Recently I was having coffee with a friend whose son is my daughter’s age. She said to me, “I don’t know if this makes me a bad mom or something…” here she dropped her voice to a whisper, “but I am so happy to drop my kid off to daycare on Mondays.”
I laughed. Then I told her that I do a drive-by drop off on Mondays. A drive-by drop off is when you slowly drive by your child’s school, roll down your windows and hurl your child out into the waiting arms of the teacher, and yell, “See ya later bitches!!” and then put on your sunglasses and crank up the volume on Drake.
This is the luxury of being a part-time mom.
In our present day times, we as women have a choice (in many cases) to work or to stay at home. It’s the war of the worlds. The working moms versus SAHMs (stay-at-home-moms). And as awesome as choice is, sometimes it’s a real pain in the arse too.
Often the decision is made for you because you HAVE to work for financial reasons or because you are a single parent.
In other cases, the decision is made easy because you have always known what you wanted. You either always wanted the corner office, or you knew that you once you had kids, it was time to trade in the dress pants for all-day-long PJs.
The struggle comes once you have kids and can’t decide which class of crazy you want to be in.
The decision was straightforward for me but not easy. I had studied for years and built a career and I knew I wouldn’t be able to sacrifice it. Throughout my life, I had either gone to school, or gone to work, often doing both simultaneously, so that sitting at home even for a week usually drives me nuts. I become sloppier and sloppier, showering lesser and lesser, becoming depressed and eating like a walrus.
So it was clear that I would have to buy a new work wardrobe at the end of my maternity leave. But then a month before I had to return to work, I looked down at the gleaming eyes of my boiled potato and felt a weird tingling in my chest. At first, I figured it was gas. Eventually I realized that I had a heart. One that was breaking at the thought of leaving the spawn behind with a stranger.
Stupid, crazy heart.
The first day I picked her up from daycare and realized that she smelled like another woman’s perfume, I felt torn and immensely sad. It was as if my child was cheating on me with another woman and I was paying that woman to do the cheating.
There is no perfect answer. But here is what I have learnt so far from my experience:
Work provides you a sense of purpose. A reason to take a shower everyday. To dress up and go out and put on a pleasant face. If you happen to enjoy your job, it provides you with joy and gratification. Your little gear to the machinery of the world. It provides you with social connections and adult time spent talking about adult things. It gives you an identity, a title beyond being a mommy.
The obvious advantage of a working mom is the extra dough she brings home. Being a dual-income family means you can invest in extra curricular activities for your child, travel the world with them, giving them unique experiences and learning opportunities, provide them a better standard of living.
- Daycare perks:
Even if I had the option of leaving my daughter with grandparents, or I wasn’t a working mom, I would have still chosen to send her to daycare for at least a couple of days a week. Daycare teaches them key skills at a young age. They learn to share, to create social relationships, to respect authority, to become more autonomous. My daughter talks about her friends all weekend long and runs/skips/hops into daycare on Monday mornings. This is not to say that you can’t provide a similar experience at home, however, it is much more challenging.
- Value of time:
When both parents work, time spent with your child is a scarce resource so you make the most of it. We are tired but we try to take the spawn out to local parks, playgrounds and zoos in the evenings and on the weekends. We try our limited time together to be memorable time.
- Part-time mommy status:
You are tired. All the time. Employers don’t give a rat’s flying ass that you have a kid. And your kid doesn’t give a similar ass that you have an employer. You are at work round the clock, only the job changes. You bring the stresses of your work and commuting home and it becomes more challenging to be an alive and active parent in the little time you do have with your kid. You lose your cool quickly, are snappier with your child and may just be an all around douchebag parent.
- Missing in Action:
We are lucky in Canada to have one year maternity leave. This is a luxury for most around the world, and even in Canada, it comes with financial ramifications. Most women return to work within six months of childbirth, which means that they miss out. On toothy smiles, on first words, on first steps, on new antics. They miss out on time spent with their spawn in the key early years of their life. This is the one thing that bothers me the most about being a part-time mom. For most of the day, I don’t know what my daughter does, what she eats, how she smiles, how she plays.
- Joy of parenting:
When you are a working mom, you are distracted by two worlds. You are an inept employee when you leave work early to go pick up your child from daycare. And you an inept mother when you have to stay late at work to meet deadlines. Everything in your life has to be thought out, calculated and organized. From meals to play time to bed time. Life can become mechanical and you lose the ability to just laze around with your kids on a weekday, and your weekends become all about doing the chores you didn’t have time to do during the work week. Stay at home moms can structure their days the way they want to.
- Raising a storm:
Stay at home moms are there everyday, in every way. Someone else isn’t doing the raising for them. And it’s incredibly difficult work. Sometimes as a working mom, you can’t control the influences on your child when they spend at a minimum, eight hours a day with someone else. They can bring home bad habits and there is only so much you can do to control them. It’s true that this would happen eventually anyways when they start school, but these years are their personality building years.
Both my husband and I were raised by working moms. And we turned out to be only slightly crazy. Sure I remember my mom being tired all the time. She was a teacher so she was already dealing with crazy kids all day. I remember her whipping up quick meals on weekdays, which were less than a fine dining experience. I remember her juggling work, groceries, meals, guests, and kicking our ass.
But I also remember how organized she was. I remember her ambition and the dedication she put into her job. And the pride that came from it. And she still somehow managed to be a keen and super involved parent. Today, I manage my own household based on the skills I saw my mom master. She was a career mom but I don’t remember missing her. Or ever find her lacking in any way.
It’s a sacrifice either way. Either you are laying on the line your career to be a caring and involved parent, or you are forfeiting time with your child to provide them with a better life. You just need to learn to live with your decision.