After roughly 16 total weeks of maternity leave (4 prior to delivery and 12 post delivery), I have returned to work. Sadly, this is often viewed as an extensive amount of time off to bond with your baby. Newborns are work (well, kids in general are and it never changes, but newborns are like fussy lumps that don’t have the ability to interact yet). Around 3 months of age, babies will start to smile and show appreciation for all the back breaking work that parenting involves. All this to say, I’m a working parent again. I now have to juggle a hectic morning routine to get two kids out the door.
Truth: Two kids are exponentially harder to manage than one. I just wanted to state this. I think everyone knows this and hasn’t questioned this.
Lie: If you work, your kids won’t know you as the primary caregiver and you are being selfish for working. You should feel guilty for wanting time away from your kids.
Yes, I have heard the above statement. It is also often thought that the woman’s place is in the home. Ugh. While I’d like to be home with my children, a woman’s choice to work or stay home should be respected. Currently, I have to work. My husband owns his own construction company and is building clientele. It takes time and as such, I’m the primary wage earner for the time being. There are benefits to working. When I had one kid and stayed home (like the 4 weeks prior to the birth of my second child), I had alone time. (Alone time: nap time…that is if your toddler naps.) Now that I have two children (two under two to be specific), I didn’t really have a moment to myself. As such, I could barely jot out a blog post; sorry for my absence during that time. I can find time to write in between sample analysis and preparation at work.
Like I said though, there are benefits to working:
It might be a bit too graphic for a more conservative audience, but I can poop in peace. There is nothing more enjoyable (okay, yes, I’m exaggerating a bit) than pooping without a cheerleader. I could close the door at home, but I’m trying to encourage my potty training toddler that using a toilet is normal and I’d rather have her cheering me on than screaming while shoving her hands underneath the door. (Cheering on: her head between my legs saying, Poo! Yes, parenting is a test of how much personal space you are willing to have invaded, it is exhausting and wildly amusing.)
For coffee drinkers, you can FINALLY finish a hot cup of coffee. At home, you’ll start to make your coffee and then have an infant needing to nurse, a toddler tugging on you, or a dish you need to clean in order to feed your ravenous toddler (who ate 10 minutes ago and said they weren’t hungry anymore but now that you are getting involved in something else he or she has decided they need more food and as such, your attention). When you are home, you will set the cup down to attend to these other errands. You will either return to this cup an hour later and it is now lukewarm and decide to down it in the 10 free seconds you have to yourself or you’ll find it 3 days later coated with a mystery film (probably from stuff your toddler decided needed to be thrown into the cup you forgot about but they managed to climb up to when your back was briefly turned). Ah, the sweet (or rather bitter since I drink mine black) quenching of caffeine.
You can have adult conversations. When you stay home, you can get out when you want to. However, the effort it will take to get multiple kids dressed and out the door is sometimes daunting. You can do it and it is enjoyable once you finally make it out, but the time to reach that point can be overwhelming and oppressive. As such, you resolve to stay home even though you know that your house will be torn apart since you have a toddler who will take out toys the moment you put them away and will pull on your ankles when you are trying to wash a dish. Since you stay home, there aren’t other adults around (usually). Most of your conversations will involve animal noises or redirecting your curious toddler. Being able to have an adult conversation is immensely satisfying and can help maintain sanity when you return home and now have to parent.
I do miss my children and my desire is to be home, well, at least part time. I’ve finally realized that I do need some time outside of the home and away from my kids so that I can recharge and be a better mother. When I get intellectual stimulation I feel like a person, like an individual who is who God made her to be. Yes, motherhood is part of who God has made me to be, but it is not the whole and when all I do is mother, so much of my identity is lost in that sole role. I love my children, but it is okay to want to be more than just a mom and pursue avenues that can fulfill that. This does not mean you are trying to be supermom. It simply means you want to feel more than just a pack mule with very little appreciation.
Please, stop feeling guilty and give yourself license to take care of yourself too. Kids notice your stress level and if you don’t occasionally take time for your interests, you won’t be able to parent well. (The degree to which each person feels this need will vary and that is okay too.) Also, kids get social interaction when you leave them with others. Yes, they might learn things you dislike, but you can always correct these things at home. You can instill values in your children. We want our kids to learn independence. We are raising them to contribute to society, not to bottom feed off of us and be clones of our thought processes. God made your kids to be individuals too. Foster that. (Note: this is not to say that if you do stay home and your kids aren’t placed in outside care that socialization will be negated. They will still get it in some form.) However, at the end of the day, if you do work and your kid goes to daycare, they will know who mom or dad are if you are present and care.
Lie: If you put your kid to bed at a particular time or have a routine they will sleep through the night.
STTN is often viewed as a pinnacle moment in parenting. It is often seen as a measure of a good parent. This is the biggest crock I have ever encountered.
We do have a basic routine and generally pretty set bed-time. My kids do not sleep through the night I have two kids now. I can say with absolute certainty that this lie is most definitely is a lie. Fiona will give me between 4-5 hours of sleep a night. She did this since birth. Willow, my eldest, woke up every 2 hours until around 6 months of age. She then would only give me 4 hour stretches until 13 months of age. Sometimes she still wakes up in the middle of the night due to teething, a bad dream, or sickness. If we are honest, even adults have trouble sleeping sometimes. We don’t really sleep through the night (STTN) every night. There might be a person who has but I have yet to meet this person.
Also, formula fed kids don’t sleep better. (I have met moms who can attest to this. I personally don’t know since my kids are breastfed.) Introducing solids doesn’t help them sleep better. You don’t need to introduce solids to get your kid to sleep better.
Do you love your kids? Yes? Well, then you are most likely a good parent who cares about your child’s welfare. Don’t let societal lies feed your guilt. Don’t let your kid making hateful comments cause you to think you are a terrible parent. You are doing your best. Keep at it.
There are many more parenting lies we’ve bought into, I’m sure, but work is busy. I have time while analysis is occurring, but analysis is done and there are more samples to prepare. Just remember to give yourself some grace. I’m saying this as much to my audience as I am to myself. It is a daily battle to combat mom guilt or dad guilt, but try.
God gave us our children because he thought us the people best suited for the job. You might be asking about abused or neglected children and if their parents were the best people to parent those kids. This is a difficult and nuanced topic. However I would tell you that every person’s story makes an impact to the kingdom of God. You are worthwhile even if your past is tragic, even if you are struggling. Also, everyone has accessibility to forgiveness and transformation. We all fall short of God’s glory and he has forgiven anyone willing to trust him. You are precious to your children and hopefully your children are precious to you. Every child born has the ability to make a significant and positive impact in this world if they try. Keep on doing well. If you need help, ask. If you are unsure, pray. You know your kid best so you know what works for your family. That, ladies and gents, is the truth we should be impressing on our hearts and our community.
Like I said though, work calls. Until next time.