Ok, I admit it! I am an Oprah-aholic! I catch every episode I can of the Oprah Show! Recently, Oprah aired a show on the stay at home versus working mom debate, which was absolutely brilliant! It was called My Baby or My Job, and it brought to mind several memories about my own experience as a new mom.
My daughter was born this past year, and all my life I had dreamed of being a stay at home mom. After all, my mom stayed home with me, and my husband’s mom stayed home with him, so that is what moms did, right? I have friends who work, and I thought they were foolish, or even wrong, in choosing to work when their children were small. (Before you start yelling at your computer, keep reading!)
When my daughter was born, I suffered a serious bout of postpartum depression. I hated just about everything there was about being a mom. And what shocked me the most was how desperately I missed my job as a teacher. I thought being a stay at home mom would be the most fulfilling role I would ever have, but I hated it! Staying home all day without adult contact made my depression deepen.
I found that the only thing that kept me sane as a mom was going back to work! At first, I felt guilty about working while my daughter was at her grandma’s house, but after the first two weeks back in the classroom, I realized that I was actually a BETTER mom because I had a job! What a job gives me is a reason to get up in the morning, put on clothes (other than my pajamas), do my hair and makeup, and feel like an adult. I choose to work only part time, and it is enough to keep me sane. But what really changed when I became a working mom was my attitude.
One of Oprah’s guests on the show was a stay at home mom who was passionate about her role as a devoted mom. Oprah’s website quotes her as saying: “I feel like, because I do stay home, I’m making my children a priority. If you’re working outside of the home, they can’t be your top priority.” Eleven months ago I would have agreed with every word she said, but today, I realize that I am a better mother and wife because I go to work. By giving myself some “adult time” (if teaching junior highers can be considered adult time), I come home ready to face the needs of my baby, and able to make her the first priority in my life.
I guess my experience and this episode of the Oprah Show made me realize that every couple has to make the choice about working or not for themselves. It is not possible for every woman to stay home with her children, both financially and emotionally. And judging others for their decisions is just plain wrong. As I learned, until you are in the situation yourself, you cannot understand the choices that others make. Here I am a working mom, and happy about it!
I think that Oprah’s psychologist, Dr. Robin Smith, hit the nail on the head about the debate when she said “The goal isn’t to have it all. . . It’s to be attuned to yourself and with your children.” Every family, woman, and child is different, and what is right for one is not always right for the next. As a stay at home mom, I was completely disconnected from my daughter. I did not desire to take care of her, and was completely exhausted, both physically and emotionally. On the flip side, the working mom who comes home unable to spend time with her kids because she is too emotionally and physically drained should take a look at her priorities.
One interesting aspect of this episode of Oprah was when the talk show queen interviewed two mothers who had made different choices about the working or staying home debate. These ladies were done raising their children, and ready to look back on their decision. The working mom regretted her decision to work outside the home. She felt as though she missed out on seeing her kids grow up. But when Oprah talked with the stay at home mom, she said that she regretted giving up herself in order to stay home, even though she felt she did what was best for her kids. The point being that both moms had their own regrets!
And the real kicker was when Oprah spoke with the working mom’s grown daughter. This daughter said that as a child she felt completely loved and supported. She did not feel like she missed out in any way because her mother worked, and chose to work when she had children of her own.
So whatever choice you make, whether you work or stay home, remember that you need to do what is best for you and your family. You will be judged for your choice no matter what you decide, and the important thing is to be secure in your decision. Keep your family as the priority in your life, and make a decision from there. When people look down on me for working, I am at peace, because I know what it was like before I took back my job. And who knows, maybe I will try staying home again in a year or two to write full time. But for now, I love my job, and I love my husband and daughter, and I know that this is what is best for us!