The Celebrating Moms and Their Choices Series
I love this Celebrating Moms and Their Choices Series that the Gooseling Moms are doing on their blog. I see so many of us Moms struggle with our choices – what is right for us, for our family, for the child. What we have to do financially, what we want to do. It’s hard. And by sharing my story here I want to say that: It’s hard! And whatever choice you make is okay. I stand with you.
So, what were my choices? I work full time out of the house and I have a daughter. She’s 4 ½ and I went back to work from my maternity leave when she was 4 months old, I went back to work when she was 13 months old, and I went back to work when she was 3 1/2. Why – we can get to that. But how were these experiences different?
At 4 months old I cried. I cried a lot. I cried handing my little tiny baby over to my newly laid off husband. I cried trying to pump in dark, ventilation-free lactation closets (I started commandeering my boss’s office). I cried from hormone swings. I cried when my boobs squirted milk all over my expensive dry clean only suits. I cried when my lovely pregnancy hair all fell out in clumps. And my husband cried. He’d call and ask me to come home early – crying. And the baby? She cried nonstop! Yup – we had a colicky one. Suffice it to say – the reentry was hard. I was laid off several months later. Yeah – both parents laid off within 6 months of the child’s birth. But at least I was with my baby! I cried a lot less, but I worried about money.
I got a job about 7 months later, when our daughter was 13 months old. I was so jealous that my husband was getting all the good times! Our child was no longer colicky and was so much fun! Sunny disposition! Walking, running, playing!! Work itself was easier without the pumping and the hormone swings. The contract ended after 4 months and I was once again home! I will say, returning to work with an over 1 year old was much, much easier from the ‘leaving my baby’ standpoint. But it was harder from an ‘I’m missing out’ standpoint.
My husband began working several part time jobs and started a business. This quickly morphed into a 38 hour a week job at a local East Bay science museum, a 20 hour a week job at a non-profit in Marin and working 80 – 100 or so hours a week with his business. So basically he was working all the time. I did the stay at home mom thing – I cooked, I cleaned, I took care of our daughter. I loved it! Spending so much time with my lovely, cheerful, fun child! And it was hard. I was lonely. My husband worked all the time and I rarely got a break. I also missed being an expert at something! At work I was an expert – I was so not an expert at the whole ‘mom-ing’ thing. I have a blog post on some ways to make friends and stay sane as a stay at home mom – and not spend too much money, if you are interested. I will say – my house was clean and I cooked lovely organic vegetable based meals. I crafted. I pinterested. I had (still have actually!) bags of all the materials for things to do on rainy days. Home made play doh – check. Paper mache – check. But I worried about money.
We live in San Francisco – it’s an expensive place, so I knew I would need to go back to work, and I was looking for work while home with my little bean. For SAHMs who are interested in returning to the work place, I found just saying I’d been home with my child right up front in the cover letter worked much better than trying to obfuscate the fact. I did also draw attention to my freelance accomplishments, schooling, and any volunteer work I’d also completed. Pro tip: do try to volunteer or work a little while home, or go to school. It will keep you sane while you are home, and if you do choose to return to a job it will make reentry into the work force much easier.
I started working full time, back at an employer I‘d worked with prior, and with a group I’d work with prior, when our daughter was 3 ½. This time it was much easier! My daughter was in preschool part time and had already been clamoring to stay full days with her friends instead of the part days. I trusted her caregivers. I’d been able to ease her slowly into school, starting with an hour a day – something I probably wouldn’t have been able to do if I’d gotten a job earlier. I am not expected to work crazy hours – I leave at 4:30 and pick my daughter up from school. I don’t get to take her to school any more, I’m at work too early – and I do miss taking her to school. Not so many tears at 3 ½ – from any of us.
I love working. My job is enjoyable, uses my skills and I like my coworkers – which is super lucky, I know. We have enough money to worry less – we can save for retirement and college and I’m vesting in my retirement plan again. I got to be home with my daughter through the early years – which I am so thankful for. I made some great new Mom friends when I was home with her, which was hard to do – making new friends while parenting! I am so lucky to have them in my life. We survived a financially tough time as a very new family and it made us stronger. I still worry about money – it is San Francisco! But less, I worry less.
My house is not as clean as I would like. Not every meal is a lovingly-crafted-organic-made-from-scratch meal – and those that are my husband now cooks. I think I’d like to figure out how to work part time, I’d like my house to be cleaner, I’d like to take my daughter to school. I know that for middle school I want to be home a lot, those are hard years, so I am trying to plan for that in 8 years. But I also want to buy a house. Retire while young. Go on vacations. Save for my daughter’s college education. So – it’s a balancing act – the mom thing. And right now I feel like the plates are spinning just right……
Wishing you all the best on your parenting journey!
About Lael DasGupta
Feminist, progressive, bicyclist, environmentalist, & Mom living in San Francisco, #westside. I run with scissors and given a chance, with wolves. All opinions my own. Find me on twitter: @daslael or writing at http://daslael.blogspot.com/. This post originally appeared on my blog.