This one is for the working mom. I see you. I know how hard it is juggling your dream in one hand while raising your precious babies and carrying the weight of your family in the other.
It’s not easy – the choices we as women make. After all, it is the 21st Century and everywhere we set our gaze, we are reminded of our rights as women. So many have gone before us to fight for our acknowledgement as women, breaking the stereotypes and prejudices, and giving us access to the workplace, as peers, as leaders and as equals in society.
Today we teach our daughters that they can be anything they dream… that they are smart and ambitious. We want them to have careers. We want them to have success. And yet, when we consider our own struggles as working moms, we know that the journey won’t always be as straightforward as we would like.
The working years
Rewind 14 years to a younger, more naïve me… I was eagerly completing my university degree, readying myself to enter the media industry and work my way up the corporate ladder. At the time, my then-fiancée innocently made his intentions known by pointing out, ‘You know that once we are married, you will no longer need to work as I will look after us.’
I’m not the swearing type, but I remember looking at him with disgust at the thought that I would somehow want to stay at home and ‘look after the babies’. Was this man mad? Did he not know how hard I had been working to get to this point in my life!
A few years after that awkward conversation we were married, and sometime after that, we welcomed our firstborn into the world.
I wish I could explain to you the many emotions one goes through at the thought of having to leave your young infant behind and venture back into the corporate world. But I guess, if you are a working mom, you already know the feeling all too well.
Uhmmm… can I still stay home… please!
After three months of maternity leave bliss, I was forced to go back to a job that I absolutely hated. I think God must have used my abhorrence for this job, coupled with my newfound motherly instinct to protect my child, to remind me of that awkward conversation that had taken place so many years before… because before I knew it, I happily resigned from my 9 to 5 to stay at home with no work prospects in sight.
Yikes. This was a 180-degree turn in my life. I didn’t care that I had worked so hard to get to where I was. I didn’t care about the money. All I knew for certain was that I wanted to be home with my child. So that is exactly what we chose to do as a family… And for over three years, all I did was focus my time and energy on being a mom to my children.
Then the guilt sets in…
It may sound wonderful to you – the idea of quitting your job and staying home. But let me tell you that regardless if you work or stay home, this parenthood journey is one riddled with immense guilt. Guilt for being away from your child, guilt for being ever-present. Guilt for not being able to earn an income, guilt towards the income and career for taking up your time and energy.
Inside of me, an internal battle ensued, and I felt so incredibly guilty about making the choice to stay home.
I absolutely hated meeting new people who would unknowingly ask me, ‘So, what is it that you do?’. I couldn’t tell them what I had been. I couldn’t say that I once was a magazine editor and a communications officer. No. I found myself answering: ‘Well, I’m just a mother’. And in those moments, I felt even more guilty for dishonouring my role as a mom; for dishonouring myself and my former career.
Why do we do this to ourselves as women and as mothers? There is no right role – whether working or staying home to raise our kids – no journey that is without guilt. We each need to do what works best for our families – and more importantly, for us as individuals. For how can we look after others, if we are already feeling inadequate and neglecting ourselves!
Establishing a new normal
After three years of focused energy on my children, and with an infant in tow, I decided to start a freelance writing business from home. This too was not so much about the money or drive to re-establish my former self. No. Amid the many shifts of becoming an ever-present mom and giving up my career, I needed to find myself again. I needed an outlet to just be. To create. To feel inspired. To take care of myself again.
This too has been a challenging road and many days, I feel even more stretched than I was before. But as I write this, I have the joy of peering over my shoulder and watching my toddlers play together… only a few steps away from my desk. We may not be the conventional family, and I may never reach the career success of my peers in fulltime employment, but together, we are establishing a new kind of normal that works in our home.
I went from being a full-time employee to a SAHM (stay at home mother) to a WAHM (work at home mother) in a matter of a few years. As if on a never-ending roller coaster, it’s been a ride of highs and lows, of silent weeping and loud jeers of jubilation.
There have been many moments of guilt but also times of great pleasure. So, here I am, raising babies and a business, and I get to watch them flourish equally each day.
So, to the working mom, the SAHM, the WAHM – I see you! No matter where you find yourself on this parenthood journey – you alone know what will work best for your family. You’ve got this! And you’re not alone!