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I’m not going ‘backwards’ by choosing to stay home with my kids

I cried as my four-month maternity leave drew to a close. I resented the fact that I had to choose between my job and a tiny being who needed me.

I’m not going ‘backwards’ by choosing to stay home with my kids

By now mama, you have learned that there is no "winning" in motherhood. Mothering has, in a way, turned into a set of false dichotomies and it is not easy. Perhaps the biggest one modern mothers deal with is the feeling of guilt for going back to work or when choosing to stay home with their child full-time.

We are mothering at a time that can feel more competitive and comparative than what our mothers and grandmothers experienced while raising their children. We spend a lot of time online in a world which inundates us with a plethora of voyeurism, advice, opinions, and unfortunately—judgement.

I write this from the perspective of a stay-at-home mom who judges herself and compares herself to all the working moms out there. So I want to say: if you are like me, you are not alone. And if you are out there in the paid workforce, I commend you for having two jobs—because I know the work does not stop when you get home.

The options women now have outside of full-time mothering is an advancement, a privilege, a gift. Yet often too many options makes life harder; especially when the heart is involved.

The best advice I ever heard is that women do not have to do everything at once. It is okay to compartmentalize life a little.

Some mothers are obligated to return to work for financial reasons, but I have found that many mothers feel societal pressure to return to work because that is what everyone else is doing, or lack of peer examples of other full-time moms. Working outside the home may be viewed as the more "modern" or progressive choice for mothers.

Deep down perhaps we all want to be the woman who "has it all" (a myth women are openly debunking.) For those of us mothering full-time, the guilt can come from the feeling that it is backwards to stay home with your children when so many women fought for your right to get out of the house and into the workforce. Couple that with the fact that mothers today have lost the village mothers once had, and full-time motherhood can be intimidating and isolating.

I was fortunate (let's not discount that this is a privilege in many ways) to take time off from a 10-year career to be with my kids but the decision to stay home was not easy.

I cried as my four-month maternity leave drew to a close. I resented the fact that I had to choose between my job and a tiny being who needed me. I had no idea what to expect if I decided to leave the only career-focused life I had known. I always assumed I would work because my mother did, and my peers do.

Two years into this new job, I have a deeper appreciation for full-time caretakers. I always respected the choice, but never knew it closely. For starters, "stay-at-home mom" is a title in need of rebranding. I am rarely home (hello, busy toddler!), and I am working. I am doing work we pay other people to do: childcare, cleaning, cooking, accounting, communications, transportation. And the boss is not big on coffee breaks, let me tell you!

While my appreciation has grown, I do not always feel valued by society. Family and friends are supportive but the general public and media will make comments which presume this is a life of leisure, that my career is being ruined, or my education wasted.

And today, where every moment of life is shared, every success is seen, and every LinkedIn update available—it can make you feel like all other moms are doing something other than full-time motherhood. It can make you feel lost.

If you are lacking a little ambition right now, maybe that is okay.

We do not expect people to have two careers at once, so why do we put pressure on ourselves to do more than take care of our children right now? Ask yourself if the pressure to be working—in a way that earns money—is coming from within or from somewhere outside of you. Figure out what or who is making you feel like being a mom is not enough.

If social media is giving you a false sense of what life should be right now, cut it out. If friends or family are making you feel bad for your choices, try and educate them on how you spend your days or why you made the choice you have.

Seek the company of people who "get" you and have experience—past or present—working the way you do. You will find comfort in commiserating over boring days or unruly kids, and—more importantly—the best parts of the day such as warm hugs and kisses, and new milestones. Find the spaces that allow you to be you without worry or regret.

Remember that life is long but we only get them this close for 18 years before they want their independence. And most importantly, remember that regardless of whether you are full-time mothering or part-time mothering—your child will be just fine and is loved very deeply.

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This is how we’re defining success this school year

Hint: It's not related to grades.

In the ever-moving lives of parents and children, opportunities to slow down and reflect on priorities can be hard to come by. But a new school year scheduled to begin in the midst of a global pandemic offers the chance to reflect on how we should all think about measures of success. For both parents and kids, that may mean putting a fresh emphasis on optimism, creativity and curiosity.

Throughout recent decades, "school success" became entangled with "academic achievement," with cases of anxiety among school children dramatically increasing in the past few generations. Then, almost overnight, the American school system was turned on its head in the spring of 2020. As we look ahead to a new school year that will look like no year past, more is being asked of teachers, students and parents, such as acclimating to distance learning, collaborating with peers from afar and aiming to maintain consistency with schooling amidst general instability due to COVID.

Despite the inherent challenges, there is also an overdue opportunity to redefine success during the school year by finding fresh ways to keep students and their parents involved in the learning process.

"I always encourage my son to try at least one difficult thing every school year," says Arushi Garg, parenting blogger and mom of a 4-year-old. "This challenges him but also allows me to remind him to be optimistic! Lots of things in life are hard, and it's important we learn to be positive during difficult times. Fostering a sense of optimism allows kids to push beyond what they thought possible, like biking without training wheels or reading above their grade level."

Here are a few mantras to keep in mind this school year:

Quality learning matters more than quantifying learning

After focusing on standardized measures of academic success for so long, the learning environment this next school year may involve more independent, remote learning. Some parents are considering this an exciting opportunity for their children to assume a bigger role in what they are learning—and parents are also getting on board by supporting their children's education with engaging, positive learning materials like Highlights Magazine.

As a working mom, Garg also appreciates that Highlights Magazine can help engage her son while she's also working. She says, "He sits next to me and solves puzzles in the magazine or practices his writing from the workbook."

Keep an open mind as "school" looks different

Whether children are of preschool age or in the midst of high school, "going to school" is bound to look different this year. Naturally, this may require some adjustment as kids become accustomed to new guidelines. Although many parents may wish to shelter our kids from challenges, others believe optimism can be fostered through adversity when everyone is committed to adapting to new experiences.

"Honestly, I am yet to figure out when I will be comfortable sending [my son] back [to school]," says Garg. In the meantime, she's helping her son remain connected with friends who also read Highlights Magazine by encouraging the kids to talk about what they are learning on video calls.

Follow children's cues about what interests them

For Garg, her biggest hope for this school year is that her son will create "success" for himself by embracing new learning possibilities with positivity.

"Encouraging my son to try new things has given him a chance to prove that he can do anything," she says. "He takes his previous success as an example now and feels he can fail multiple times before he succeeds."

There's no denying that this school year will be far from the norm. But, perhaps, we can create a new, better way of defining our children's success in school because of it.

This article was sponsored by Highlights. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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This is my one trick to get baby to sleep (and it always works!)

There's a reason why every mom tells you to buy a sound machine.

So in my defense, I grew up in Florida. As a child of the sunshine state, I knew I had to check for gators before sitting on the toilet, that cockroaches didn't just scurry, they actually flew, and at that point, the most popular and only sound machine I had ever heard of was the Miami Sound Machine.

I was raised on the notion that the rhythm was going to get me, not lull me into a peaceful slumber. Who knew?!

Well evidently science and, probably, Gloria Estefan knew, but I digress.

When my son was born, I just assumed the kid would know how to sleep. When I'm tired that's what I do, so why wouldn't this smaller more easily exhausted version of me not work the same way? Well, the simple and cinematic answer is, he is not in Kansas anymore.

Being in utero is like being in a warm, soothing and squishy spa. It's cozy, it's secure, it comes with its own soundtrack. Then one day the spa is gone. The space is bigger, brighter and the constant stream of music has come to an abrupt end. Your baby just needs a little time to acclimate and a little assist from continuous sound support.

My son, like most babies, was a restless and active sleeper. It didn't take much to jolt him from a sound sleep to crying like a banshee. I once microwaved a piece of pizza, and you would have thought I let 50 Rockettes into his room to perform a kick line.

I was literally walking on eggshells, tiptoeing around the house, watching the television with the closed caption on.

Like adults, babies have an internal clock. Unlike adults, babies haven't harnessed the ability to hit the snooze button on that internal clock. Lucky for babies they have a great Mama to hit the snooze button for them.

Enter the beloved by all—sound machines.

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Chrissy Teigen/Instagram

When Chrissy Teigen announced her third pregnancy earlier this year we were so happy for her and now our hearts are with her as she is going through a pain that is unimaginable for many, but one that so many other mothers know.

Halfway through a high-risk pregnancy complicated by placenta issues, Teigen announced late Wednesday that she has suffered a pregnancy loss.

Our deepest condolences go out to Chrissy and her husband, John Legend (who has been by her side in the hospital for several days now).

In a social media post, Teigen explained she named this baby Jack.

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"We are shocked and in the kind of deep pain you only hear about, the kind of pain we've never felt before. We were never able to stop the bleeding and give our baby the fluids he needed, despite bags and bags of blood transfusions. It just wasn't enough," she wrote.

She continued: "We never decide on our babies' names until the last possible moment after they're born, just before we leave the hospital. But we, for some reason, had started to call this little guy in my belly Jack. So he will always be Jack to us. Jack worked so hard to be a part of our little family, and he will be, forever."

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