Tuesday, October 9, 2012

To Work or Not to Work: The Working Mom’s Dilemma

Today is the start of something new for me—blogging! I am most definitely not an expert but I do have thoughts, questions, and opinions I'd like to share, and, more importantly, I'd love to hear your thoughts, questions, and opinions!

As a new mom, I had the opportunity to stay home with my daughter the first 4 years of her new life. My husband had us relocated to a part of the country where I knew no one so I can proudly say that my daughter is 100% a reflection of my parenting skills, which on most days is positive. I admit, I couldn't comprehend how working mom's did it: giving birth then after 6-12 weeks home having to return to work.

However, after about 18 months I started having those questions pop in my head, "Is this it? Is this my life? Breakfast, laundry, cleaning, lunch, diapers, playdates = maid, cook, chauffer, secretary..?" I couldn't help but feel that I had so much more to give to the world through…. Dare I say it, Work. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely loved the fact that I was able to stay home with my daughter and not miss any of her firsts, but at the same time I had to recognize that a part of me was yearning to get back in the mix of things—to be known by my name, not "Rachel's mommy" or "Jamie's wife". I was a whole person before I met these people and yet my identity had been relegated to a third person association with my husband or daughter.

As a middle child I had issues with this arrangement. It's bad enough having to grow up in the middle vying for my parents attention, or my siblings for that matter. (The only saving grace was being an only girl, so by default I had to have special rights such as not being able to go out like my brothers; generally having stricter restrictions than my brothers. Yeah.)

I do not want to digress too much. I feel it is important to understand the influences of where I come from to understand more fully why I find myself in a quandary about working as a mother. My father, wanting to raise an independent woman, stressed to me since I was a little girl, "Don't worry about getting married. Get your education, get a job, become financially independent. Don't ever depend on a man." And with that said, I was out the door pursuing education, getting a job, and becoming financially independent.

For the most part I accomplished the goals set forth by my father, but I finally realized that I was ready to settle down and have a family. I hadn't thought much about the working mom's dilemma until I was staying at home and feeling that there was something more for me to contribute to the world. Now that my daughter is 6, I feel that it's a "no brainer" about going back to work. Here is the catch, I am remarried and we are expecting, and the dilemma has resurfaced. The difference this time is I do have to work. A part of me is screaming, "Noooo! I want to be with home my new born! No one can take care of her like I can!"

So how does this affect the quality of my work? Where am I mentally during the day? Is it reasonable to stay at home, because the last time I did it and then reentered the workforce, it was as if I was just starting my career from scratch. I literally made more money at my first job after graduate school than I did with the first job coming back into the workforce.

Do I have regrets? No. I have grown a lot; the world isn't about me; I have an appreciation for "starting over"; I recognize the importance of strong social relationships that provide support. Also, my work satisfies my soul and on occasion I have been thanked for helping someone through the work that I do. So, do I stay at home or go back to work? I think it is an age old question that is best answered for each one of us. I ask you, my reader, to respond with your thoughts, questions, reaction to what I have shared. It is true, it does take a village to raise a child.