By Amy S.
Guilt is too often the calling card of working moms. Society sends working moms -- all moms -- mixed signals. Stay-at-home moms are often treated as "less thans" and their work is often not valued as "real work." Working moms are chided for "wanting it all" and prioritizing work over their family. Ironically, if you asked a working mom why she's working, she'd probably mention her family first.
I enjoy working. Just putting that out there makes me feel like someone will judge me for it. But I admit it, I enjoy working. I love my job and the opportunities it provides to learn new things, challenge myself and be on a great team. That said, I have plenty of working-mom guilt. I spend my days walking a tightrope to balance family and career.
Lately, I've been thinking about the positive ways my working has influenced my daughter's life. (It's easy to focus on the financial positives, but I wanted to think outside of those, to the less obvious positives.) The older she gets, the more positives I am seeing. So I've listed a few here to remind myself on the days when the balancing act is a little more difficult:
1. Olivia has loving relationships with some very special adults outside of her family. She knows she can trust other adults to care for her and love her when her parents are not with her. She adores her daycare providers and preschool teachers.
2. Olivia's time with in-home providers and at preschool provides unique and fun opportunities. A firefighter recently came to her class to talk when they did a unit on community helpers. Recently, Olivia was in heaven when the preschool hosted "pony day." Her in-home provider takes her to storytime at the library, the neighborhood park, etc. I'm lucky because I know she's doing the very things I'd do if I was home with her.
3. Other providers have been instrumental in teaching Olivia so many things that we, particularly as first-time parents, wouldn't have even known how to teach her. (In many cases, we don't realize she's capable of learning things yet that her other providers DO know she's fully capable of!)
We were recently pleasantly surprised when she sat down at our computer and began using the mouse -- correctly! We tried a few times to teach her how to use a computer mouse, but it never stuck. She has computer time every Friday at preschool and they were the ones who have taught her so much of what she knows about the computer.
4. As parents, we have also learned so much from Olivia's providers and teachers. Whenever I have a question, they're the first ones I go to. They've had years of experience and also know her personality and what may work for her. That insight is better than any parenting book.
5. From what I've seen (and read), toddlers and preschoolers really appreciate and need order and a routine. Olivia seems to thrive on the routine that we follow as a working family. To be fair, I know many stay-at-home moms who excel at creating and sticking to a family routine. But speaking for myself, I'm afraid if I were at home, we'd have a sad excuse for a routine. Sending Olivia to daycare and eventually to preschool, forced us to create a routine that works for her. It's not a schedule -- and it's not set in stone -- but it does provide a general guideline for the day. It's comforting to her to generally know what comes next, and we've been following a similar routine since she was about three months old. (It just repeats far fewer times each day now that she's older!)
There are other positives of my being a working mom -- big and little -- for our family. But these are a good and important start.
Amy S. is a 32-year-old married, working mom to Olivia, age three. She lives in Virginia.