Maternity leave was pretty awesome but — as all things do — it came to an end. And then it happened. I went back to work. Cue mommy guilt.
The guilt was crushing for a while, and I wasn't sure how I was going to reconcile myself with this new life. But over time (and with some gaining of wisdom) I was able to come to a new perspective and realize that there are so many great things my kids and I have gained from me being a mom who works outside the home. Here are some of the perks:
1. My career is established
Instead of spending my days doing the rewarding but very hard work of a stay-at-home mom, I've been at my job enjoying peaceful coffee breaks (yes the coffee is actually hot!), and accumulating holiday weeks, pension and wage increases. And while I watch the many moms I admire bravely push all of their own limits as they work towards getting back into the labour force, I'm over here... enjoying my extra week of holidays.
Since I'm reasonably good at my at my career and I enjoy it, the self-esteem started gaining ground again.
2. Higher self-esteem
I actually took an extended maternity leave for almost the first two years of my daughter's life, so I was able to experience something of being a stay-at-home mom. While I was good at many different parts of this difficult job, I could not seem to excel at the one involving cleaning. Yes, I know that it's just a small part of what a stay-at-home mom does, but I still felt my self-esteem start to slip. Rather than spending all day sparkling up the joint, I went out for play dates and chilled on the floor with my wee one, and gasp, on the odd occasion even checked out daytime television.
While I did try to keep it reasonable, my house wasn't always company-ready. Sometimes when the baby would finally sleep for more than 10 minutes at a time, throwing in a load of puke-stained laundry was about all that I could muster. Now that I'm back to work, I feel no guilt in offloading half of that cleaning to hubby (who is better at it, anyways). Since I'm reasonably good at my at my career and I enjoy it, the self-esteem started gaining ground again.
3. The friendships
I'm quite introverted as a rule, but for some reason that doesn't apply to me at work. I'm outgoing and rather social there, and have made some of the best friends that a girl could ask for. Would I still have friends if I hadn't gone back into the workforce? Likely, but they wouldn't be these particular friends. And I like these friends.
4. Outside validation
It can be hard when you are at home with the kids. The moments when someone actually says "good job" at home are few and far between, and for some reason no one ever called me into the "office" for a performance review. (And my two-foot-tall boss kept pooping in her diaper. Go figure!) Kudos to you stay-at-home moms and dads who might not always receive the recognition you deserve. Moments when you feel underappreciated are hard.
For me personally it's just nice to have that separation between work and home.
5. My "up" time helps me to enjoy my "down" time more
I am constantly on the go and running from here to there. So, when I finally get a chance to just chill out and veg for awhile, I have absolutely no problem shutting down and enjoying that time. And appreciating it. More than I would if I were busy in the house all the time as a stay-at-home mom — it would feel like I'm always at my "workplace." I'm sure not everyone would feel the same, but for me personally it's just nice to have that separation between work and home.
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6. Hiring a cleaning lady
If I have a bit of spare money in the coffers, I can totally justify hiring a cleaning lady, or grocery delivery service, or whatever it is that makes my life a bit easier. Because working outside the home 40 hours a week, who has time for all that crap? I do, of course, know moms that can juggle all of these tasks and manage them beautifully without breaking a sweat, but that is so not me. I outsource whatever my least favourite chore is at the time. Without guilt.
7. Being an example to my children of one path they can take
My girls have an example before them of a mom who works outside the home. They know all about the workforce, about supervisors and coworkers, and about the importance of showing up for work each day ready to give it your all. And they know that if you work hard, you might just get paid. Then you can get stuff. Possibly at the toy store.
8. Speaking of which... the money
This is a pretty big one. Without the money I make, I would never have learned that there so many other perks of being a working mom. The mortgage won't pay itself, people! I also am a big fan of having my own money. I feel less guilty spending money on the odd frivolous thing when it comes out of my own paycheque.
Way back during maternity leave, I did have dreams of being a stay-at-home mom, but my job was just too good to walk away from. Now that my kids are older, I can honestly say that I'm glad I stuck with my career for all of the perks I mentioned.
And guess what? Drum roll please... my kids still love me! Just the same as your kids love you! Because no matter which way we go — stay-at-home mom or career mom — we are one of the most special people in their lives, and working outside the home will never change that.
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