By Tracey Black, REDBOOK
Working mom and baby.Recently, I did something I never thought I'd do. In fact, it was terrified of it for my entire life. I resigned from my full-time management job to spend more time with my kids. I'm still having a hard time saying it because I've always been focused on my career. I thought I'd climb the corporate
ladder and eventually attain an executive position.
Having kids has totally changed my thoughts about working. I used to think it was black and white - work or stay at home; now, I'm seeing all the colors of the rainbow. Work at home, work part time, or learn new skills for a job in the future - as one friend of mine is doing through a yoga teacher certification program. I also know some moms who are taking a break from their careers altogether to spend time at home with their kids.
I was on maternity leave for six months and settled into a routine that allowed me to spend ample time with my kids. While my older boys were in school, I had one-on-one time with my infant son. Then, I picked up my boys at school dismissal and spent quality time with them. It made me rethink how I wanted to spend time with my kids, and I dreaded my impending return to work.
I went back to work to give it a try. I had similar pangs of regret about returning to work with my older sons too, but this time it was different. I just didn't feel like I could fully give myself to my kids and my job. I was stressed even before I went on maternity leave. For years, I felt like I wasn't giving my full attention to either my kids or my job. At work, I'd think about everything I needed to do for the kids. At home, I checked work emails and worked on projects late at night. It had already become overwhelming.
For two weeks, I tried to settle back into my job. My husband took a few weeks off of work to stay with our infant son, who was scheduled to start daycare the following week. Then, a few days before my infant son was supposed to start at his new daycare, I came home from work and broke down. I knew I couldn't return to work in my former role.
It was such a shock to me because I never thought I'd give up my career. I talked to my husband about it, and he was completely supportive. He's also had thoughts of staying at home to be with the kids, but it didn't make sense financially. When I finally made my decision, I immediately talked to my boss. She was incredibly supportive, and ultimately I wanted my team to be managed by someone who could fully be there for them. For now, I wanted to focus on my family.
Luckily, I found a happy medium between staying at home and working full time. I work a couple of mornings a week at my office but oversee just a few projects, and I'm not managing a team anymore. Once I let go of what I thought I had to do (e.g. the full-time job and supermom roles), I was finally happy. I could enjoy taking care of my new son and still have a little time to work on projects that I love.
I talked to friend about my decision. She was another career-focused mom who was having the same conflicted feelings about working full time. She told me that she met a mom who gave up her career to have a family and ended up freelancing while her kids were young, and she eased back into a full-time executive career when her kids started high school. My friend said she was meeting other moms with similar stories.
Hearing that gave me hope that maybe it is possible to do it all: Maybe I can have a career and a family, and maybe it's not a one-size-fits-all solution. For now, what I have works. Maybe when my kids are older I'll go back to working more… maybe not. I don't know the answer, but I know I'll figure it out - which is a huge departure for a type-A person like me.
As far as the so-called mom wars between stay-at-home and working moms - I no longer think it's an issue of "or". You don't have to choose one or the other. You can do both, but what's most important is doing what feels right for you.
Tracey Black is the author of Don't Mess with Mama, a blog about parenting, work-life balance, healthy eating, and life as a far from perfect mom. She has three boys under the age of eight, and lives in San Diego, California.
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