Who wants to work with me?

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.

5 thoughts on “Who wants to work with me?

  1. Great post, Sarah. I think my kids and I both benefit from spending time apart, though I’d love for it to be a little less time. But, right now working part-time wouldn’t make sense for us financially, plus I really do like my current full-time job. My mother is constantly criticizing me for working full-time with kids, though in an indirect sort of way, which doesn’t help with the guilt.

  2. I still feel some guilt even though I’m happier when I’m working. And when Mama is happy, everyone is happier. I think flexible hours are key. I totally agree with this industry of enjoy every minute, especially after losing a baby. It’s hard to resist the implicit guilt factor there, but I’m not at my best when I’m home all day. I hope you find the schedule that works for you.

  3. I totally agree too. I can’t enjoy my son that much all day everyday. I I too think I am happier when I am working, although the time job with a long commute Is too much sometimes. But I have the summer off and that’s huge for me. That’s our together time. I would love to work part-time but I also feel like those jobs are limited. But don’t feel bad, Sarah. I think there’s many moms like us out there. But I agree with Brooke too, it’s harder after losing a child.

  4. I’m in the same boat! I have regular freelance work, so that’s nice but I’m itching to get back to something more. Of course, when my son was little I thought part-time was the perfect compromise, but somehow I just feel as though I’m doing both half-well and not getting paid enough.

  5. What a great polemic. I took about 5 1/2 months off for my first baby, then taught 1-2 classes each semester at a university for three semesters and was gone for a total of about 10-15 hours a week. Took a stop-time-to-degree leave for a year after 2nd baby and am on a non-teaching stipend while I finish some research before heading back to the job market in the near (???) future. I want the perfect job where I leave after the kids go to school and am home before they are. I can have it all, right? There are so many factors and I want to “be there,” although I think that these days that’s a polysemic expression. I feel like my being mostly home has been beneficial to my kids and I’m grateful I had that option, but it’s also nice to have something to go back to. I don’t want to get to the point where everyone’s lives are moving on and mine is in stasis.

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