Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Stay-at-home v. Full-time work

A friend who has a one-year-old wrote to ask whether I'd wrestled with the whole staying at home versus working full time issue. She's feeling the pull to go back to work. It's something I think about on a regular basis, as do most mothers, I'm sure. And surprisingly, most mothers don't like to talk about it. It's such a loaded issue, with moms who work outside the home and moms who stay home full time feeling like they are on opposite sides, when really we aren't. We all have to figure out what's right for us and our families, whether it's staying home, working full time or something in between. Maybe if we could talk about our feelings more openly, it wouldn't be such a loaded topic. So here's my response to my friend, in the interest of furthering the dialogue.

I wrestled a lot with the whole SAHM vs. work issue. When Ella was a baby, I worked half-time at home and half-time in the office. B's schedule allowed him to be home in the mornings while I was at the office, which was an ideal situation. I had the best and worst of both the SAH and work worlds.

When Lily was born, I decided to switch to freelance, which has worked out well over the past four years overall, but there are times when I struggle with it, especially when I don't have any work lined up. This is the first time since I was 16 that I haven't had a steady paying job and income, and it still feels very strange, even after four years.

Even though I know that what I do around the house is of value and that we couldn't afford to pay someone to watch three kids and cook and clean full-time, I still have times when I feel like I'm not pulling my own weight. I think it's something every mom who stays home wrestles with.

But at the same time, I am so profoundly grateful that Brandon and I have been able to arrange things so that I can be at home with the kids. I love my time with them, I love being able to walk to school in the afternoons and pick Ella up, I love taking Lily to her "ballelet" class (even if I do feel like I have to bring the entire house along in my diaper bag), I love being able to snooze with Campbell in the mornings. They get so big so fast that I treasure the time I have with them now. I'm also glad that I don't have to juggle things last minute when a kid is sick and I need to be at work.

That doesn't mean there aren't days when I'm emptying the dish washer for the third time and folding my fourth basket of laundry and the girls are fighting with each other and Campbell is crying that I wish I could give it all up and go to an office and be with grown-ups every day.

No, you aren't alone in your feelings, and I think they're things a lot of moms don't discuss and should. We need to know we're not alone when we get these bouts of doubt and guilt. But in the end, it all boils down to what you feel is best for you and your family.

No matter what you decide to do, you are great mom and will continue to be one, whether it's at home full time or at the office full time or some combination of the two.

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