It’s a warm sunny morning in March. We are on our way to Ascona in our new car. Everyone is excited about our latest purchase and has their own way of celebrating their first ride in it: my husband is showing me all the car gadget extras, the kids are screaming and singing, and I just want to read the March issue of ELLE. Of course I feel bad about what I want at this moment, because I should talk to my children and engage with them instead of shutting myself down and reading. But I feel tired and fed up with the guilty feelings so I’ll just dive into the magazine and let them do what they want. And then I see it, I read through the paragraph one more time: I feel guilty about the years I treated my mum as a chef, a taxi driver, and a cleaner. Her life, her personality, her needs and her wants were all obscured by my own….
Suddenly I take a deep breath and relax into my seat. I feel that my struggle and the struggle of so many other women is finally being brought to light. If I don’t want my daughter to repeat my mistakes and feel the same way I have, I need to let her know and see that somehow I managed to keep my personality intact throughout motherhood. My dreams and my needs were and still are important. She can learn even by the age of 3 that I need my own time to reconnect and I respected that need, that I am human and the moral of this story is honesty with yourself comes first. I really don’t want my daughter to one day let her energy be depleted and her dreams to be sabotaged by guilty feelings that she is not a good enough mum.
So here are a few reasons why mothers with an office job should not feel guilty:
1. Role model – a mother can be an inspiration for her kids by showing rather than telling them that going to work and earning an income is part of being self sufficient, that following your dreams can be done with a family, and that questioning whether you are a good parent or a bad one is normal but not relevant to whether you work or not. Every mother works, but it is her personal decision how to do that and she has to own her decision once she takes it and change it if she doesn’t find it fitting. Kids see and sense things more than verbal. They can feel if we are happy. They can see if we do work we enjoy. They can feel our excitement, our struggle, all of it.
2. Team work/Partnership – in most families and households where mum stays home, the parenting responsibilities are still often not divided equally. So when you both have deadlines to hit and some traveling to do, you naturally act more as a team
3. Stress – balancing a full-time job and parenting is less stressful than being a full time mum because when I work I actually allow myself a few breaks.
4. Independence – this is one of the biggest lesson each one of us has to learn in life and I am glad I can teach my children the lesson by just being that person. Earning my own income brings serious perks: I don’t feel that guilty anymore to invest into pampering myself. I just know I deserve it and I can afford it.
Working vs. staying at home is a tough, emotional, and very personal issue. Each family has to make a decision that works for them. And, even having the ability to question IF you want to work or not, it is a question that some would LOVE to have. Take the time to think it through but once you make the decision, live with it in peace. And no judgements for those who have chosen differently. It isn’t your path. And there is a reason we all walk different ones.
Here is what Aletha Huston, a University of Texas psychology professor, past president of the Society for Research in Child Development, and an NICHD investigator says on the topic: “Many people don’t have the luxury of deciding to stay home full time, but if you do, you should make the decision about using child care based on your own beliefs about the costs and benefits for you, your family, and your child as well as your judgment about the quality of the child care you can find. There is no credible evidence that being in child care as opposed to staying home full time with a parent is harmful to children. There is evidence that if you stay home full time when you’d rather be working or if you work full time when you believe it’s harmful to your child, your unhappiness may affect how well you relate to your child. If you follow your own beliefs, you’ll probably be a better parent.” So parent or not, as a human one of the hardest things is drowning out the noise, and listening to our inner guide. She speaks quietly and when we listen, she dances. Do what makes you dance, and don’t mock the dance moves of the mum next to you. We all tell our own story.