By Lauren Lund, Core Writer
I recently joked on Facebook about the number of snow-days my kids have had this winter: “Distance makes the heart grow fonder #Thankgodforteachers.”
Not everyone liked it.
This isn’t the first time I have experienced push-back about needing (or even just wanting) some distance between myself and my kids. I am a working mom, and I always have been. I recently switched from part-time to full-time. At first, people seemed afraid to ask me how it was going. The questions came timidly. “How are things…. are they… ok?” And at first, my response was also timid. I felt like I should tell them what they expected to hear, or rather, what I was expected to say according to the secret-code-of-perfect-parenting: “Oh work is hard, and I am so busy. I really miss my kids. I wish we had more quality time together.” And that would be sort-of true.
I do miss my kids when I go to work. I will think about their cute smiles, snort-laughs, messy faces, and silly songs often. If I have to miss something special, like when I had to have grandma drop my son off for his first day of pre-school, I feel a heart-string tug.
But none of the reminiscing or heart-pulling makes me want to quit my job. The person I spent over seven years becoming in college and graduate school really matters to me – and I want my kids to know that person. My “self” didn’t start over when I had children. Sure, I fell apart a few times. I learned. I changed. I grew flabbier/softer/harder (usually in the wrong places). But I was and am still me, and that “me” loves to go to work.
I have considered stepping back, or even quitting, a few times due to peer/societal pressure, but I could never bring my heart to do it. Eight years later, I am in love with my job more than ever. I never quit my job along my pregnancy and childbearing journey, even with kid number three. Why? Because I love my job, and because I also love my kids. Being a working-mom makes me a better mom.
When I come back to my kids after time away, after some much-needed physical-space between us, after completing some meaningful work, and after partaking in adult conversation, I am refreshed.
When I walk out of the house to go to work, I can take a deep breath. As I walk up to my office, I can feel the stresses of motherhood and the pile of dirty dishes in the sink melt away, down my back and into the salt-stained pavement. And I leave it there. Work has become a place for me to decompress from the hardships of motherhood.
Likewise, when I leave work after a particularly long or hard day, I get in the car and think about the sweet faces I get to come home to. When I pull into the driveway, I see my kitchen light, and I open the door to giant hugs, abandoning my hunched work-shoulders for the next day. These two worlds, home and work, offer me a balance that works for my personality.
As I was getting ready to leave for work this morning, I went over to snuggle with my son. I gave him his morning cup of milk and told him what the day would hold: “You get to play with daddy today, and then you have pre-school. When you get back from school, mommy will be getting home from work. I will see you soon. Ok?” He replied happily, “OK, mommy. Go and be cute.”
And so I did. Even my three-year-old knows that it’s good for his mommy to go to work.
Not all people look favorably upon mothers who create space between themselves and their children (like the person who sent me a strong opinion in a message about my Snow Day Facebook post). It is common for them to be looked at as “less-than” mothers. But it is time to end that stereotype in society and realize that many working moms choose to work outside the home to offer the best, healthiest version of themselves to their children.
It may not be the same for all women (a phrase I feel we can and should use more liberally), but being a working mom has been good for me.