I was at a social gathering a few nights ago with several people I’ve known for a long time, and a few who don’t know me at all.
We watched The Heart to Lead, a film about the potential of feminine leadership, and when it was over we started sharing our thoughts about some of the issues touched on in the movie.
A woman I don’t know announced (and, mind you, this is an extremely succinct summary of what she said) that she couldn’t understand why a woman would decide to stay home with her children if she could afford to send them to quality daycares or schools, assuming those quality daycares and schools were available. In her opinion, women could be contributing more to society if they used their college educations than they could by wasting time at home with their children.
I wasn’t expecting that. I mean, I know that attitude is out there – and everyone is entitled to their own – but it wasn’t really on my mind in relation to what I had just seen on the screen. It hit right at the heart of … well, me – my heart. My apparently very fragile, sensitive-to-criticism heart.
When I was pregnant with Beans I fully expected to go back to work, and for him to spend most of his days in one of those quality daycare centers. When the time came, I couldn’t do it. It didn’t feel right to me – it didn’t feel right for him.
[Disclaimer: If you’re a mom or a mom-to-be, this is in no way to be construed as advice about what should feel right to you. Obviously, I didn’t know how I would feel until I had already given birth, and I certainly I don’t deign to tell any other mother that my decision is the one she should make. Every woman has to make the choice about going to work in an office or staying home with her kids on her own – and every one of us has her own list of criteria to consider first. And, yes, there are quality daycares and schools out there that can nurture your children while you use that college education in an actual office with real live grown-ups.]
I do work, though, albeit from my own home and at the mercy of my children’s [increasingly complex] schedules. I didn’t choose the easy way out, for sure – staying home and working is one of the most difficult things I can conceive of doing, and there’s precious little reprieve. I hope that someday if/when I decide to apply for a job somewhere, a potential employer might appreciate not only my skills but also my ability to manage my time, deal with the unexpected and conquer the distractions and still meet a deadline.
I wasn’t sure this work-at-home-mom (WAHM to those of you who know the lingo) thing would work for my family financially (frankly, there are still days when I’m not sure it is working for my family financially. We’re not starving and no one’s had to go nekkid, though, so I persevere.).
Still, I felt strongly enough about it that I took a leap of faith to find out and, thankfully, Matt has been supportive through it all. Six years later, I’m still here, now with Beans and Tallulah, and I don’t regret that.
What I do regret is allowing myself to react to other women who are critical of my decision. I clearly need to focus more on my inner self and figure out how to get past all that. And I think I need to spend more time hanging out with my “sisters” for moral support. You know who you are. You may or may not all agree with me, but you don’t condemn, and I love you for that.