Three hours into the eight hour flight and I could feel the vomit starting to rise up in my throat. I thought about the fact that the plane was over Nova Scotia, and that seemed comforting to me. We had crossed the ocean and it was literally down hill to Dallas. I cornered the stewardess and in hushed tones explained the situation; “I’m ten weeks pregnant and I’m fighting off morning sickness. Is there ANY food on this plane that I might be able to have in order to keep my stomach preoccupied?” The stewardess, seeing the distress and desperation in my eyes, quickly conceded that indeed first class had pizzas and she would see if she could get me one. As the plane started its decent into Dallas and I faced an hour commute home and then another three days left in my work week I thought to myself; “this is not how I envisioned motherhood”.
I’ve relayed that story hundreds of times to people explaining my decision to quit my high-paying job in media and stay home with my kids. When David and I made that decision we knew it was temporary. I would stay home until we could no longer afford it, or until the kids were in school. We made that decision in 2006. Four years later and I’ve faced some surprises and revelations about working and being a mom.
#1: I Missed Working
Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t miss my job. Not for one second have I missed sitting in meetings, listening to whining clients or having to fly off to some city at a moments notice. Nope – never missed it. What I did miss was the constant affirmation of my self-worth that I received from working. People valued my opinion, my intellect and my abilities. I spent years complaining to David that he didn’t appreciate what I did at home, but the truth is that I was the one that wasn’t valuing my new job at home. I craved the feedback that a job brings – not the financial affirmation (although sure that is part of it), but the psychological affirmation of my self worth.
#2 Working Moms Need Help
The only reason why I was ever able to work before or now is because of the help and assistance that I PAY FOR. Once I returned to part-time work (and recently back to full-time) we have had nannies. I cannot say enough about the amazing women we have been lucky enough to bless our home. I’ve written about Micki before (our current nanny) and indeed Mary Poppins has nothing on Micki. This woman is the wife that every working mother needs. I tell her at least once a week that I don’t pay her enough for all the help that she provides and indeed there is not enough money to compensate somebody for loving and caring for your children as much as you do. I would never tell anybody how much she does for me or they might try to steal her away. But let’s be honest, I can be super mom because of Micki – she makes me look good at every corner.
#3 The Right Job Makes A Difference
It was almost unimaginable to leave Lucy at home and return to work. I liked working in advertising but after I had kids the whole business suddenly seemed silly and pointless to me. I was working for the very industry that in some regards I wanted to protect my kids from. I don’t know, I couldn’t justify what I was doing at work versus what I COULD have been doing at home. However, when I started teaching everything fell into place. I LOVE my job and when I leave my house my mind easily focuses on my “kids” at work. They have my undivided attention and care. When I’m home my real kids have my attention. Plus, I have a job that affords me the flexibility to leave and pick Lucy up from school or run a child to the doctor’s office if I need to do that. All of these things add up to an ideal work situation. If you don’t LOVE your job it makes leaving and being away from your kids so much more difficult.
#4 It Is Always About The Sacrifice
We all make sacrifices for motherhood. As a working mom I made the sacrifice of not being around for my kids but as a stay-at-home mom I made the sacrifice of patience and at times personal happiness. Teaching has allowed me to have the right amount of everything. I’m working and using my brain which brings me personal affirmation and happiness, but at 2:30 I’m done and I get to pick my kids up from school and be a mom. This is a hard balance to strike and I recognize how lucky I am that I have found this balance in my own life.
At this point I’ve been on every side of the fence; full-time working mom, full-time stay at home mom, part-time working mom, etc What I’ve learned from all of these variations is to be flexible. Different stages of life require different combination of work/life balance. At certain times I needed to be home and at other times I’ve needed to work. There is no easy answer and no side of the fence is greener.