To Work or Not to Work

When I was a naive 20-something, and thought about motherhood, I thought that I would be a working mom. I have been working since I was 17yrs old and wasn’t really able to imagine being a stay at home mom. Of course, as a 20-something, marriage was a long ways off for me as well. It definitely wasn’t in my 10 year plan. When I lost my job at the beginning of 2014, I spent the next 6 months on disability because of a knee injury.  I had planned to stay in the restaurant industry because I liked it, but it became clear that it wouldn’t be realistic. Serving jobs don’t give you sick days, they aren’t sympathetic to pregnancy and forget daycare. The cost of daycare far surpasses the amount I made in tips.

I am lucky because my husband has a good job that allows me to stay home with our son. Obi and I go to the zoo, we visit my grandparents, and I am able to be there when he does something new. But financially, things are tight. We live in an apartment instead of a house, and we keep a close eye on our budget every month. As a homemaker I am perfecting my cooking skills, learning how to organize my home, and keep it clean.  I am by no means perfect at any of these things. The apartment is often pretty cluttered and messy, and there are days when Obi has taken all my energy and I just can’t make a fancy dinner.

Sometimes its hard to see that what I do has value. It’s not quantified, and I don’t see the fruits of my labor in a bi weekly paycheck.  I know that one of the hardest jobs is to be a mom.  It’s a 24hr a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year lifetime occupation. And I know it has value when I see my son’s face light up when I walk into a room. In spite of this, I feel like I occasionally lose sight of who I am as an individual. Instead of Sara, restaurant manager, piano teacher and soccer coach. I am Sara, Owen’s mom, occasional blogger and amateur chef de cuisine. I ask myself, would a job help with my individuality?  What’s so wrong with being a stay at home mom?

I know stay at home moms, and I know working moms. I have the utmost respect for working moms. They get up in the middle of the night with their little ones and still make it to work.  They are the ones pumping breast milk on their breaks so that their supply doesn’t drop.  They can’t help but be nervous the first time they drop off their babies at daycare. They work all week and still do laundry, housework, and cook dinner. Being a working mom is really hard.

I also have respect for stay at home moms, because society tells them they don’t matter. That we are probably just sitting on the couch checking Facebook while watching day time soaps.  A stay at home mom does all the homemaker things while spending time with a little person who demands 100% of our attention. A lot of my chores get done in between naps. Often I sit my son in a high chair just so that he can see me while I do the dishes and make dinner. I get up in the middle of the night and I don’t get to make up that sleep the next day.  I could nap- but there’s always something to take care of.  If I’m lucky I can get a shower in.

We are the only country that doesn’t provide national paid family leave, or any kind of support once the baby is born.  Women who use food stamps are looked at with suspicion instead of compassion. Moms who formula feed are considered selfish regardless of whether breastfeeding was an option for them or not. Congress is defunding Planned Parenthood which is a pretty strong political statement against the care and health of women.  So much of society is looking at mothers and judging them for any choices they make. We can’t win.

For me, its a double-edged sword. I could go back to work, leave my son at daycare, and earn a paycheck that contributes to a house or a family vacation. I might miss out on his first words, when he crawls for the first time, and his first steps but I would be there in the mornings before work, the evenings after work and the weekends.  Or I could continue being a stay at home mom, writing a blog during Obi’s naps, and spending time watching him grow and learn. We may not have the money to buy a house right away and we may not take a glamorous family vacation but I would have the memories of watching Obi grow. As he gets older, having the time to take him on adventures will be invaluable. That time will help shape Obi into a good kid and someday a good man.

In the end, there’s no wrong answer. Every person has a choice to make and it’s not an easy one.  For now, staying at home is what I am choosing. When Obi is still so young, its sometimes hard to see the future when we are having a rough day. But I know that for me, being free to go on adventures with my son is the life that I want. Besides, I can go back to work when he is in high school.  I hope.

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