More Mothers Are Returning to Work

Filed under: Opinions

super mom coffee mugWith families finding it harder than ever to make end's meet, many SAHMs are returning to work sooner than they would like. The kids are alright, but moms are struggling.

I always knew that being a full-time mommy was a temp job. From day one, newborn cradled in my arms, I told myself, "It's only for a year. Don't get too comfortable." One daughter turned into two, one year turned into six.

Now it's time to go back to work.

To be honest, I've been working from home for over two years. But it's always been part-time. I eat breakfast and dinner with my girls every day, and never miss a special event. I'm the one who does drop-off and pick-up, who knows that one likes turkey with no cheese, while the other likes cheese with no turkey.

Being a mom -- being their mom -- is how I've defined myself for six years.

But hard times call for tough choices. Just 15 months short of my goal of getting my youngest to kindergarten, I've had to trade my mom uniform -- t-shirt and yoga pants -- for khakis and cardigans. I'm back in the classroom as a substitute teacher.

I'm not alone. Mothers are feeling pressure to return to work or increase their hours, 79 percent according to one study. Maybe their partners were laid off or they can't make the mortgage payments and grocery bills on one salary. Or, like me, maybe they're looking for a more stable income.

On the one hand, I'm grateful that subbing is a good solution for now -- it's flexible, I can choose my hours, it's familiar. On the other, I spent last week scouting daycare options for my three-year-old who has always been home with me. And it makes me heartsick.

It's not daycare itself that's troubling me; my social butterfly will be just fine. It's the letting go that's got a chokehold on my heart. When we step off the cul-de-sac of these years at home onto the expressway of full-time work, school, daycare...will life go too fast? Will I regret it?

The question that nags me the most is how will it change me as a mother? Amanda of Mandajuice recently wrote this about this waking up from the long nap of early motherhood.

"It's a strange feeling to finally want something for myself again...wiping the crust from my eyes and remembering that Amanda still exists as someone other than just a MOM. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with JUST being a mom, in fact I think I assumed that motherhood alone would fulfill me completely and sustain me forever...But the fact that I crave time AWAY from my children, time to pursue my own interests, probably means that's exactly what I need. It's probably also exactly what's best for my kids."

I hope that we're making a step in the right direction, that a little time to miss each other during the day is exactly what we all need. At the same time, as I watch the childcare director take my daughter's hand and lead her off, I know that this isn't what I had in mind. It doesn't feel fair, but at the same time I feel so selfish. I got six years at home with them, while many moms who want to stay home don't get much more than a month.

While my heart makes sense of all of these feelings -- excitement, hope, fear and regret -- we'll do what has to be done. Just like millions of families all over this country.

Has the current economic crisis forced you to go back to work? Is it something you welcomed, or did you struggle with the decision? Tell us about it and you could be included in an upcoming story.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.