All of my female friends went back to work after the birth of their first child, so when I had my baby, I just assumed I would do the same. In my circle, there was no one who mothered as a full-time career. I was surrounded by a “pro-working” environment coupled with comments from friends, family (and sometimes strangers) during my mat leave about how important it is for women to keep their employment.
You’ll get bored a few months into your maternity leave.
You’ll miss having adult conversations!
It’s harder to be at home than to be at work.
Don’t you want to keep your (financial) independence?
When the comments came from women older than myself, they often shared regrets about not working outside of the home, while my older millennial friends were fearful of walking away from everything they had worked so hard to achieve. At times, I’d even have these thoughts myself, mostly because I needed convincing that I should work a paid job rather than raise my own children. Isn’t that what you went to university for? Isn’t that why you worked for years before having children?
Two weeks before my son’s first birthday, I put him in daycare and went back to a full-time job. I did what my friends were doing, and what I thought we are all supposed to do after having children. I had never even entertained the thought I might want to stay home and see all the milestones first-hand, not just on weekends. At work, I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that I hadn’t designed the right life, for me. Finally, after the birth of my second child, I quit my job at the end of my maternity leave so I could stay home with both of my children.
There is this unspoken expectation that women are more apt to quit their job after the 2nd or 3rd child is born. Some employers might think that women can’t juggle multiple children and full-time work outside the home. And some women may never express that being at home is truly what they always wanted as a “career”. Instead, they’ll justify their stay-at-home role is easier than being a mother and an employee outside of the home. The truth is that both are hard. I’ve been a working mom and a stay-at-home mom and both life paths are really, really, freakin’ hard.
It turns out that that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach went away as soon as I became a stay-at-home mom. That feeling was my body telling me what I wanted to do, and it wouldn’t let up until I changed the design of my life. To do what’s right for you, you must first ask yourself what it is that you really want. Some women can’t fathom staying at home all day and that’s OK. Other women are denying that they want to stay home because there is the underlying message that mothering and homemaking aren’t valued as much as paid work. But not doing what you want is a huge problem.
There is value in being a stay-at-home mom if it’s what your gut is telling you to do. And you deserve to acknowledge what you want and to pursue it even if it appears counter-cultural for our time.
So my message to you – to that woman who is wavering in her decision to stay at home with her kids because her wants are being drowned out by the voices of society is this:
You don’t have to want to work AND be a mother at the same time. It’s OK to want to be a stay-at-home mom. Do what's right for you.