the dilemma of being a working mom

I always imagined being a working mom. Being a stay at home mom was never something I envisioned for myself for multiple reasons: my mom always said it was important to stand on my own two feet and to not rely on a man for money. That’s why she always worked after she had Ed and me. And she’s right for multiple reasons: if your husband is an asshole and tyrannizes you about spending because he earns the money and you do the unpaid work that he doesn’t value, well, that doesn’t put you in a good position. But the other “in case of emergency” situation people think less about can happen: men die earlier than women on average, and so if your working husband randomly drops dead of a heart attack and you have been out of the workforce for, what, 3-5 years, it’s going to be THAT much harder for you to re-enter the workforce to support your kids and yourself. I also want to set the example to my child that women can work outside of the home and do things other that what is stereotypically considered “women’s work.”

Now that I’m in the situation where I am about to return to work, though, I’m definitely feeling all kinds of emotions. My first thought was: I’m going to hire a nanny, and eventually a daycare center, to witness all my child’s developmental milestones before I do?? I am going to go back to work in order to pay a lot of money to a random stranger to care for my child? It was a bit of a mind fuck: really? Most of my earnings are going towards THAT as an expense?? Something just didn’t feel right about this.

I hate that this is even a feeling I am having. I have to go back to work after about 20 weeks of leave, which is way way more than the average American woman gets. But it’s far, far less than what working moms in other western countries get: my friend in the U.K. had 13 months off, and she didn’t think it was enough. Another friend had her first child in Amsterdam and had seven months of leave. Moms in Australia get a full 12 months. It just didn’t feel right, and I’m trying to accept this as my reality. I never thought it would be this hard to mentally wrap my head around this before I became a mom. It’s not that I don’t want to go back to work or ever seriously considered being a stay-at-home mom. I do want to go back to work to have something to focus on other than my child. I also don’t really want to get tyrannized for not making money from my husband or anyone else; even jokes would be half-jokes because guess what… we live in a world that devalues childcare as well as work that doesn’t bring dollars in. It just makes me sad and a bit emotional to think I have to leave my baby with someone else during the majority of the week, even when I will be working at home in the next room.

But having these thoughts and emotions makes me feel even more for stay-at-home moms who give up their paid work and careers to raise their children, to be there for them every step of the way. Even when society devalues them, even when their parents or in-laws or spouses talk down to them because they don’t value the actual work they do, they still give their all to their babies. It’s a hard life regardless of whether you are a working mom or an unpaid working mom. The demands of motherhood never end regardless of which path you choose.

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