There are challenges that come along with parenting, regardless of whether you stay at home full time, work at home, or work outside the home. And plenty has been written about the challenges that come with being a working mom (here’s a post by Taryn Watts about the challenges of being a working mom, and here’s another by Ashley from Balancing today). But today’s post isn’t just about why being a working parent is hard — it’s mostly about the opposite of that: the things that can make being a full-time, working parent, fantastic.
My friend Meredith Green has been a full-time working mom for a few years — she took maternity leave for 12 weeks when her older son Nolan was born, and did the same thing after her younger daughter Nora was born, but went back to working full time after each leave. I chatted with her about what she loves about the balance of being a working parent. And here, I’m sharing some of our conversation about what the five things she loves about being a working mom (and one thing she doesn’t love). If you’re interested in learning more about what Meredith thinks about being a working mom, read on!
First, what’s hard about being a working mom?
Though our conversation was mostly about what she loves about being a working mom, first, Meredith shared one thing she doesn’t love about being a working mom:
Leaving her kids, and the mom guilt that comes with it.
Mom Guilt (but not Dad Guilt)
Though Meredith’s family has a fantastic childcare provider (a licensed in-home daycare provider they found through word of mouth, who Meredith describes as “very nurturing with the kids,” “pretty laid back, but she can be strict at the same time,” and “more than someone I’m just paying; she’s like a friend.” She also shares that her childcare provider is “especially good with babies,” which was important to her and her husband when their youngest was born), Meredith still hates leaving her kids:
“I hate leaving them. I miss them. That mom guilt that comes with not being the one that’s with my kids…
I had a hard time going back after each baby was born, but it’s just become routine to go to work. There’s not like emotions anymore… [but] having to leave them, [there’s still] mom guilt. And just the idea of somebody else raising my kids, essentially, and trusting them to be with my kids for 9 hours a day.”Meredith, on mom guilt
Meredith isn’t alone in feeling that guilt. In a post for Scary Mommy, Kristen Miller Hewitt describes the “enormous guilt” tied to being a working mom — especially in instances when your baby is sick, and someone other than you is there to comfort them — as the single worst thing about her lifestyle being a working mom (read more here.)
I also asked Meredith if her husband Steve experiences any version of “Dad Guilt,” or any similar negative feelings for the same reasons as she does, and she shared,
“I don’t feel like my husband feels any of that… It’s not because he doesn’t care, but for him, [we feel] there’s no other option, so why even think otherwise?”Meredith, on the reality that moms feel a pressure that dads may not always feel
In this Romper.com post, in which the author, Dina Leygerman, discusses why being a working mom is fundamentally harder than being a working dad. Her reasoning includes pointing out that a lot of the “worrying” about the children falls to her, in a way that it doesn’t fall to her husband — a concept that feels relevant to the “mom guilt” phenomenon — and the absence of a corresponding “dad guilt” phenomenon. (She also describes how she ends up doing the bulk of the household management in her home — something Meredith also admits is the norm in her home. Like Meredith, for Dina this is, in part, due to her work hours being more manageable than her husband’s). Likely, the tendency to take on more worrying and emotional responsibility for the kids than her male spouse is due to some culturally rooted factors. But it certainly adds to why being a working mom can be harder than being a working dad. (Here’s a link again to that post.)
Meredith did share that if it were possible, she would love to work part-time, but that “it was never an option financially for me to stay home [full-time]; I was going back to work after 12 weeks.” She shared that her “ideal scenario would be to work part time… that would be incredible… because I don’t hate working — I like what I do and I like my job, but I don’t like being away from my kids,” and expressed that she feels “like it would be a better balance.”
(By the way, here’s a post by Laura Myles for Scary Mommy about the 16 realities — good and bad — that come with being a full-time working mom. Also, here’s a post from The Conversation that examines why having a working mom is not a bad thing for kids.)
5 Benefits of Being a Working Mom
There are definitely advantages to being a working mom. (Here’s a post from The Everygirl about why being a working mom is great, here’s one for Cafe Mom with 8 reasons why being a working mom benefits your kids, and here’s one from Working Mother about 11 great things about being a working mom.)
When I asked Meredith what she loved about being a working mom, she shared five specific things she loved: (1) that she’s able to “recharge” through her work, (2) adult time, (3) the routine, (4) being able to pursue her career and financial goals, and (5) that because she works, she’s able to value her time with her kids more than she might otherwise. Here are some of those reasons explained in her own words.
1) Being a working mom can mean you get to recharge
Meredith enjoys her work, so for her, she’s able to recharge through her job. As she puts it,
“I get to recharge — because my job is not stressful. It can be, but I think being a mom is more stressful.”Meredith, on why her lower-stress job is helpful to her sense of balance
Of course, she recognizes that this is only true for her because her work isn’t stressful; for working parents with high-stress jobs, this might not necessarily feel as true, but for Meredith, she feels she’s able to enjoy her work, at least in part, for this reason.
2) Being a working mom means adult interaction
As moms who don’t spend a great deal of time interacting with other adults regularly can attest to, not getting a ton of time with other grown-ups can start to drive you nuts. For Meredith, this is one of the things she’s able to avoid by working at a full-time job:
“I like the adult interaction — it keeps me mentally fit.”Meredith, on how being a working mom means more adult interaction
3) Being a working mom means you have a routine
Meredith describes herself as a planner, and shares that because she’s a working mom, there’s a set routine to each day:
“We have a really solid routine, and I’m very Type A, so I need a schedule, I need a routine. I know it can be like Groundhog Day, but I thrive on that. Obviously there can be surprises, but for the most part [there is routine].
I’m a planner and I love it, and each day is kind of the same, in a good way. If I didn’t work, I wouldn’t have that routine. Even for the kids… there wouldn’t be much routine or structure.”Meredith, on how being a working mom allows her to create more structure in her life
She also shares that because she gets to work from home once a week, she’s able to enjoy being a work-at-home parent, and explains why:
“I work from home Fridays, which is my favorite day. Nolan has pre-school and Nora still goes to daycare on Fridays, [and] if I have to [keep Nora home], I’ll do all my computer work and respond to emails while she’s awake and then phone calls when she naps.”Meredith, on her favorite day
(By the way, if you’re interested in reading more about the logistics of being a work at home mom, here’s a post about how I make being a work-at-home parent work for me.)
She also described how challenging it is not having the routine of a work day:
“I can understand — when I’m with them all day with them [alone], sometimes it’s exhausting. My husband works weekends, so I’m with them full time by myself and it’s exhausting. It’s not always exhausting, but it CAN be — I can see how doing it 24/7 as a stay at home mom, it’s just as hard of a job as working. They’re just both equally challenging in different ways.”Meredith, on how being a working mom can be challenging
4) Being a working mom means being able to pursue career and financial goals
For Meredith, being a working mom means that
“I’m able to contribute financially to our household. And, I don’t feel dependent or feel like I have to ask [my partner] for money… I can do what I want.”Meredith, on how being a working mom means she can contribute to her family financially
5) Being a working mom means appreciating your time with your kids
When I was talking to Meredith, she was able to pinpoint one specific thing she loved most about being a working mom: Because she gets less time with her kids, she feels she appreciates that time more:
“I will say because I work full time, I feel like I maximize our time together and value it more — I appreciate it more. I definitely feel like I value my time with my kids more, because I work… I value that time.”Meredith, on how being a working mom makes her appreciate her time with her kids even more
During the week, Meredith feels she gets very little time with her kids. In fact, evenings are sometimes her “least favorite time of day,” because she only gets “like two hours with my kids” since the kids are in daycare from 7am to 5pm — and, the evening hours are “constant hecticness.” Here, Meredith describes what an average weekday evening looks like:
“I do daycare drop off and pick-up, because of Steve’s schedule… So I’m busting through the doors with bags, the dog’s sprinting out the door, I usually cook dinner, and as soon as Steve gets home we eat, the kids have baths, and its bedtime for Nora… then I like to spend time with Nolan if he’s still awake. If I work out or something he’ll come hang out with me while I’m doing that, or we’ll watch a TV show or a movie together.”Meredith, on their family’s routine
Because weekdays are so hectic, Meredith and Steve focus on making weekends about family activities, and making memories as a family:
“The day Steve is off, we like to do things, and go places. I almost would prefer to do things as a family, all four of us together, because that’s so minimal.
I personally like to have things to do — a party, or a playdate, or just an event or activity to do with them, because I don’t get to do those things during the week. I hear people ask, ‘why do you always need to be doing something,’ ‘why can’t you just be at home and spend time there,’ but to me, it’s memories that I’m making… I want to have the experiences with them. So that’s why I’m really focused on having things to do as a family… I want to maximize on that while they’re little and have happy family memories… Not just the fun they have at daycare or with the sitter.”Meredith, on the importance of making memories as a family
And she and Steve also try to make memories by going on family trips together:
“We love traveling together — I wish we could do more, we go to the beach every year. We like to do weekend trips. We both ski, so we’re trying to get the kids into skiing. We did Busch Gardens. We’re going to Colorado this summer, Delaware… nothing major, but I love it.”Meredith on traveling with her family
Meredith admits that “it’s not easy” to travel with kids, but also shares,
“It doesn’t stress me out; I don’t see it as a pain in the butt. It’s not easy, but it’s not a burden. Nolan’s five and a half, and Nora’s two. It’s certainly comes with stress; thinking about the logistics of the airport that causes some anxiety! But once we’re there, we’re there. I just try to be positive and really be present.”Meredith, on the importance of being present
If you’re a full-time working parent, what are some of the things you find challenging about being a working mom or dad? What do you love about it?
P.S. – Here’s a post about the “Stay at Home Mom Shaming” phenomenon.