You always hear that question, “if you were to win the lottery, would you quit your job?”. The answer to that for me would be “no”. Here’s why. Though this is a delicate issue among family and friends, it’s one that I feel strongly about. I grew up in a large family. My father was a hard working small town doctor. My mother was a busy stay-at-home mom with twelve children. Life was great and I grew up like most kids did going to high school and then to college. I worked my way through college, because I had to and wanted to, yet I loved it at the same time. I worked my way through raising five kids, because I had to and wanted to, and I loved it as the same time. I never understood the concept of a “working mom” growing up. I never understood how it was going to shape me and make me a better person and a better example for my daughters. Though my mother worked very hard to ensure we were raised to be great kids, she was never able to show me how to be a poised, confident, woman in the work force. I remember craving to hear the stories of my mother going to college and going to work. I remember her telling me that after she graduated college she taught elementary school, but only for a few weeks because she got pregnant and “gave it all up, for us”. Gave it all up? I remember feeling a bit sad for my Mom. She always spun it in a way that this sacrifice of not going to work was to benefit us, yet somewhat disappointing to her. Don’t get me wrong, she wasn’t disappointed to have all of us, but there was always the halo of what she “could’ve been” if we hadn’t come along….a teacher, a dancer. I was always left on the edge of my seat wanting to learn more about my mother’s dreams that weren’t always about us. That never happened. She slowly stopped talking about teaching and she slowly stopped talking about her chance to be a professional ballerina. This notion stuck with me. I know the importance of having parents there for their children as they grow up. Scott and I did everything possible to always be present for our kids, one of us was always at the school play or the soccer game. Though I still have young children after 14 years of child rearing, and though it’s been tough at times, we’ve done an awesome job in the way of “tag-teaming it” so we don’t miss anything. I love my family and I love my job. I don’t condemn women who decide to stay home. They have their own very strong reasons as to why it’s important. I do celebrate the women who decide to work, provide for their families and show their daughters what’s possible. Possible…I never knew what was possible for me. I had to figure it out on my own. Because of that, I am very sure that choosing to work is the right choice for me. I hope that I’m showing my daughters that they have a choice too. I have been blessed to be able to work from home full time. This opportunity allows me to be flexible, to be there for them when they scrape a knee, to volunteer at school and to put dinner on the table at a decent time while still using that working Mom muscle I’ve nurtured and developed over the years. I have less worry that I won’t be able to provide if my husband is suddenly struck by lightning or becomes unable to work. For me, I never wanted to be dependent on anyone and have to worry that I would be left vulnerable.
I have friends in both camps. Most of them are completely satisfied with whatever path they chose for themselves and their children. I have some friends who chose the path of not working yet saw the rug pulled out from under their feet. Because they had been out of the workforce for so long, they struggled to find work only to find minimum waged jobs as their kids now sit in school after care. I also have friends that choose not to work and they also put their kids in school after care so they have more time for themselves to go shopping or get their nails done. Being a stay-at-home Mom doesn’t make you a better Mom if you’re not fully connected with your kids!!! Trust me, kids understand both sides. They understand that Mom has to work to provide for the family. Kids also understand when their Mom doesn’t want to be bothered. This notion of being fully connected to your kids is very obvious to me. I can spot the ones a mile away who are lavished with “things” and activities to keep them busy, to keep them at arms-length, then brought out at gatherings as if they’re trophies. They end up acting out to get the loving attention from their parents they so eagerly crave and need. I look at both sides and see those kids whose parents both work so hard to provide and yet they roll their sleeves up and do their part too. These kids contribute to the family by helping around the house, watching over their siblings and being kind to each other, knowing this supports the bigger need of the family. There is also the working Mom who does put work ahead of their children and those kids end up suffering as well.
Whatever the choice is for people, there are a million reasons why their way is the better way. It can be messy and difficult for others to understand why people chose what they chose. For me, it only becomes more apparent as I see my oldest daughter grow up. She is a product of a working Mom. She is a straight A student, starting high school next year and will be in all honors courses. She has clear goals for her life. She is confident and poised and ready to take on the world. I look at her and think she is way better at age 14 than I ever was at 14. Though I worried about her as she grew and how my job would interfere with her life, it’s now apparent that it was the best gift. I am in awe of her and what she will grow up to be. Whether a working woman, working mom or a stay-at-home mom, she is now equipped to make an educated choice for herself and know that she had the best upbringing, the best example. Now, I have that chance again with my little Ava and I plan to raise her the same way, even though she came to us differently. People might not agree and they might try to explain why their way is the better way. The fact is, we all know the best path for our families. Our goals are the same. We need to support and embrace each other. For those of us working, I truly believe that we are paving the way for our daughters and their future. The work we are doing, the sacrifices we’re making and the walls in the workplace that we’re tearing down will make the opportunities for our girls easier to obtain. We should never wait around for that jackpot knowing there’s so much more to gain through this journey as a working mom. Thanks for listening J.