I entered the work force long before my children were born and stayed in the work force long after they were born. I have worked weekends, holidays and birthdays. I could be found at work caring for other people’s children while my mother watched my sick children at home. I have worked the grave yard shift so I could attend all those “special” school events. I have gone hours upon hours without sleep so I could attend a softball game or a band concert. I caught a few hours of sleep here and there on the fly so I could be “in attendance” in my child’s life. I have been criticized for being a working mother and I’ve been told that my child’s life would suffer because I chose to go to work. I’ve been told that a “good” mother sacrifices her needs and wants to stay at home with her child
Hmm. I struggled with the guilt of being a working mother for years and years. I felt guilty when I couldn’t attend the Parent Teacher Organization meetings and I felt less than a “good mother” when I couldn’t be a Home Room Mother for my child. I felt the pang of guilt when I had to decline from being a chaperone for field trips and I felt a little “different” when I attended school functions dressed in my scrubs while some of the other mothers looked as if they were going to a high-class restaurant. When I look back on my appearance, I saw me without make-up, my hair a little messy, and my work shoes costing more than than the stiletto hills of my peers (but looking far less classy), and my fingernail short and not painted. I saw the other mothers as beautiful models who wore designer clothes, fine perfume and well manicured toes. Yes, my perception was skewed. I just didn’t see it that way back then. I was programmed to believe that mothers stayed at home and catered to their children.
Although I was a horrible mother for working during my children’s formative years, I was also a “fool” for carting them and their friends to and from school functions, softball games, soccer games, athletic practice, school dances and chaperoned parties. My peers who stayed at home to care for their children did not seem to have time to drive their children to and fro to various activities. It seemed that the schedules of the parents who did not work seemed to have multiple conflicts with their children’s activities.
Although being a taxi for my children was inconvenient at times, I was more than glad to do it. I always (to my knowledge at least) knew where my children were and what they were doing. I learned that being the taxi driver to a bunch of children allowed me to fall into the background which allowed the children to say more than they normally would have if they remembered I was driving. Out of guilt, and out of love, I wanted to do what I could for my child to be a part of their life.
My children are now adults and I have had the time to reflect on the damage I have done to myself and my children. First I will address the damage I have done to myself. In feeling guilty about my career, I conceded that I was a bad mother. Looking back, I was not the type of mother who actually wanted or would have liked to be a Room Mother. I preferred to interact with children on my terms not the terms of others. This interaction was more beneficial to all involved. It made me happy and I hope, it made them happy as well. How did my working adversely affect my children. I’ve thought and thought about that question. Being a working mother made my children more independent and enabled them to make decisions on their own. Yes, they made poor decisions at times; but those poor decisions enabled them to learn and make better decisions in the future. To be honest, I can’t see where my working harmed them; in fact it molded them into adults that could trouble shoot and make good decisions.
I have often asked myself, “Why did you work when your children were young?” That answer is easy. I needed to work. I didn’t have the luxury to be a stay at home mother. My children needed food and clothing which would have been sparse if I stayed at home. Working enabled my children to participate in activities they would have not been able to participate in had I been a stay at home mother. Working enabled my children to pursue activities which they may not have been able to participate.
In a perfect world, I probably would have been a stay at home mother because that is what society thinks I should have done to be able to label myself as a good mother and role model. Now that I am older and I have the luxury to look back on my life I don’t need labels. I can honestly say that I was and am a good role model BECAUSE I was a working mother. Working enabled my children to grow into productive citizens who value others as much as themselves.
Each mother needs to do what is right for them. Each mother needs to search inside of themselves and ask the question, “Am I doing the best I can with what I have?”
Working mothers juggle life. My hat goes off to those mothers who work endlessly at juggling being in the work force and managing a home. Loving the child…..that’s the easy part. Don’t feel guilty. Know that what you do is as close to being a super hero as you can get.