Before having my son, I thought I knew exactly what kind of mom I would be. (We all do – until we actually have them, LOL) I love kids! I could snuggle and raise my own babies in the comfort of my polka-dot pajamas all day in my own home instead of working. I would be terribly happy creating stimulating activities and park outings in matching outfits with freshly-baked mini muffins packed for snack.
Surprise surprise, I didn’t account for a lot of what real motherhood is like.
Maybe you have found a way to enjoy being a stay at home mom – I know a lot of moms do! It works really well for a lot of women and many families – my own mom and sister included! But this is a story about how I realized it doesn’t work for me.
I Tried Staying at Home
With my first born, I had originally planned on staying home for about 4 months. (2 weeks paid sick days, 2 weeks of winter vacation non work days, and 12 weeks of FLMA leave where insurance is covered) I was supposed to go back to work in March of 2018. My anxiety and a horribly cranky four month old made my brain think staying home was the only safe option and I opted to stay out the rest of the school year and start back at the start of the next school year in August.
By then Dante was 8 months old. I had started to get in more of a groove and I had started to enjoy parts of being a new mom more but I wasn’t really happy. I was still insanely worried about leaving Dante but our finances demanded I go back to work.
Going Back to Work
I remember my first day back to work everyone kept asking how I was feeling. Their tone of voice suggesting I was about to break down and change my mind about being at work.
“Great so far!” was my answer each time. I was shocked and excited to see how much happier I was feeling each day.
I had a purpose that wasn’t being a milk machine again! I got to talk to adults! Bathroom breaks were just me and no screaming babies! Each day I planned fun, engaging lessons and enjoyed teaching. I felt important. I smiled when I got in my car every day because I got to go to work. I knew what I was doing and I knew I was good at it. Feelings that didn’t happen at home.
I realized how much I truly loved my work and how unhappy I had been staying at home. I wished I had gone back to work earlier for my own sanity.
The Good Mom / Bad Mom idea
I know where the idea came from. I was programmed to think that a “good” mom is a stay at home mom from a very young age. My mom was a stay at home mom. Most of my childhood friends had stay at home moms. Moms on TV and in movies that were “good” moms were stay at home moms. Of course I wanted to be a good mom!
This idea was stuck in my head – questioning my love of work, questioning my role in the world. Then one day I was reading through “Girl, Wash Your Face” by author Rachel Hollis and I had a moment of clarity.
There is no one right way to be a good mom!
Praise Rachel Hollis and praise mothers everywhere! Maybe I should have realized it before. Maybe it’s not news to you but the first time I actually read those words it shifted something inside of me.
It’s okay that I don’t want to stay home with my toddler. I’m still a good mom. It’s okay that sometimes I play a movie for my toddler so I can clean, make food, or even just have a moment of quiet. I’m still a good mom! Its okay that my way of being a parent is different from my mom’s way, or my mother-in-law’s way, or my sister’s way, or your way.
The Great mom/ Good mom idea
Diversity in motherhood is amazing. We all have babies to raise and each of us have different babies, different life stories, and different circumstances. We may have one common goal of keeping our babies healthy and happy but there are endless GOOD ways to do it. And you know what else?
We don’t have to be great to be good. We don’t have to be good every day to be good.
I do NOT mean this as an excuse or a cop out. I mean this as a human being just like you who has basic needs, emotions, bills to pay, and life circumstances to deal with all while navigating not knowing every single thing there is to know about parenting strategies and child development.
I like to think that on many days I’m a great mom . Many days I have what it takes to be the person my son wants me to be. Some days I don’t.
Realizing the pendulum is constantly in motion is important. Just because I have a lot of great days where I build towers and make scones and give roller coaster rides to the moon doesn’t mean every day should have that expectation. Most week days I kiss my son good-bye at 7:15 and I don’t see him until I pick him up from daycare somewhere after four o’clock.
I enjoy my time with him SO much more because I haven’t spent the entire day meeting only his demands and none of mine.
Is my child safe? Loved? Healthy in ways I can actually control? Yes! Do I have to be the one providing his care, entertainment, and education? No! There are people who specialize in being a fantastic baby/toddler/child caretaker – It doesn’t have to be you if it doesn’t make you happy.
So whether you are happy staying at home or working – it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you remember what took me a long time to realize. You deserve to be happy too.
Go do what makes you happy in this crazy motherhood ride.