I’d love to claim credit for the catchy title, but I can’t.
It belonged to a now defunct blog which hosted a weekly “Working Mommy Blog Hop” I used to participate in back in 2010 when I blogged under a pen name.
If that blogger is still out there, please step forward and I’d be pleased to credit you and get re-acquainted.
While I took my old baby blog offline, I saved it and have recently been going through my old posts.
At the time that I was linking up to this hop, I was gearing up for, then just returning to, work full-time after having my first.
To say that I had “how to balance full-time work and family” and whether going back to work was the “right choice” on the mind, would be an understatement.
There have been a few things recently that have given me pause to think on the question again.
First? One of the blogs I follow, Kristina over at Family. Work. Life., asked the question of her readership, noting that you need a reason to do it beyond necessity.
While I’d argue necessity is a large reason for many working parents to be working (or working “anyone” for that matter), it doesn’t fully capture my reasons, so I reflected on the question and thought it was worthy of post, rather than comment, response.
Second? I recently joined Top Mommy Blogs and they ask you to pick a category to place your blog in.
I naturally gravitated to “Working Mom Blogs“, even though the label has never completely “worked” for me.
Because, really? Every parent works. No matter what choices we make. Whether you are a Stay at Home Parent. Or A Work from Home Parent. Or A Work Outside the Home Parent. We all work. And we all make the choices that are best for our families.
Which brings me back to me, and my choices.
And why I choose to work outside the home.
I think, like many, it stems from that combination of my nurture and nature.
My nurture? My mom was a stay at home mom.
Her nurture? Her mom worked outside the home. In Nairobi, Kenya and then Cape Town, South Africa in the 1950s no less. To say it was not the norm would be an understatement. My mother from time to time refers to her mother as “the original feminist”.
And my mom? Partially based on her experiences having a working mom, and partially based on her life situation and preferences, stayed home with her children.
In the late 1970s-early 1980s Canada, that was mostly the norm. My mom served on the PTA. She volunteered as the parent supervisor on class trips. She organized awesome birthday parties. She drove me to piano lessons; swim practice; tap lessons; jazz lessons; recorder lessons; Girl Guides… She hand-made my recital costumes.
She gave me advice I still follow today.
In short, she was involved. She asked questions. She listened. She paid attention. She was a good mom.
To this day she remains my confidant on most things, and one of the people whose opinions’ I value most.
When I remember growing up, mostly I remember feeling safe, and happy, and loved. That was certainly due to both my parents. Indeed, I am most like my father. And he, too, was there, for every important event. But it was mom who I remember being there for the day-to-day, and offering guidance on how to navigate the social stuff of life.
So I grew up. And in growing up, I was also taught to be career-oriented, and to strive for academic and professional excellence. There was never any question that I would go to university and then have a career. My mother advised me to “live for me” through my twenties. Pursue what I wanted. See the world. And I did. She’d done the same through her twenties before “settling down” to raise a family. She never seemed unhappy with her choice but, still, I couldn’t imagine doing as she had. I saw myself being a mother, but also having a career outside the home.
As I got older, I started to wonder about the practicalities of how that would work.
I read a number of books on the subject and I spoke to those who said you really had to choose.
On that point, I have two vivid memories from my late twenties.
The first? Eavesdropping on a conversation on a train where two women were talking about how they were allowed to take a year parental in their jobs, but if you were “serious” about your career, you didn’t have kids.
The second? An academic who’d told me he’d been excited to take parental leave when his wife got pregnant until colleagues at his university advised him that while yes, men could certainly take parental leave, if he was “serious” about his career, he shouldn’t.
Then, of course, I equally observed those who seemed to “make it work” with differing levels of personal and professional success.
While I’m excited to have been born into a generation of women and men that have a choice, the actual moments of decision can be pretty overwhelming.
My life had been geared towards career. Before even considering kids, I had two degrees and had established myself professionally. I’d invested a lot to get where I was. And I’d found a husband who was (and is) more than on board with sharing the day-to-day parental responsibilities. We partially split both parental leaves, so each of us had the time home with our kids to bond (and experience the …. tedium of endless feeding and laundry cycles).
So, as we were rounding out the first parental leave and I couldn’t imagine not having one of us home full-time with our child; not being there for every milestone; of us entrusting someone else to more than assist in the raising our child, I did what I’ve always done.
I asked my mom what I should do.
She told me she couldn’t see me not having a career. She thought I wouldn’t be happy, in the long-term, without one. She then also speculated that maybe our family’s female generations went in waves. That maybe she stayed at home because her mom didn’t. And I’d work because my mom stayed home. That maybe we, in childhood, had each seen things we thought were missing from the other role, and sought to fill it through the opposite choice.
Now two parental leaves completed and over a year back from my second leave, I still think about the choice. Before I had kids I always assumed I’d be “bored” if I stayed home with my kids. After my mat leaves, I suspect that, in a different life, I could have happily been a stay at home parent (at least for a good chunk of the younger years).
So I now find myself trying instead to find fulfillment on both fronts, searching for the best … mix to make my life work for me and mine.
As I work through that in real-time, I’m comforted again by my mother.
Who told me, during that same conversation, that neither choice is “wrong” and either choice will be okay. Her choice was right for her. She said she honestly hadn’t really enjoyed working. While she saw that I did. She knew that her mother enjoyed working. It was part of her, in the same way it’s part of me. And all three of us were, are, and will continue to be, good mothers.
So all that to say, here’s to my granny! My mom! Me! And every parent who works – in every capacity! We’ll more than muddle through, figure it out, and I’m going to believe (based on my two generational historical survey), that the kids will be just fine either way.
It’s Monday, so I’m linking up with Meredith’s Manic Monday Blog Hop over at Perfection Pending. Last week, I also discovered another Monday Parenting Hop, so I’m also giving that one a second go over at Mommy A to Z this week.
Do have some fun surfing about both of them.
Oh! And if you liked my post – or my blog – show a blogger a little love and give me a vote over at Top Mommy Blogs. While you are at it, while surfing around the hops, spread the bloggy love to other Top Mommy Bloggers given a number of the other blogs on these hops are members too (including both awesome hosts).
I enjoyed reading your blog. To work or not to work is a very difficult problem to work through. My wife and I did, through children, illness, lost jobs, and come what may. Best of luck to you.
Thanks so much for the good wishes and the visit. It’s appreciated. I took a quick visit to your blog and will head back for a longer look – I have a general interest in genealogy as well so I love the focus of your blog.
Reese Speaks said:
I agree with Mom on this one! People should try to pursue whatever they desire (without harming others, of course) in this life in order to be happy. I don’t like the idea that having kids would hamper success in a career. I think that some people are more well-rounded if they are given the opportunity to pursue happiness both at home and at work.
I agree that happiness comes with finding fulfillment in the areas – all the areas of your life that matter. That said, I’d also say that having kids puts some limits on career if both parents work – at least when they are very young and if you want to, well, see them. That was a tough realization for me to make. But that also comes with realizing the jobs I thought I want really aren’t the ones that will make me happy at the moment. I also wonder if it might speak to a broader need to refocus how we look at work (ie: always attached to the office, the amount of hours expected to be “successful” etc….). Related thoughts for another post I think…
Reese Speaks said:
Well put. This is why my boyfrined/partner person and I are trying to get away from having careers where our kids get the short end of the stick with us. We want to be there for as much of their milestones as we can. Yes, please do write a post focused on being locked down to your job. It would be another fabulous read! 🙂
Kristi Campbell - findingninee said:
Most definitely here’s to your grandmother, your mom, and you. I think it’s really sad how so many people get in arguments over what’s better because what’s better is up to each person (MOM) and family, and everything else. I have to say, when I met my husband, I could not imagine not working. I had an amazing job that I love, that paid, that took me all over the world and it didn’t suck, and it was fulfilling, awesome, and everything. They were bought, and I got a new good job, but my boss was a HUGEASSJERK, like the biggest jerk of jerks ever. So I quit, while on maternity leave. And made him still pay me my bonus (which let me not work for a couple of years). It’s funny – now, I work part-time, and I’m happy mostly with that except I make about 1/6 of what I used to – BUT I can dictate my schedule. I think if I’d have had my first job when I had my son, he’d have a nanny? But also, maybe not, I dunno. And then enter Special Needs and therapists, and stuff, and I feel like I need to be a part of all of that… so pt works for me. But I still have doubts about all the arguments – because I did love the me I was when I had my really fun job…
oops. Huge epic comment. Sorry ’bout that.
I think you nailed where I’ve landed on this – it’s a completely personal choice that’s based on a mix of your preferences, needs and reality. If you are in a job that is truly your passion, you might make a different choice re: work or stay home (or hard core work + nanny) than if you are in a job that “just pays the bills”. I remember ending up in a job in my early 30s that was, basically a stepping stone. And the result? I decided that was a LOVELY time to get pregnant with our first. And you are right that the unforeseen developments in life – having a kid with special needs; or, say, having triplets would also likely be a game-changer as far as what “the plan” was. As is unexpected job loss which forces innovation, figuring other things out etc…
The mix of decisions that play into each mom and family’s choice is always a bit different – and so I always find the argument (ie: work or stay home – like it’s some simple either or choice and both are equal options equally weighted for everyone) so very false.
How’s that for an equally epic answer?
And that first job you described sounded AMAZING!
I am a working and blogging mom myself, so I hear you! My mom sounds like yours – she pushed me to have a career. I have to say though, for me, it’s not about being bored by staying home with the kids, it’s more about the fact that I have more freedom in my job than I would if I stayed at home AND I have no idea how to entertain children all day long. There really is no right choice, as your mom said, just what is right for you!
Thanks so much for the visit and comment – I certainly agree there is no one “right” choice. As for having no idea how to entertain children all day long – I figure like everything else it comes with practice. Some days it feels exhausting and some days we remember we have a neighbour with a grandson, two bouncy castles and a pool. She’s awesome! We invite her over too 🙂
Aussa Lorens said:
I never considered that I wouldn’t be a SAHM until I was in my twenties. Good thing, considering I don’t have any children 😉
I remember reading about your childhood on your blog so I can see that. I think your life sounds like a pretty perfect fit for you at the moment. As for kids? I believe I’m suppose to track down Mary Poppins for that stage of your life, yes?
Aussa Lorens said:
You have a brilliant memory, Louise! I was just testing you to make sure you remembered your assignment.
I do! I have every intention of figuring out how to find you a flying awesome singing nanny before you give birth. Once you give me an ETA I’ll try to touch base with Peter Pan and the Lost Boys to get you a flying Wendy – because Mary Poppins seems a bit MIA right now. Where do you think she might be?
Aussa Lorens said:
I bet she’s in Genovia teaching a frizzy haired girl how to be a princess/and or escaping over the alps away from the nazis!
Okay – I’ll see if I can send a scout to Austria shortly to see if we can locate her. I Google mapped it, but couldn’t find Genovia. I’ll get in touch with Mia’s American family re: contact there.
Perfection Pending said:
I had some similar thoughts on my mind this week and a post that is half written about it. I’ve never felt the need to have a “career” per se, but I definitely struggle with “Just” being a SAHM. My post is kind of a reflection on why I can’t seem to feel fulfilled with the SAHM gig alone. Maybe I’ll publish it next week. Thanks for linking up!! Sorry I’m late getting over here. 🙂
I’d love to read that post – so I do hope you post it next week! I had a really good back and forth with another one of my favourite bloggers re: whether to work or not about a month ago. She chose to work a job with flexible hours so she could be home with her kids and we were talking about her experiences with that given her kids are now in high school (ie: because I’d love to be home more with my kids, so I keep trying to figure out if there is a way to make it all fit).
I think aiming for fulfillment – with whatever choice you make – is what I strive for too. That said, my job isn’t always fulfilling and so I struggle as a parent being away from my kids if my goals in choosing that path (beyond financial – which is a major one) aren’t really being met.
And no worries re: being “late”. Your comment was worth the wait!
Mommy A to Z said:
Love this post! In fact, it’s one of the featured posts this week at the Manic Mondays blog hop! Check it out at http://mommyatozblog.com/Get-Linky/. This week’s hop is live. Hope to see you there!
Thank you so much for the feature! I really appreciate it. I will be sure to check out the other featured blogs I missed last week and will be back again this week – with something a bit lighter (I think – still just a thought and not written out yet – so it could go either way).
Loved this post. I loved my job and couldn’t imagine ever being a stay at home mom, but after trying to have children for several years and eventually having preemie twins, and then a third just 16 months later, my perspective changed, and fortunately so did my spouse’s view on not having me go back to work full time. It works for us, just as it works for you. I may have some envy that you get to use your brain a little bit more, but certainly not resentment. Thanks for a thoughtful take on returning to the workforce. What a great example you are for your kids!
Thank you for such a lovely comment! I think if I had had preemie twins and then a third in short succession my life choices re: work might have been different, at least for the early years. And I think, like you, having kids changed my opinions on work vs staying home in a way that surprised me – ie: I never imagined really wanting to, so I was surprised at home much I enjoyed my time at home and would have liked it to be longer. Keep thinking maybe at some stage I will be able to sort out a longer leave of some sort or a different arrangement… I think it’s a part of what I like about blogging – namely reading about how others are doing it and making it work.
Ceena Chua-Ong said:
Wow, Loiuse! You really nailed what I was mulling over for the past weeks with this post. Being lucky not to have a financial reason to “work”, deciding whether to go back to work or be a stay at home mom (specially since this will be our first baby), has been a bit more difficult. You can’t simply decide YES, I’ll be going back to work because we need the extra money. It’s more of I want to be able to juggle the two (parenting and “working”). But is that really possible?
What I learned from reading this post? There is no wrong choice. I always thought that choosing one over the other will have some negative effect to either myself or my child. I won’t be able to focus on my child’s development. Or, I’ll lose myself from all these baby stuff. But you and your mom are right. You choose what you think is best for you and your family, and in the end, my child and I will be okay because I think my husband and I will be good parents no matter what. 🙂
Thanks very much for the kind and thoughtful comment. I wish you every success with making your choice – I know how difficult it is because neither choice feels entirely “right”. I found it especially hard returning to work after my first – it’s hard to know someone else will suddenly be there for the “firsts” instead of you. On the flip side, I think picturing not returning to work and not reclaiming that piece of who you are is equally hard if you think about staying home. For me, while I didn’t want to leave my child, I was also eager to return to work after my second child.
I also think “good parenting” is a completely separate issue and I’m sure you and your husband will be good parents regardless which choice you make.
On your functional question re: is it possible to juggle parenting and working? Yes – but it works better some weeks than others. 😉 Good support networks really help.
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Eli Pacheco said:
1. I have to address a couple of other things first, like old posts. What did you think of your voice then, looking back on your old work? Did you see a difference?
2. Inspiration from blogs is plentiful, isn’t it? I’ve tried to use inspiration from other blogs lately to tell the stories I want to tell, but with their influence, if that makes sense.
3. What a mom does to do the best for herself and her family is never the bad choice. My strongest memory of this as a kid was going home with a friend after school. My mom worked outside the home at that time; his didn’t. When we walked in, the kitchen smelled awesome, his little sister had toys all over, his mom gave him a kiss, and she had the stereo in his room playing.
To me, it felt like home. And it was all because of his mom.
So great to hear from you – I love the order in your comments 🙂
1. My voice has certainly …. evolved … a bit. I’m rather glad I wrote that blog anonymously. It was very clearly a “beginner” blog and I tried a few things that obviously didn’t fit with me. That said, there is some good stuff in there I’m going to yank out and revisit here – which is fun because I can look back on early parent thoughts and compare them to my now …. slightly less early parent thoughts?
2. That completely makes sense. I’ve read a number of posts in the last few days that have made me think “Yes! But also this! And maybe this! And let’s also go down this tangential rabbit hole.”
3. Agreed completely. As for the mom picture in the kitchen – every now and then I want to BE that mom. But I honestly don’t think I am and so probably shouldn’t force it. All parents try to choose what works best for their families. So there is never one best fit. That said, I can almost smell baking cookies in your description and it feels so very homey, Ah!
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