As a working mom, I have experienced what many working moms experience—guilt over working and sending my child to spend the day with strangers. I have gone to work and found myself enjoying myself while I’m there and have then felt terrible because any good mom would feel only sadness at being separated from her child all day. I have listened to her cry about having to go to daycare and say that she wants to spend the day with Mommy and Daddy instead. And I have walked out of her daycare classroom barely holding myself together while she is reaching out to me and sobbing for her mommy.
I have experienced guilt when I’m not working at night and a stack of papers sits ungraded or my emails pile up in my inbox because I am watching "Doc McStuffins" or trying to teach her the alphabet. And I’ve worried if it’s possible to be a good mom and good at your job all at the same time, as it feels like I’m never doing enough in either one of these roles.
I’ve worried about the amount of time that my daughter watches tv and wished that I could be outside playing with her instead, but the laundry doesn’t do itself and she will be quite upset if her favorite shirt isn’t clean tomorrow. I’ve wondered whether she will forever be a pariah at daycare for still wearing pull-ups at the age of 3.
I’ve become embarrassed over my lack of housekeeping and the tumbleweeds of cat fur that roll around the hardwood floors. I’ve wondered what could possibly be on the cookie that my daughter just dropped on the floor--a floor that I haven’t washed in 3 weeks--and I have prayed that the 30 second rule applies to 3 week-old grime (or even 6 week-old grime).
I’ve tried to be superwoman—picking up my daughter from daycare, making a healthy meal from scratch while entertaining my daughter, cleaning up the dishes afterward, and then being up until midnight folding laundry and responding to emails, all while maintaining a smile. Then I’ve nearly fallen asleep brushing my teeth while getting ready for bed and questioning how I can maintain the superwoman act the next day.
Through it all, I’ve questioned my life decisions. I love my job, but is my working damaging my child? Some people indicate that I am. Even neighbors have asked me quizzically when I plan to quit my job and stay home with her, a question that expressed their judgment of my being a working mom and which indicated that my proper place was in the home. I’ve heard politicians say that women being in the workforce is causing the death of family values and ruining future generations (and don’t even get them started about recent data suggesting that women are the primary breadwinners in an increasing number of households). But I love my job and could never imagine not doing it. It’s a part of who I am just like being my daughter's mom is a part of me. And it makes me happy…but isn’t a mom’s job to make her children happy first and herself second?
Still through it all, I’ve tried to remind myself of what my mom always told me—that I could do anything and be anything that I wanted to be and I just had to set my mind to something and I would succeed. I’ve clung to that at desperate times when my guilt is overwhelming and I’ve told myself that I am serving as a living example of that for my daughter. I am showing her that she can be a stay-at-home mom, a doctor, a lawyer, or even the President of the United States if she sets her mind to it. And I’m teaching her that being a loving mother and being in the workforce aren’t mutually exclusive. Yet I’ve cried at the Disney Jr Channel commercial that strives to crush gender stereotypes and empower kids to accept themselves with the words “You can be who you want to be. Be a pirate troop or royalty…Be who you want to be--anyone you want to be,” because although the sentiment is wonderful, I question whether I ended up being who I want to be; especially at times when I feel like a failure as a mom and in my career.
Today, in the middle of the daily morning chaos, while trying to potty train her, feed her, and dress her and as I was pondering a work project and whether she was eating enough fruits and veggies, all of my feelings of failure were erased in one second. My daughter turned to me, while sitting primly on her plastic ducky potty in our messy family room and nonchalantly said “I’m proud that you are my mommy.” I guess I am who I wanted to be.
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