By: Crystal Alba
So I’ve decided to get a little more personal with my self-care talk. I don’t want to display myself on social media and blog as a “perfect” mother because I’m not. I want you to know me, the real me. I want you to know how motherhood changed me. Of course for the better. But there is always a journey to get there.
I’m going to say this from the start: this post is not meant to make anyone feel bad for their decision on going to work or staying home with their children. Life has many pathways for everyone. There is no right or wrong answer.
However, I’ve been in both positions and know that guilt always seems to linger.
I guess I should start at the beginning-
I became pregnant with my first daughter in my last year of college. I told myself that
even though I was pregnant, I could still finish school because I was career-driven. All the sleepless nights, commuting, and working three jobs needed to count for something! Especially with a little girl coming into the world. The plan was to dive right into my career as soon as the baby was 3 months. (LOL) Despite my watermelon feet, I still commuted and went through the usual routine of work, school, doctors’ appts, walking… Everything was going as planned, until-May 22nd, the day of my graduation at AT&T stadium. Right as I wiggled into my graduation dress, my water broke. I was rushed to the hospital at noon in midst of my husband enjoying his first bite of a sub from Subway. (eat fresh)
At 10:55 PM, life slapped me into a humble reality of what “sleepless” really meant. I held in my arms-a baby! My baby! My plans on going to work once she was 3 months, were kissed goodbye! How on earth was I going to leave this precious baby with someone, only I knew inside and out??
My husband’s response?
“So then, don’t”.
Stay-at-home Mom Guilt
After our daughter turned three months of age, we flew from our nest in California out to our new nest in D.C. Sure, I was an emotional mess getting on the plane. But I was more excited because I got to start my life with my family. We were starting fresh!
As we arrived to D.C., it was a little daunting that one second I was working towards a career, the next we were living in a new home. It would just be me. On my own. With a baby.
However, I was still determined to hold off on work until our little one was older. I was excited that I got to be home with my daughter! I got to take her to the library for storytime, signed up for mommy and me classes, and post a ridiculous amount of baby pics on the gram.
It was comforting to know that I was in control of how I raised my child and I was able to witness every milestone emerge, at home. It wasn’t soo bad.
Two months into our new life, I was on a job hunt craze- jobs that would let me bring my baby along, that is. Yeah, I was trying to have my cake and eat it too.
Picking up your kids from a private school? You got it!
Need a tutor? On it!
Dog walker? My baby loves them!
Any gig- I was open to it just to get out of the house. As long as I had my baby. Being home was comforting but I did need a routine.
Throughout my journey as a SAHM, I received judgemental answers at family get-togethers when asked what I did for work.
Me: “Oh, a little bit of everything. But I’m staying home with the baby for now”
Them: “Oh. So it’s just him (my husband)?”
Them: “Wow. That must be hard for him to work and have all of that (financial responsibility) on his own.”
“Did you find a job yet?” and “So you stay at home, you have plenty of time”
My favorite that I got to overhear through thin walls:
“When is she getting a job? All she does is sit on her ass all day! She’s so lazy”
Thus, THE STAY AT HOME MOM GUILT!
Needless to say, I felt very unworthy. I second-guessed my decision everyday especially when I would see my unmarried, childless friends living a life that involved just going to work. I felt disoriented to do anything and that I had no room to give my opinion on anything, financially.
Despite the negative thoughts, my husband reassured me how grateful and fortunate he felt. He loved how I was raising our daughter by teaching her Spanish, sign language, counting, giving her home-cooked meals, keeping her safe and healthy. That is all that really mattered!
However, hearing negative comments about your decision to stay home with your baby is never easy. It drove me to find a job. Haters, were in fact, my motivators.
Self-care moments as a SAHM:
- I realized that my life was not someone else’s life that I saw on social media. I needed to stop comparing.
- The opinions of others will not raise my child. I will.
- Negative unsolicited advice is not advice. Ignore it.
The Working- Mom Guilt
After our daughter turned one year, I decided that it was time for me to find a real job. One that I went to school for. One that doesn’t pay minimum wage or cash. I wanted to feel good about myself. Not because of the negative people that offered unsolicited advice. Because I wanted to feel like I was contributing! I wanted to show my daughter how to be independent. I wanted to show her that a woman could do ANYTHING she wanted to do. (“Hey Google, play who run the world!)
As I departed on my first day of work as a behavioral therapist, I was excited. There was an adrenaline rush as I drove to work. I felt off at first. Like, I forgot something or someone. Being without my daughter felt liberating. At the same time, it felt like I was missing a limb.
I didn’t let this feeling distract me, however. I was determined to find my groove.
“We’ll get used to it”, I told myself. But “we” didn’t.
I felt myself growing apart from my daughter as more work piled on.
Most of the clients that I worked with were younger children with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). I used my motherly trait as an advantage for families to trust me. And it worked. Families would ask me to be their therapist per reference. Pretty soon, I was promoted in my field and worked about 40-50 hours a week. I was drained by the time I got home. I would count down the hours to play and tackle my daughter with kisses but as soon as I got home, I was a depleted battery. Sometimes we would fall asleep in her bed together just to stretch out a few more minutes with her.
I would go into work at 6 AM and come home at 6 PM. Sometimes 9 PM. I would start my day before she woke up and come home when it was dinner time then get ready for bed. That feeling of missing a limb only grew more and more as my daughter grew. I would get updates from my mom or whoever was watching her at the time and be happy about her milestones she was meeting but sad that I was missing them. Her first steps, the first time she used the toilet, her mischievous activities- I’d sit in the car before work sometimes and cry because of how much I missed her. I felt like I was missing out on her life!
But I told myself that one day it will all be worth it.
Meanwhile, I was at the peak of my career and I was due for another promotion. But it required me to go back to school and stay with the company more time. I felt like I was pressured to make a decision and sign my life away. Leave my child even more or stay stagnant? Ironically, the times that I would pray for a job turned into praying to just be home.
So I decided not to take the promotion. What was the point? More money for less happiness?
When I told my husband this, confused, he would ask “so what do you want?”
“To just be happy!” I would reply, seemingly confused myself.
It took me four years to finally realize that I needed to cut down my hours to be present for my child. Money is important. But it was more important for me to be there for my daughter.
The hard work paid off in the end, we were fortunate enough to become homeowners and give our daughter a home. We started with nothing and strived together until we met our goal. My journey also gave me a new perspective on motherhood. It taught me to be selfless and humble.
Self-care moments as a Working mom:
- You’re allowed to take days off to just be with your baby/babies
- The world will still go on even if you stop working to be with your kids.
- Your kids only grow up once, live in the moment, and just play with them.
Cheers to that:
Funny how life works! You become a mother and you’re expected to teach your child about life. As it turns out, our children become our teachers. My daughter taught me how life can come and go in a blink of an eye. She taught me to be present!
Thanks for tuning in on this week’s post!
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