Editor’s Note: The following guest post is written by Cecelia Behar, one of our favorite mommy bloggers and one of the brains behind The Lil Mamas. Bookmark it ladies. After reading just a few sentences from this spitfire, you’ll realize quickly that Cecelia drums to her own beat and tells it like it is. This is why we love her.
I never wanted to have kids. I know that sounds relatively horrible coming out of a mom of two’s mouth, but it’s the truth. The life that I envisioned having when I was younger didn’t have kids in it. In fact, it didn’t have a husband either. I had always seen myself as an “independent” woman who would make her way on her own, have a fantastic and fulfilling career, and remain alone. Why didn’t I think I could be independent while also being married with kids? Well, because that’s not really the package we get sold as women. It’s sorta presented as a one-or-the-other type of deal as opposed to an all-inclusive option.
Once I did get married, got a little older, and fell in love with my nieces, having kids no longer seemed out of the question. I mean, all around me it seemed women were having babies and heading right back into their careers with their breast pumps concealed as messenger bags, nursing pads secured in their bras, and nary a postpartum bump in the road. So throughout my first pregnancy, I just assumed that’s how it would go for me. I would have the baby, love the baby, put said baby into daycare, and off to work I’d go like nothing had changed at all.
Out of all the women I knew who had children and returned to their careers after, not one – NOT ONE – ever mentioned to me that three months of maternity leave feels like three days, that the thought of leaving your newborn baby with someone else – even someone you know – could make you feel like vomiting, and that in the first month or so back at work you feel like you left your entire heart outside of your body somewhere and you literally count the minutes of the day until you can return to your baby. It sucks. I went from someone who had JUST gotten her Masters and was in a job she woke up everyday happy to go to, to someone that dreaded going to work like she was heading in for a root canal. And if the emotional aspect wasn’t hard enough to sort out, the time management factor was enough to drive me insane. How in the world is someone supposed to feed a baby, take a shower, feed a baby again, get ready for work, feed a baby yet AGAIN, and get to work on time? It felt impossible. And for a while, it WAS impossible, until it wasn’t.
I’m not totally sure when it all fell into place for me, but eventually we all found a routine that worked. We could all get everywhere we needed to be and being away from my daughter during the day got less traumatic at least. But the scheduling. And the working. And the parenting. Nothing ever stops for a Working Mom. Ever. Now, I’m not saying that’s not the case for a Stay At Home Mom. It is. When I first returned to work, I went back at a part-time schedule, and I would always joke that the days I went into my office were my days “off” – except I wasn’t joking. Staying at home with kids is hard for a million reasons, the biggest for me being that I felt like I could never get anything done. I’m someone who needs to finish things I start. It may take me a while sometimes, but if I start a chore or a project, I need to finish it before I move to the next thing. Yeah – that’s pretty much impossible when you’re a new mom. It felt like EVERY TIME I put my kid down or got her occupied with something and actually started to clean or do laundry or even just pick up the phone for a second, she needed me. And try as I might to fight her on that opinion, she wasn’t buying it. She needed me RIGHT THEN and I needed to stop what I was doing and hold her. There were days that I wouldn’t finish cleaning our house until midnight because I couldn’t put her down for more than a few minutes at a time. And although I was exhausted the next morning as I dragged myself to work, I at least knew I was going to be able to SIT. And sitting is goooood. And very underrated. Try not sitting for an entire weekend, and you’ll see what I mean.
Yet, once I was at work, I also felt torn. I was thrilled to have showered and have make-up on, but I also missed being home with my daughter and felt horribly guilty that I wasn’t with her – not to mention sometimes ENJOYING that I wasn’t with her. By the way, and I think I speak for all Working Moms here, the worst – seriously the absolute WORST thing you can say to a Working Mother is, “Wow. I just don’t know how you can let someone else raise your kids. I just wasn’t willing to do that.” Ummm. EXCUSE ME? First of all, no one else is “raising” my children. They are HELPING me with my children. Seven hours of the day, two of which they probably spend sleeping, four or five times a week does not = a lifetime. Why would you SAY that to someone? While you’re at it, why don’t you also tell me that I look so much “older since I had kids” and that I “will never get my body back!” and remind me of all the things I am “missing while at work.” I mean. COME ON! Do you think I don’t KNOW that? Do you think it’s easy to tell your kid that you can’t be a field trip chaperone because you need to go to work? Do you think I don’t beat myself up enough for having to half-ass projects and craft-type-thingies because I don’t have the time? OK. In truth, I’m not so crafty, but you hear what I’m saying. I already feel bad enough about the time that I miss, you don’t need to make me feel WORSE. Plus, why do people assume that we have a CHOICE other than to return to work? Not all of us do. I didn’t and I wish I had. As hard as being a Stay At Home Mom is, I would chose it every time if I was in the position to, but I’m not and most families are in the same boat as I’m in. Listen, I’m lucky that I have a job – especially one that I still enjoy most of the time – but if I could have, I would have stayed home for the first few years of both of my girls’ lives. It wasn’t an option so I did what I had to do and that was return to work. Being away from your kid is hard enough – no one needs the added judgment, thanks.
That being said, I now find it slightly hilarious when childless friends and family members of mine remark about how they KNOW that when they have kids they are going straight back to work and won’t for a minute feel bad or worry about leaving their kids in daycare. Ahh. I remember those days. That blissful ignorance that allows you to pull statements right out of your tushy about things you know not a thing about. Enjoy those days, childless friends and family, and pray that those with kids have super short memories. Ha! We actually do have terrible memories after we have kids (each pregnancy shrinks your brain slightly — true story) but the things said to us about what you will definitely do and NOT do when YOU have kids will stay with us until our graves. You’ve been warned.
So I’m a Working Mom of two now. And it’s hard. And as they are getting older, it feels like it’s getting harder. There’s homework to help with, extracurricular activities to go back and forth to and from, and play dates to keep up with. There never seems to be enough time in the day and I tend to feel that there is never enough of me to go around. Plus, when I am at work, I’m thinking about the kids and what I need to get done at home and what I CAN get done before I get home while I don’t have the kids with me. Once I’m home, I’m thinking about the work I need to get done tomorrow and I feel the time flying by as I try to get the kids unpacked from their day, ready for the next day, have dinner, run baths, and get them into bed so my husband and I can actually spend some time together too – which is ALSO important and very easy to have go by the wayside if you aren’t careful. There are some days I only see my kids for a handful of hours, and after a full day of work, I don’t even feel like I have anything left for them during those hours. And sometimes I really hate myself for that, until I take a minute and remind myself that for them, it’s not about quantity, it’s quality. They are old enough now to know that I have to get things done around the house when we first walk in the door, and most days they know to let me do that. And at least one of them is old enough to tell me to “drink some bourbon” after I’m done, because if I do, it is VERY likely that I will finally relax enough to come join the karaoke party that they are throwing themselves in the playroom. That’s right. I’m a working mom of two that can do a relatively kick-ass rendition of “Wide Awake” by Katy Perry. What of it? Or maybe it’s the bourbon and my kid’s applause that just make me think it’s kick-ass? Eh. Whatever. It’s quality time making an idiot out of myself. That makes it kick-ass.
I just re-read my statement about feeling like there is never enough of me to go around. I have a suspicion that a Stay At Home Mom would tell you the exact same thing. Maybe it’s because when you become a mom (or a parent in general) you have given away part of your best self to someone else in the very best way possible. And as hard as it all is, it’s completely worth it. So no matter where you are physically during the day – as long as you love your kids – that IS enough. You are enough.