One of the things I’ve struggled with most in regards to teaching is the time I’m giving up with my daughter… those moments spent at work, rather than with her, that I can never get back. It hits me especially hard on days like today, when I have to walk away with her crying and calling my name behind me. Of feeling her fingers clutching my sweater while I explain I have to go, working her tiny fist free of my clothes so that I can flee before she grasps me again.
I was a stay at home mom for two and a half years. I saw all of J’s firsts, and was able to build a bond with her that is truly incredible. I wouldn’t trade those moments for anything.
But, there’s something people don’t tell you about being a stay at home mom. Everyone always glorifies it, or blows it off, but no one really talks about the things I experienced. So I’m just going to say it… being a stay at home mom was hard.
My own mother raised me to be financially and emotionally independent. And perhaps because of that, perhaps because I’m not a naturally maternal person, I really struggled being home full time. My husband would comment that he missed the old me, that I wasn’t happy anymore. My mood was constantly up and down. I felt unfulfilled intellectually, and I hated not being able to contribute to our financial well-being. I tried applying for remote work, but didn’t have much work experience and so I received a record number of rejections. Outside of making sure my daughter was taken care of– intellectually, emotionally, physically– I was lost. But I didn’t want to put her in daycare. I didn’t trust anyone, often not even myself, so how could I trust strangers with her care and safety?
There are many things that contributed to my going back to work, but for the sake of brevity, I won’t go into detail. Suffice it to say that a lot of things in my life shifted, and it suddenly seemed like the right time.
Going back to work has had a lot of advantages. I feel like I’m in a better place, mentally. I’ve helped relieve some of the stress on my husband now that he isn’t the sole breadwinner in our family. And overall, I feel like my little family has settled into a nice stride.
But man, oh man, the guilt. I wonder every day if I’m doing the right thing by forfeiting this time with J. Especially on those days when she tells me she wants things to go back to how they were before. Those days when her cries follow me out the door as I leave for work. Those days when I’m out of school for whatever reason and I get a taste of how it used to be.
I say all of this, not to complain, but to be real. One of the things I’ve noticed in life is that people rarely give the good and the bad. It’s often one or the other. I know there are moms out there who live a similar struggle, and I write this so that you know you are not alone. There is a tribe of women working through the same difficulties. You’re not a bad mom for not staying home with your child, whether you left the home because you wanted to or because you had to. Searching for fulfillment outside of your child doesn’t make you a less-than mother. Admitting that it isn’t all rainbows and sunshine doesn’t mean you aren’t a rock star.
It all just means you’re human.