Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The working mother’s dilemma

I have always been career focused. It began in college when I started my first real job with a salary. I married at 22 and my husband and I both had a goal of working hard, playing hard, and living well. Shortly into my career I began traveling for work. I was on the road three to four days and week and covered a territory of six states. Later on I changed jobs and then my husband and I built our dream home.  During the early years of our marriage we were often nagged, and even harassed, with the big question, “When are you guys having kids?” After settling into our new home the baby bug finally bit me. I was in pharmaceutical sales at the time and called on OB/GYN offices.  Being around pregnant women and newborns each day helped catapult me into motherhood.

When my first child Lily was born my husband and I had a long discussion about my career. The following questions arose: do I want to stay home with my child, do I want to be on a strict budget, do I want to take the chance of losing a job I worked so hard to get and excel at? We finally agreed that I would indeed return to work, but would take a four-month unpaid maternity leave. I was lucky enough to keep Lily out of daycare until she was six months old. I wish I could say that going back to work and leaving your baby in someone else’s care was easy, but I would be lying.  It took me about a year to adjust and develop a good routine as a working mother. The guilt never really goes away. Now that Lily is 3 years old and I see how far she’s advanced, it makes me feel good about my decision to enroll her in a childcare program.   Recently I had my second child, Logan. The same internal struggle reared its ugly head.  After a 12-week leave of absence I returned to work, this time with my heels dragging.

The fact is, no matter what decision you make as a mother, to return to work or to stay home, it’s never an easy one.   I still feel mother’s guilt about not staying home with my kids. I’ve also learned that my friends who are stay at home moms also have guilt, they also question their choices. I’ve decided that at the end of the day you have to do what’s best for you and your family.  No one stands in your shoes but you!

I know that my career is a big part of me. It makes me who I am. I know in my heart that I would not be truly happy giving up my career to stay home with my children. I also have friends and family that probably think I’m a monster for even saying that out loud.

Recently I was venting to a co-worker about my mother’s guilt over returning to work. I loved and will cherish her response. She said being a working mother is not so bad for your children. It teaches them that you can have it all, you can be organized, excel in a career, maintain your home and be a loving mother. It’s that reminder that helps me get up and ready for work each day.

How do you handle Mom guilt? Any tips for what helps you?

Mindy Seals works in the information technology division at Texas Health Resources and is balancing work, married life and raising two kids.

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