The double standard of “missing out on kids’ childhood”

One of the reasons moms weigh the decision whether to resume working or stay home with the baby is the feeling that we’ll miss out on his childhood. I understand this sentiment—when I was pregnant, I wanted to find any way to stay at home with the baby so that I could spend more time with him. With most working people clocking in some nine hours at the office plus whatever commute they have, time seems limited when you only get to see your kid a few hours of the day.

This discussion isn’t anything new. We moms discuss all this and more: Some women battle with working mom guilt. Others have to weigh whether to sacrifice potential career growth in lieu of being more available for our kids. And more of us struggle to balance motherhood and careers and having it all (as Taiia My Brown Baby writes).

But this isn’t a discussion on staying at home versus working, or who exactly is “raising our kids” when we go back to work, or whether or not we could truly balance motherhood and careers, or even whether we’re really missing out on our kids’ childhoods to begin with.

Instead, I want to talk about the double standard: Why don’t we ask these same questions of dads?

The decision to go back to work or stay at home often falls on the mother’s shoulders, but in this era where women work just as much as men, we still expect men to continue working while women are the ones to decide whether they need to go back to work or stay at home.

Maybe there’s some sort of biological, evolutionary explanation to this. Maybe women are the more nurturing of the gender and therefore would feel more inclined to consider staying at home. Maybe it’s as simple as that.

But whenever I hear moms bemoaning other moms for missing out on their kids’ childhood or pitying working moms because someone else is raising their kids, I can’t help but wonder about their husbands and think, “Does that mean then that your husbands are missing out on your kids’ childhood?” We don’t tsk tsk when dads work and only see their kids a few hours of the day just as working moms do, yet we create this guilt trap on moms and place the decision on ourselves when maybe we need to start including dads in this equation.

There’s no doubt that someone has to work. Rare is the situation where both parents can avoid working for a few years. Perhaps the next closest arrangement is where both parents work from home and take turns in caring for the kids, as a former coworker of mine did. But more often than not, at least one parent brings in an income.

But why do we assume dads will continue to work regardless of having children or not? Why don’t dads debate whether they should take a sabbatical for a few years, or choose the path of homemaker while mom brings in the bucks? Maybe we’re still too fresh from the generations where dads work and moms stay home. Or maybe it really is that biological makeup that defines genders and drives women to want to be with their kids more so than men.

Nonetheless, we need to do a better job about balancing these expectations nowadays. When moms make a decision to go back to work or not, that discussion needs to include dads too. Maybe we need to discuss how both parents feel about going back to work, and which situation works best for both mom and dad instead of making this a “mom and career” issue.

Thankfully no one has yet to tsk tsk me about my decision to work or wonder how on earth I could be missing out on my toddler’s childhood (hint: I’m not). I’m pretty sure no one has ever wondered the same question of my husband. I actually thought about this topic mostly from reading mom boards, and how easily we pity working moms for missing out on said childhood or burden ourselves with the decision to work or not, as we are the only ones who should be weighing our options. Maybe that’s why we hardly hear about “working dad guilt.”

Before we feel bad for moms missing out on their kids’ childhood, let’s consider whether we would feel just as bad for dads as well.

Have you wondered if dads miss out on kids’ childhood just as much as moms?

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How to transition back to work after maternity leave

How to transition back to work after maternity leave
The other day, I walked in to the office and noticed a coworker who just returned from maternity leave. “Welcome back!” I told her. We discussed the usual baby talk (“I never knew breastfeeding could be so hard!” she revealed) as she settled in to her desk.

Later, as I was grabbing a cup of tea, I ran into her roaming the hallways. Apparently she was looking for the new room designated solely for pumping (in my days, I had to pump in the HR room—not cool as I was almost walked in on!). Neither of us knew where this mystery room was located. Watching her walk around the office with her tote bag containing her pump and storage bottles, I clearly remembered my transition back to work, and how I too made a mad scramble to find a room, lugging my pumping bag as well.

Though for the most part, I was able to transition back to work fairly smoothly. I followed most of the tips below, while the ones I didn’t, I wish I had:

  • Schedule a meeting with your supervisor a week before returning. During this meeting, discuss your working status (are you returning full-time or part-time?), make adjustments to your schedule if needed (will you come in and leave earlier?) and learn what’s been going at work in your absence (any shifts in employees or impending projects you should be aware of, for instance). I met with my boss at a nearby coffee shop and in that 45-minute meeting, we caught up with what’s new at work as well as established my new schedule.
  • Find good childcare. Admittedly, my husband and I didn’t establish our childcare situation until a mere two weeks before my maternity leave was due to finish. Thankfully, we lucked out and made arrangements with my aunt. Having good childcare can ease anxiety or worry you may have about returning to work. Additionally, working mom guilt often stems from a dissatisfaction with childcare.
  • On the same note, schedule a run through with the nanny if you have one. Pick a date close to your return to work and run through the same hours so that both nanny and baby can get used to each other. The nanny will also be better acquainted with your schedule as well as the baby’s. Show her how the baby likes to sleep, how to operate any gear you may have (baby carriers, for instance) and other quirks and preferences the baby may have.
  • Prior to leaving for maternity leave, confirm with HR which room you can use to pump. For breastfeeding moms like myself and my coworker, finding out where the pumping room is located will help eliminate another hassle on your first day back to work. I remember that our HR staff didn’t get in as early as I did, so I had to make do and use any old room, hoping no one would walk in.
  • Similarly, obtain any keys to the nursing room beforehand, and find out who else will be using the room to coordinate any schedules you may have or define your “in use” indicators (my coworkers and I made our own custom signs to indicate to one another that the room was in use).
  • Buy a double pump. Staying motivated to keep breastfeeding can be difficult, and nothing makes pumping more difficult than doubling your pumping time. Take it from someone who used a single pump for nine months: halve your pumping time and invest in a double pump.
  • Pack everything the night before. As tired as you may be in the evenings, you’ll be even more tired and probably dumber in the morning. So lay out your outfit, pack your lunch, leave your purse by the door and everything that needs to leave with you and try to do as much as you can in the evening.
  • If possible, return mid-week, on a Wednesday or Thursday for instance. That way the rest of week won’t loom like one interminable saga.
  • Print a list of things you need to bring and hang it by your door. I can’t remember the number of times I’ve had to rush back home because I forgot yet another storage bag, my cell phone or lunch for the day.
  • Bring a picture of your little one. I made sure to email myself a photo of my baby so that I could set it as my desktop photo. I also have a physical photo on my desk. When the day proves tough to handle, one quick look at his face usually sends me smiling.

These tips work for my scenario, particularly that I pumped, hired a nanny (or relative) and worked in an office. Other situations may require different tips; for instance, moms who work in a non-office environment like retail or a hospital, work from home or run their own businesses, as well as moms who use day care. That said…

What tips can you offer moms making the transition back to work after maternity leave? For those of who you don’t work in an office environment, what advice would you give pregnant women returning to work? And for those who use day care, what worked best for you to help you transition back to work smoothly?

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Why I don’t bother with working mom guilt

I keep hearing about this guilt I’m supposed to feel because I’m a mom who works. Apparently I should beat myself up because I don’t get to see my toddler several hours in the day, that someone else is caring for him while I’m in the office or that I can’t seem to keep my home spotless.

Instead, I’m one of those moms who feel zero guilt when it comes to my toddler and working.

And it’s not because I’m a workaholic—I don’t work crazy hours or check my work email while on vacation. Sure, I enjoy what I do in the office, work hard, excel in my field and get along well with my coworkers, but seriously, if I won a gazillion dollars, I’d probably be outta there in a second (okay, maybe in two weeks). So while having a career is important for many moms, getting paid isn’t at the top of my fulfillment list.

Why then the lack of guilt when it comes to working instead of spending time with my toddler? Because I’m doing the best I can. When I’m with LO, I consciously have my parenting cap on (most of the time). I look for opportunities for him to learn and thrive, whether it’s through reading books, making crafts or exploring our natural surroundings. I make sure he knows he’s loved and cared for, both when it’s easy and when more patience is called for. When I’m not with him, I’m reading parenting books, blogging about parenting, or talking to my husband about how we can improve as parents. Almost everything I do caters to the well-being of my son.

In short, I think I’m a damn good mom.

You may have your own ways of wearing your parenting cap that’s different from mine, but if you’re like most moms I know, we all bust our asses doing what’s best for our kids. (Wow, I just said “damn” and “asses” in one blog post! Apologies to my nine-year-old niece who reads this blog.)

Sometimes guilt is confused with desire: it’s okay that I want to be home with my toddler instead of sitting in an office. As difficult as it felt to return to work after maternity leave, there was still no reason to feel guilty. The desire to spend more time with my baby shouldn’t make me feel guilty because I can’t. Some families have the option for one parent to stay at home; others don’t. I wish I could see my toddler more often, but that would mean a significant pay decrease which wouldn’t be prudent for us at this moment.

I also heard from a few moms who feel guilty for working whenever they come home and realize that they still have to unload the dishwasher, clean the toilet and pay the bills. Especially when everything in the house was spotless before kids, adjusting to a kid-infested house could take some getting used to. But seriously, we have kids. Maybe even a bunch of them. My home is hardly going to look anything like how it used to look, and even less than what I see in magazines or catalogs. I love the fact that I can now pull out the “we have a kid” card whenever I realize I haven’t watered the plants in three weeks or that there are crayon marks on the table. Those are the marks of a family blessed with a kid, not of  an incompetent mom.

Which brings me to my last point: we can’t do it all. We’re quite the conundrum—we’re supposed to be stay-at-home moms so our kids can spend time with us, but be working moms so they know women kick butt in the workforce too. We can’t miss out on any of our baby’s “firsts,” but we have to be the top performer in our department. We have to tend to our crying baby or fussy toddler even though the project is due in two hours. Too many expectations rest on our shoulders and we can’t bear every single one of them.

We’re moms—complete with flaws, ambitions, and the choices we make. So when that guilt starts creeping up again, pull out your “we have a kid” card and remind yourself that you’re doing your best.

Do you feel guilty for being a working mom? How do you handle and appease this guilt? Is there anything you can change about your situation to alleviate the guilt?

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Working mom vs. stay at home mom

Go back to work or stay at home? This is the conundrum mothers face at the end of maternity leave. I on the other hand, decided to do both. I go in to the office 3 days out of the week and am with my baby the other two.

I considered staying at home with the little guy full time, but taking care of him alone during maternity leave was difficult (granted he was much younger). But I also didn’t want to have the same schedule I had because I wanted him to be with his parents as much as possible. Now I feel like I have a nice balance between working in the office and being with him at home. And of course we got really lucky with childcare; not only is my aunt someone we trust and who lives near us, but also someone who genuinely loves our son. That definitely eases my “working mom guilt.”

Despite waking up early and tiptoeing around the apartment getting ready, I enjoy coming in to the office. I can focus with little interruption and relish the luxuries that I can’t have at home, like slowly savoring a hot cup of tea. But I also like staying home with him. It can be stressful since I still work from home one of those days, but the household is generally less chaotic since we don’t have to transport him anywhere (and I don’t have to be anywhere at a certain time like the other days). He’s good fun and I’m glad that he spends a majority of his time with his mama.

It’s unfortunate that there’s sometimes a divide between working moms and stay at home moms. After almost two months with this arrangement, I can attest that neither one is easier than the other. Almost every mom out there is doing her best for her family, and we need to support one another and the decisions we make. Because whether we work outside the home or not, at the end of the day, ALL of us are tired from our jobs.