As I read about my high school friend’s promotions and job offers sporting my messy bun and juice box stain, I see the life I had planned for and it’s hard not to be envious.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy for them. They have worked their way up the ladder and are crushing it. When I first watched them get job offers while I nursed my newborn and wrangled the toddler, I simply saw it as them doing things in a different order.
I was building the family while they were building the career…Then, someday, we would switch.
Now, as I watch them start their families with a solid career already in place, I’m wondering if I had the order all wrong.
Before we had kids, I worked as a Human Resource Assistant and, as I screened resumes, I was told to seriously question or toss anyone with significant career gaps. Somedays I worry my choice to stay at home to raise these beautiful girls will be seen as a career gap.
Let me be clear here, I love my kids. I have never and will never regret them coming when they did, no matter how rapid fire it felt. Still, as I looked at those positive pregnancy lines while holding our nine-month-old, only two semesters into my MBA with the career yet to really begin, I knew my “take over the business world” dream wouldn’t look like I thought it would.
Let’s Stop the Parenthood-by-Comparison Guilt
I know that we’re blessed staying home is even an option. Many parents long to stay at home but finances don’t allow. I am incredibly grateful that I’ve been able to see the firsts, take random picnic lunches at the park, and just be there for all of the little, ordinary moments.
But I think it’s because I know how fortunate we are I feel guilty even saying I want to go back to work, as if having that desire makes me an awful mom.
That’s the problem with today’s parenthood-by-comparison game. We are all way too guilty for what we’re not doing.
Whether we’re stay-at-home parents wanting to work, working parents missing milestones, bottle feeding moms wishing we could breastfeed, or overburdened parents lacking time to go to games and recitals, we are all carrying guilt.
We want more time with our kids.
We want to put our education to use.
We want our lives to not revolve around nap times and potty breaks.
We want to be home for dinner for once.
The Freedom to Reassess
Our third little cutie is enrolled in preschool this fall. As the “All Kids In School” phase of parenthood quickly approaches, the desire to go back to work is just as strong as it’s always been. And I can’t help but think such a strong and lasting a desire shouldn’t be ignored for the sake of myself and for my family.
Maybe there’s no right or wrong order to the work and family shuffle. As these priorities ebb and flow when situations, moves, finances, or kid’s ages change, we should give ourselves the freedom to reassess.
If you’re caught up in the, “What am I doing with my life?” quest that many of us millennials find ourselves in, try changing the question you’re asking.
The Right Questions to Ask
- Replace, “Should I work?” with, “What would I be giving up?”
If I did go back, I might miss being able to nap after the kids keep me up all night, wearing a ponytail and joggers whenever I so please, running errands during the day, or picking up the kids from school. Adding daycare costs or giving up the option to join my husband’s work trips might not be worth it.
- Replace “Should I stay at home?” with, “Would we thrive more as a family if I worked?”
Or maybe coming home to each other, the house being cleaner with me and the kids gone, having more to add to dinner conversations, and challenging myself in a new way would be life-giving.
Give yourself grace to reassess regularly
Every time situations, grades, opportunities, or ages change, you have the freedom to reassess.
I still don’t know if the answer is today, but saying no doesn’t mean never. I truly believe that someday, when the priorities allow, going back to work would be good, not only for me but for my family.
And, who knows, it may just make me an even better mom…