I always knew I wanted to have children. I knew that once I found the right man, settled down and got married, that kids would not be far behind. BUT, I also knew I always wanted a career. I wanted to put my education to use, especially after all the years I had spent in school. I have an advanced degree and I was paying out the nose for my student loans so there was no way I was going to keep on paying and not do anything with the education that had led to all those loans!
This was my Mommy dilemma. I had always thought I wanted to be and would be a stay-at-home mom. My mother stayed at home with me until I went to junior high so why shouldn’t I do the same? There are so many questions that needed to be considered that I hadn’t even thought to ask myself before I became pregnant. Did I really want to stay home? Did I really want someone else basically raising my child? Did I want to totally lose myself in motherhood? Did I want to give up a career that I had worked hard to build? Would my kids resent me because I worked? Hell, could I even afford to stay home if I wanted to? There are so many things to examine that I hadn’t even thought of.
Then I got pregnant and it was time to ask myself these questions. The decision was kind of made for me because there was no way we could afford to have me stop working and I was the one who carried the benefits and they are damn good ones too. So my choice was made for me- I had to keep working. I was overwhelmed with guilt at first and did a lot of crying about it. My mother had stayed home with me and now I was going to be abandoning my tiny, helpless little baby! I hadn’t even given birth yet and already I was a terrible mother!
How was I going to find someone who would be good enough to take care of my little bundle of joy? I was tormented by thoughts of leaving my child with another person, especially when this would be a baby who wouldn’t be able to tell me if he was unhappy at his daycare. To say that I struggled with the daycare search would be a gross understatement. Thankfully, my mother is retired so she was able to come and help us out for a while. That meant I would not have to put my little cutie pie into daycare until he was 6 months old. This made me feel a tiny bit better.
This also gave me more time to search and to decide what I really wanted to look for- in-home daycare or a center. It also gave my husband and I more time to really look at our finances and see what could be done. In the end, we decided that I could go down to working part-time (3 days a week). Thankfully, the people at my job are all family oriented and it’s a very family friendly work environment. Being that we work with children, everyone understands the importance of properly raising children so I had no problem cutting my hours. We would need to make major sacrifices and basically be house poor, but that was fine with me if it meant I could still work and stay home with my child.
I found a great in-home daycare through a friend of mine. This made me feel even better because I knew if my friend trusted her children with this woman then, I too, could trust her with my child. My main criteria in a daycare provider was to find someone that would love on my little one as much as I would. I didn’t want my child to miss out on any loving while I was at work and I knew an in-home setting was the way to go in order to achieve this. Most centers are too sterile and crowded and I just didn’t feel comfortable with this. I loved our first daycare provider and she loved my little boy and that was all that mattered.
The Mommy guilt really kicked in for me though when I was home on my maternity leave. I loved being a mom and I loved being with my son and taking care of him. There was also a part of me that missed working and being around other adults. I missed having conversations! Cooing at my baby just wasn’t stimulating enough for me. Truth be told, I was going a little stir crazy! Being a mother was (is) the most important thing to me, but I am so much more than just a mom. I needed to feel like a productive member of society and there was part of me that longed to go back to work. This is when I knew that I had made the right decision to work part-time. It was literally like a light bulb had gone off for me. I had discovered the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, I had found the buried treasure, and I had found the lost city of Atlantis!! I could have the best of both worlds. I could be an amazing mother and be a career woman. When I realized this, my heart was so full it almost burst. It was like a huge weight had been lifted.
It was also at this moment that I realized that in order to be the best mother I could be, I needed to work. Just as I didn’t want my kids to resent me for working, I didn’t want to ever have any resentment about not working. I knew that I would be a better mother because I would have some of the “me” time that I would need and this would allow me to give my child so much more. Also, being a child therapist I knew how important the social aspect is when children are learning and growing. By being in daycare 3 days a week my child would be around other children where he could learn from them and play with them. He would grow so much more socially than he would if he was home only with me all day. Even if we did play dates, joined a mommy group, or went to the park often, it is not the same as being in setting with other children of different ages. I watched my son thrive while in daycare and he thrived at home with me. He, too, had the best of both worlds and this worked for us.
I’m not saying it was easy to leave my baby in daycare. It was heart wrenching in the beginning, but once I realized that this was going to be good for him on so many levels and that everything has an adjustment period, I got over my “daycare guilt.” He adjusted quickly, probably more quickly than I did really, and he looked forward to going to see his daycare provider and the other children. Both of my boys started out in the same in-home daycare and now go to a childcare center/preschool where they continue to thrive. I, too, continue to thrive as a mother and a career woman and I now realize we should never feel guilty for doing what is best for us because what is best for us will be the best for our children in the end. If, as a mother, I am unhappy or unfulfilled, then my children will also be unhappy and unfulfilled. Each of us needs to do what is best for our families. As women we are made to feel inferior to men in many situations, we are made to feel guilty for so many things, and we are constantly being judged. Remember, we must never judge ourselves or each other as mothers. As long as we are doing what is best for our children, even though it may be different than what other mothers you know are doing, then you are being the best mother you can be and that is all that matters.