Working outside the home is not always a mother's choice. Some days, even the most career-minded moms wonder if life would be any sweeter staying home.

Some Days

Working outside the home is not always a mother's choice. Some days, even the most career-minded moms wonder if life would be any sweeter staying home.

Some days, I wonder:

What would life look like at home with P- playing chase, while dodging rogue Mega Blocks on the living room floor, wiping off P’s spaghetti goatee from lunch, and taking her to toddler story time at the library?

I think few mothers like to admit it, but for me, leaving P at daycare at the tender age of six weeks was not as difficult as I had imagined. After nights filled with colicky screams, spit-up, and anxiety about her milk intake, work was a sort of respite. I could take breaks if I wanted to, eat a full meal and take more than five minutes to do so, and interact with adults.

Fast forward 15 months: now, I am having difficulty leaving her at daycare. Some mornings, she stands in front of the storm door of her daycare, waving, and saying “buh” as I walk to my car. P’s daycare is filled with love; it is structured, and the children go on weekly field trips to the library, Montessori class, and a local orchard, just to name a few. Chad and I couldn’t feel more secure leaving her where we do during the day, and P loves it, too.

Just a silly moment between the two of us. Wish we could have more of these.
Just a silly moment between the two of us. Wish we could have more of these.

That said, I’ve been feeling conflicted lately. I would love to be the one to take P to story time at the library. Some days, I would like to be the one to play with her at the park, mid-day. These thoughts and feelings become even louder and stronger in the evenings. Some days, it is a struggle to get P in her car seat to go home; on occasion, I have had to physically hold her down to buckle her in. Then, as soon as we walk through the door of our townhouse, the crying begins. P clings to me, wants up, but isn’t even happy then, sometimes.

Have you ever tried cooking dinner with one hand while holding a 24-pound toddler in the other (who wants to stir what’s in the pan and put the lid on, too)? Some days, it is all I can do not to shed a few tears. A tear for me, because after a long work day, during which I think about all the fun things I want to do with P when we get home, all I want to do is cuddle and play with her, and a tear for P, because the evening transition from daycare to home is visibly tiring and tough for her.

Yesterday, our daycare provider was unavailable, so I took the day off. I took P to the preschool where I work, to pick up a few files, in hopes of getting some work done during her afternoon nap time. P paraded down the halls like she owned the place, touching the bulletin boards, reaching for flags draped from the ceilings, and just generally charming the socks off of some of the teachers. At one point, one of them said to me, “How could you come here every day? Why not stay home with that precious little girl?”

I flinched, but didn’t say anything. It took me a few minutes to wrap my mind around what the teacher asked. I suppose she assumed that I was choosing to work; if only it were that simple. Then I wondered: do most people think my working outside of the home is a choice? I can assure you that it is not. My family relies on my income for our necessities (rent, car payments, food, you know, all that good stuff), and good health insurance. I fear that other people’s uninformed thoughts about mothers who work outside the home will influence P. Never for a second do I want her to think that I choose my work over her.

Would I give up my career and stay home with P if I could? Right now, I would seriously consider it, with the caveat that I would do some sort of work (per diem psychological assessments from time to time, freelance writing gigs, etc.) unrelated to child-rearing or household tasks for at least a few hours each week. Never did I think I would be the kind of mother who wanted to stay home with her child, but here I am, wanting just that. The ways I’ve changed since becoming a mother, from my priorities to my thought processes, have changed significantly.

Intellectually, I know that my working outside the home is not going to damage P; if anything, she may become more independent, and see that women can provide for themselves, while doing something they love. Still, some days, I wrestle with working mama guilt; as full-time work outside of the home is in my future for the long-term, I sure hope I can pin it down.

25 thoughts on “Some Days

  1. Thank you so much for this article. I have read so many articles regarding working mothers that make it sound like a choice to work, or we do it to live extavegant lifestyles and put ourselves before our children. But for most working mom, inclusing me, it is the exact opposite. I just wrote a blog post yesterday on the same thing. Its so frustrating, its so hard and heartbreaking some days. Although we may not have an option to stay home with our children we still love them with everything we have. No matter what my child is my main priority whether I am with her or away from her. That will never change.
    Its so good to hear a real perspective.
    Thank you,

    1. Thank you for reading, Brittany, and for your kind words. I think being a mom is hard no matter how you slice, we all just hope for happy, well-adjusted kids.

  2. I think every mom feels this way sometimes, but I always remind myself that as fun as those days off are, they’re fun because they’re not every day. And in my experience (I have two), it gets easier to leave them as they get older. Never EASY, and I miss them like crazy, but at the same time, I know they’re flourishing, I’m keeping up with my career and setting a good example for them. And these years of daycare and being apart are short – before long they’ll be in school and we’d be apart most of the day anyway.

    1. Erin, I’m glad I’m not alone in my “what if” wondering. It is nice to hear that it gets easier!!

    2. My oldest is almost 13, and I have to admit that I’m still torn with guilt about being away from the kids so much. I still wish I could just do some consulting work part-time and spend the rest of the time the kids aren’t in school with them, but I’m in the same boat as Kristi where we need my income. I guess it’ll get easier after high school!

      1. But I think children still need their childhood when they are with their parents and loved ones. As they become more mature, they will be close to friends and even have their own little families. It is all due to the impact of the circumstances and the busy daily work, so we cannot be with the children and spend more time with them.

  3. Great post. I had my 18 month old yesterday. We went to an indoor play area and I watched as the ‘regulars’ sat on their butts and played with their phones. I was up romping with my daughter. We met daddy for lunch, we did a little shopping, and we played with her favorite toys before dinner. It was a great day. But if I did it everyday, I think I would be one of the ‘regulars’ on my phone rather than interacting with my daughter. I’m with you. I wrestle the reality everyday but ultimately, I appreciate my limited time with my girl because it’s truly quality — even when she’s throwing a fit while I’m trying to cook dinner!

    1. Thank you for reading, Emily! You make an excellent point about those special days become routine (and not so special). I relish the time I spend with my little P, and just wish for a little more of it at times.

  4. Stephanie Tsales says:

    Every working mom has her own reasons for working. I think it’s important to recognize that there are different reasons moms work – some work for financial reasons, some work because they need benefits, and some work simply because they enjoy it. Just because a mom can financially afford to stay home doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for her.

    1. I agree, Stephanie. I hope it didn’t come off like I think if a mother can afford to stay home, she should- that wasn’t what I was going for. I just miss my babes at times; honestly, there are days I have been home with P, where stabbing myself in the eye would have been easier/less painful than working through her teething fits and tantrums. I love my job, it just gets hard sometimes, and makes me wonder “what if?”

  5. My daughter is 10 now and it took me until this year to really feel the urge to want to stay home with her. I had always worked close to our home in the past so working didn’t really cause any strain. Since changing jobs a little over a year ago, I feel almost the daily desire to stay home. I’m missing so much now, lunches at her school, picking her up from choir practice, etc. All things that I used to be able to do before. I do strongly believe though that my working sets a better example for her down the road, even if it occasionally hurts both our feelings now.

    1. Laura, that is a great point- I think we are setting excellent examples for our daughters. It is so nice to know that I’m not the only one with these feelings!

  6. Oh how this post has resonated with me and on a tough day too. After a horrible conversation with my boss (realizing I may be losing my job at some point – I’m the primary breadwinner in our household too) … my recently turned 2-year old daughter looked at me and said ‘no crying mama, happy face’ … all I could do was sob even more, knowing that the job and horrible conversation I just had were not all by choice, I never thought I’d want to be a full time stay at home mom, but as my Miss T grew I found myself clinging to her more, the more she became independent the more I wanted one more cuddle, one more hug, one more kiss, one more moment. Guilt is part and parcel of my existence and I doubt I’d be able to shake it off. Had I been in a job I’d enjoyed more it might have been a different scenario, not sure really … I just know I miss her so much it hurts every day, the hour or two I get to spend with her before she sleeps is mostly spent in a haze (meal, bath time, story time, bed)…some days I also wish I could just stay home with her and just be.

    1. Shereen, sending loads of positive vibes your way! Thank you for reading; my daughter goes to bed early, and one of her hours home in the evening is “witching hour,” so the time my husband and I have with her is her roughest time of day. I’m with you 100 percent. Some other mamas told me it gets easier, so here’s hoping, for all of us.

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  7. My comment is totally unrelated to the guilt, but more to the side of do you have a wrap or sling or something that you could put her in while you are cooking? My ring sling and then Ergo carrier were lifesavers when my kids were littler and wanted to be held all night, even when I needed to get things done. I was able to use either as a back-carry once they were toddlers and then they were “helping” me do dinner while I had two hands with which to get it done! I don’t know if you are normally a baby-wearer or not, but there are sometimes that is the only way to sanely get things done, IMO! 😉

    I also was able to team up with some other local families to do a weekly freezer-meal swap, and that has been a godsend, when I all I have to decide for dinner is which meal to warm up, and we just prepare a large amount of one item once a week or every two weeks or whatever works for the group! 🙂

  8. Jennifer, thank you for reading, and for your comment. I have actually tried the baby bjorn, and the Mei Tei; oddly enough, while my daughter loves being held, she hates being “worn.” She was one of those babies who hated the swaddle, still dislikes the car seat, you know? I love your idea of the freezer meal swap- I will have to check it out. Some have suggested I use a crock pot to make meals, but I have this irrational fear of them..I worry about fires!

  9. I love your comments about wondering if others are so uninformed that they believe working moms always have a choice. We also rely on my income to pay the necessities. I have always said that if I intentionally put us on the street I would not be a very responsible parent would I? Damned if you do and damned if you don’t sometimes!

    1. Monica, I may use that as a comeback next time someone asks why I don’t stay home (because if I did, we wouldn’t have a home!) Thanks for reading!

  10. I am late getting in on this conversation, but I still had to comment! We are not defined by whether or not we work, but rather by the choices we make and the way in which we choose to live – for ourselves and our family. As everyone has said, for some, work is a necessity, for others a choice, and neither makes us good or bad! You hit the nail on the head; it’s not all about guilt. It can be a fundamental shift in our core, and no one can predict how they are going to handle being a working mom. And as for the (I’m sure well meaning) co-worker’s comment……just duh. People know not what they do.

    1. Not late at all, Dana! Thank you for commenting. I agree that we are much more than our careers (inside, outside the home, or both). Some days I want to stay home, other days I thank the stars I have my job to escape to. I’m just glad I’m not alone in my feelings, and I know that I shouldn’t let a comment here or there get to me!

  11. Yes. I work to pay 1/2 of our mortgage on the normal house in the suburban Bridgeport CT area. Our son is 8 and I still stuggle with the issues. The after school activities we do not do because my commute does not guaranteee a 5 p.m. arrival in town. The volunteer opportunitues declined because of limited vacation time. And the constant tryint to maintain a clean house. ETC.

    1. Louise, I hadn’t even thought ahead to after-school activities! Kudos to you. We all do the best we can, and that is all we can do. PS- I always neglect the housework; P gets a better rested, less stressed mama when she’s not running around trying to keep things clean. 🙂

  12. Pingback: From a Working Mom to Stay-at-Home Moms | "C-" Mama
  13. Andi Duferense says:

    I am a father with a long experience (3 children are already adults). From a very young age, we sent them to kindergarten. In the beginning they were fine, but then they didn’t really want to go there anymore. One time I heard from my daughter that she wanted to stay and work with me. I wasn’t quite sure exactly what she meant, and then I noticed that she really liked just watching me edit videos for her friend. I realized this and started telling her that if she went to kindergarten, I would teach her how to create movies from photos she chooses and from music she likes in the evening. By the way, we did all this at . For simple needs, this program was 100% suitable. And I was satisfied, and my daughter was happy to go to kindergarten to start creating her first masterpieces in the evening.

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