From the time my son was conceived, I asked myself, “how can I balance being a working mom?” It was no secret that I wanted to go back to work, and my husband was 100% supportive in that.
I love to work, I love my field and I love making my own money—even if the money isn’t great, #hellosocialwork! One of the hardest realities I faced in new motherhood was the lack of my own paycheck hitting direct deposit while I was away on maternity leave .
Besides financial gains, my work also keeps my mind in a relative perspective. My profession deals with acutely psychotic, predominantly homeless populations. Therefore, it has become an easy reflex to have reflective “heart checks” (reality checks) regarding the severity (or lack thereof) of stressors in my life.
The fact that I spilled my coffee, my kid pooped as we were walking out the door or that I forgot to make my smoothie (again) becomes absolutely minuscule in comparison to the feats my patients are facing every day. With this relativity comes gratitude. My work has taught me to be thankful for my coping skills, thankful for my ability to communicate needs with my partner and thankful for a brain that does not betray my ability to maintain reality and self-awareness.
So, I’m a working mom… and I love it. Not only that, but I feel encouraged that I get this opportunity over being a stay at home mom.
Stay at home moms (SAHM’s) are teachers, entertainers, short order cooks, house keepers, etc… That’s a job I feel overwhelmed by. Though the expectations from SAHM’s can run very similar to some I experience at work (such as problem solving with a very demanding population) the thought of stepping into this role for my own family without the ability to unplug made me feel anxious .
When I’m with my son, the choices I make directly affect the choices he has to live with. At my job, however, I’m able to distantly facilitate choices being made by my patients (or on behalf of them) for betterment of their lives. The merit of those pressures weigh differently on my conscience.
Although, I haven’t directly sourced the anxiety for why the two feel so differently weighted, much stems from the explicit mandate of doing these things daily with Pinterest creativity and an Instagram photo op moments. At my work, I know my “influence” and guidance can only create healthy patterns—there’s a clear line to walk. At home, I walk a crooked line, taxed with a melting pot of social media posts chiding me for all the things I could be doing in “betterment” of my child.
This work is exactly where I want to be, yet, I still have my doubts, and heavy doses of mom guilt for not wanting to be a SAHM. I’m not free from the pangs of missing my child while I’m away, but sometimes the days can slip away from me.
My work demands a fast pace, and insists my full attention. In fact, most days I’m so busy I almost pee my pants. From the time I arrive, to the time I leave, my thoughts and efforts are geared toward the needs of others . Countless times, I’ve gone through the day only to realize I have no idea how my son’s day went . Things I usually do to connect with him, like checking his daycare app, or texting with my husband, who is with him right now, are forgotten .
Occupationally, I teach empowerment, self-awareness and mindfulness. In personal practice, however, the shame and guilt following the days I forgot to check in seemed to be all-consuming. Convicted by my own lack of coping, I began to pinpoint my own practice of mindfulness to connect with my son throughout the day. In sharing this list, I hope that all working moms know they’re not alone, and that it takes a lot of effort to become aware of your needs, and make a proactive plan to meet them.
Here are a few of mine:
- I carry a paci in my pocket. Every time I reach in for a pen or keys I receive a gentle reminder of my little one.
- I check his daycare app, or text my husband; I set aside time to check in . (Even if it’s only a minute or two!)
- I bring my son into conversation more— using him as a focal point with coworkers. Connecting them and myself with his new words , or a story I found funny .
- I changed my inner dialogue from “ I wonder if he’s ok ?” to “ I wonder what he learned today? ”, from “Is he going to be less bonded to me ?” to “ developing friendships and different attachments makes for a healthy well rounded child”, and from “Am I being selfish for wanting to work” to “ having passion for more than one thing is not selfish”.
- When I walk in the door, I try to put my phone away, and leave work at work. I choose to engage fully . When I’m home , I’m home . (This is my hardest , and a constant work in progress.)
When I think about “learned behaviors” for my son, I want to engage with him in a practice of grace. I hope that by extending grace to himself, he will also excel in grace toward others. I would love to say I’ve identified my specific needs, embraced them 100%, and no longer struggle with mom guilt, but that would make me a robot and not a woman. So instead, I try to celebrate the days I succeed and gain better understanding on the days I struggle.
I’m essential personnel, which means I’ve been working through the pandemic. The steps I’ve taken to establish connection while I’m away from my son feel extra necessary right now, and are a comfort to me in the unknown.
To all my SAHM , y’all are badasses. To all my working moms, go ahead girl go ahead get down.