her padded chariot. And so you walk, often further than needed and slower than you’d like to stretch out those walks.

You must also seek out conversation, which sometimes involves the unwitting and reluctant store clerk, because you will otherwise lose yourself in the coos and gurgles and forget how to form complete sentences in your head and aloud. The companionship of peers is another essential. Without a perspective outside your own, the infinite and contradictory information about how to raise a child will drive you mad.

As I prepare to leave this glamour behind to work outside the home, I wonder how much of this I’ll romanticize as blissful days gone by.

Momming is work. It’s often intensely joyous work, but work nonetheless. Whether your daytime work takes place within the home or outside, it is hard and your toils are known and appreciated by every other mom everywhere. Those who have not passed through your shoes may not get it, but that’s okay. The rest of us do.

What’s your experience as a mom working inside or outside the home? What helps you manage the demands?

Andrea Lee is a mom who’s winging it, just like everyone else. 

Tags: work-life balance, working mom, stay-at-home mom, SAHM, the y, YMCA, youth development, Kids, Children, care

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