People are often surprised to hear I had three babies under the age of three and I went back to working full-time. As the mother of three small children, I would like to elaborate on my choice to continue to work outside of the home because along with the inevitable, “Wow I don’t know how you do it,” I sense some judgment there (maybe I’m being sensitive).
Perhaps people equate my having babies with a shift in my professional life goals. I love the persona of being a domestic diva, but I want to have the best of both worlds and keep the momentum of my professional career going. I did not choose to become a stay-at-home-mom for a number of reasons, but the biggest one is because I know I would not be happy and thrive as a wife, mother or friend if I become a stay at home mom. I love applying what I learned during 6 years in higher education, outside of my home, to make the world a better place. I earned my Bachelors of Science in biology, then my Masters in Public Health because I love these subjects and the potential to make a positive difference in the world (yes, I’m a bleeding heart who wants to do good things for others). Being a productive member of society outside of my home is important to me.
When you have more kids and work full-time, I think someone could be quick to say, “Well, why bother having kids if you’re not going to spend any time with them? You have kids and you’re not going to raise them?” Well, first I think it takes a village. I rely on more than me and Josh to teach my girls life lessons. Also, I would like to cite research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council out of the United Kingdom. Researchers at University College London surveyed 19,000 British households to determine how parental employment affects behavior in children from birth to age 5 years. “The research shows there are no significant detrimental effects on a child’s social or emotional development if their mothers work during their early years. The ideal scenario for children, both boys and girls, was shown to be where both parents lived in the home and both were in paid employment.” From The Economist, five-year-olds whose mothers had been at home when they were babies were more likely to have behavioral problems than other children… Housebound women were also far more likely to report symptoms of depression than their working counterparts, problems which can only make the process of child-rearing more difficult.”
Furthermore, when talking about spending time with children, we are currently spending more time with our kids than parents in 1965. For this, I cite two economists, Garey Ramey and Valerie A. Ramey and a discussion paper presented at a Brookings Institution conference. These economists analyzed a dozen surveys of how Americans say they use their time. This data is collected from different periods from 1965 to 2007. They found the amount of child care time spent by parents at all income levels — and especially those with a college education — has risen “dramatically.”
Okay, research aside – I like using different parts of my brain and having adult conversations (my girls are a lot of fun to talk to, but it’s just not the same). I like tackling different kinds of problems outside of planning meals, making baby food, organizing baby/toddler activities and play dates. I still do all the mommy stuff because being a mama is 24/7, but I relish working outside of the home. Being a stay at home mom was never in the cards for me. Also, I love having an income. I am the product of a single-mother upbringing and I am acutely aware of being able to “take care of myself” financially.
Generally, I get the sense there is a working mom versus stay at home mom secret rivalry. No one is better or worse. I am friends with moms who work, but wish they could stay home. Conversely, I know moms who feel like life circumstances force them to stay home when they would really love to work outside of the home. It’s all relative and no matter what we choose to do – there are pros and cons to both situations. Mommy guilt is pervasive. All in all, we just need to give ourselves a break. Moms need to support one another because in the end we’re all just doing the best we can.