A couple of weeks ago I shared a link to this article from the Huffington Post titled “Having it All Kinda Sucks” written by Amy Westervelt. When I saw it first making the rounds on a few friend’s Facebook pages, I totally ignored it. I’m not sure why I did, but I did.
I finally read the article one afternoon while Cecilia was asleep and I was so happy I took the time to do it because it spoke to me on so many different levels. There were some parts that sounded exactly like words I’d been saying the past year when people asked me why I decided to stay at home full time with Cecilia. Other parts were thoughts of mine that I’d never expressed to anyone, but was so glad someone finally said them in such a big way and on such a large platform.
Here were some of the standout quotes for me…
“Stop telling women they can have everything without sacrificing anything. Here’s the truth: You want to have a career and kids? You totally can, but both will suffer. You will never feel like you are devoting enough time to either. You will never feel like you are good enough at either.”
If you’ve asked me in the last year why I decided (after much discussion with Travis) not to return to work, you pretty much got this exact quote as my reply. My job was all-consuming. I would work at home before I went to work, I’d go to work and put in at least eight hours, then I’d come home and think about work and plan for the next day. I couldn’t imagine doing all of that, being a parent and enjoying both at the same time. I know that I probably would have streamlined things so I didn’t work so much at home, but something would have faltered somewhere. To me, it was giving 50% to both or 100% to one. If I decided to return to work, I knew that 10, 20 and 30 years from now, I would have regretted not having been with my child 100% of the time when I had the opportunity. Being a mom is a life-long job and the most important one I will ever have and since it was an option for our family for me to stay home, I snatched it up and have been so happy with my decision.
Do I feel that moms who work outside the home only give 50% to both and feel they aren’t good enough parents? No. I just know myself, my former job and my personality and I know I wouldn’t have been able to do both at the same time and be satisfied with how I was doing either one. I know that I’m fortunate, too, and not every mother has the option not to return to work. I didn’t make the decision lightly and in no way do I take it for granted.
“We need to make it truly okay for women to opt out of working, too. Not sort of okay, but behind your back everyone thinks you’re wasting your potential, so then you feel like you have to parent the s*** out of your kids and run yourself ragged taking them to activities and teaching them things.”
I think I threw up my arms and said “AMEN” when I read this. I can’t tell you how many times I felt like I was being judged by friends, family or strangers when I told them I was not going back to my job. Or maybe that was just me judging myself, but blaming others for projecting that onto me? Who knows? The decision to stay home didn’t come easy. I never pictured myself being a stay-at-home mom. I remember when I was in my final stages of pregnancy and people would ask if I planned to work after having my baby, I would always say “definitely, I could NEVER be a stay-at-home mom” like being one was something so awful. Why did I/do we think this way? After reading this article, I wonder now if I had told those people back then that I wasn’t returning, what their response would be. Would they have just thought I was “tapping out” of the working world now that I had a child? Like that’s what I was waiting to do my entire working/child-less life? Or would they have been supportive?
This notion of “wasting your potential” is why I didn’t make the decision lightly. I have an undergraduate and graduate degree and had a job that really came to me as my “dream job” where I made a good salary. It wasn’t easy to make the decision to leave that part of my life behind for a while, but why was it so hard for me to grasp it and own it? Was it just me or was it the pressure I felt from others to try and “have it all” by going back to work?
Oh, and that part about feeling like I have to “parent the s***” out of my child? That part rang LOUD and really freaking CLEAR. I’ve realized though, that this way of thinking will only set you up to fail because you’ll never feel like you’re doing enough or doing the “right” things. For example: there are days where Cecilia and I just stay at home, play with her toys, read books, listen to music and don’t go out. At the end of those days, I feel like a bad mom because I didn’t take her out on any adventures, have her socialize with other kids and so on. But, then on those days where we’re out and about running errands, going to music class, hanging out with our friends at Stroller Strides, etc, I feel like a bad mom for running her around and not giving her time to relax at home and play with her toys, read books and so on. It’s a lose-lose because there’s no way to come out a winner with that mindset. I used to stress myself out at night thinking that since I was home with her, I had to teach her new things all day long. Those were the nights I was on Pinterest until all hours to search what other moms were doing with their kids and then I’d spend the next making making sensory bags and bottles and only allowing her to play with toys that “taught her something useful.” I had to take a step back and realize that she’s a baby and no matter what, she WAS learning things all day long because everything was new to her and she loved to explore.
“Let’s redefine “having it all,” or better yet let each woman define for herself what the best version of her life might look like.”
Yes, yes, yes! What works for one woman may not work for the next. Why do we think of “having it all” as having a job AND a family? Does it mean that I don’t “have it all” because I don’t work outside our home? Or does someone not “have it all” because they have a job they love, but no children to take care of? NO! I strongly believe that we can and should define for our own selves what the best and ideal version of our life looks like.
I know this post put a lot of questions out there that I/we may never know the answer to. I loved the original article because it started this discussion in my head, my home and my social circles about the struggles we go through as moms. Our struggles go far past our daily ins and outs of parenthood and I wish they didn’t have to. I wish that every woman could make the choice that is best for her and her family without feeling the pressure to conform to someone else’s expectations. Just know this – no one can tell you what SHOULD make you happy; happiness is something that we create inside ourselves and for ourselves.
And just like the photo up top says – “There’s no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one.” LOVE.
Working moms, stay-at-home moms and moms-to-be – tell me what you think!!!!
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