I did not plan to be a stay-at-home mom. I always thought that I would work part time for a while after having kids and then return to a full-time job when they were older. That plan worked for a couple of years. I shifted to a part-time position after I had Eleanor and was very happy that I got to work and have a lot of time with her. My plan needed contingencies though. I did not know what to do when I learned, while pregnant, that I would be losing my job. And I really did not know what to do when that baby I was carrying died.
I’ve been working as a freelance writer and editor for the past three years, when I can find work. That’s the catch. I am always searching for work. I should be constantly pitching story ideas to a bunch of editors, but I’m not finding a lot of inspiration while grocery shopping and cleaning house out in the suburbs. (Maybe I should write about how those new laundry tablets are a trick to get us to spend more on detergent.)
When is the right time to go back to work? I’ve thought a lot about that. I would love for Henry to be able to attend the same little half-day preschool that Eleanor attended. But that would require my staying home for another four years, and I am itching for something to do. I beat myself up a lot for wanting to go back to work because it seems that most of the stay-at-home parents I know are very happy in their roles. Plus, there is an entire industry built around enjoy-every-minute/it-goes-so-fast/I-miss-those-days.
Is it OK for me to say that I would enjoy my children more if we spent less time together? I can’t enjoy them for 14 straight hours every single day. I’ve tried. I would love to have an intellectual challenge and talk to other adults. I would be a happier person and probably a better mother because of it. And frankly, I think Henry is growing weary of me. He’s reaching that age where he really wants to see other kids.
All of this is to say that I have started looking for a job. In a perfect world, I would find something that was 25 or 30 hours a week, but I know how rare those jobs are. So I’m looking for a full-time job with some flexibility. The further I get into this parenting thing, the more I see that returning to work will be daunting no matter when I do it. The kids will always have the summers off and will always have after-school activities.
When the mom guilt gets too heavy, I try to imagine Eleanor as an adult. I would love for her to feel that she can pursue her own goals and still be a great mom. I certainly wouldn’t criticize her for wanting to work while raising kids, so why am I so hard on myself?
If you have overcome the parental guilt, fill me in. And if you know of a great job opening, tell me about that, too.