The working mother’s dilemma

Nine months of anticipation, weird food cravings, a body that morphs in ways you never imagined, and waiting to meet your newest child. No matter how we deliver our babies, we find ourselves in a whirlwind of emotion, a soup of hormones, and steeped in the love drug – oxytocin. Thank God we are, or those crying, needy love nuggets that can’t do anything for themselves for a very long time, would never survive. It’s our attachment to them through miraculous chemistry that ensures their survival.

For women in the U.S., most employers “allow” 6 weeks of maternity leave and employers do not have to pay wages during the leave. Thankfully, we are protected under the Family Medical Leave Act, and here in New York State we now have Paid Family Leave. While these programs help protect our jobs during our time away as new mothers (and fathers), they largely require the employee to use all their sick, vacation, or personal time to “fund” the parental leave. Few employers offer paid maternity/paternity leave and the New York State program is only offered if your employer or Union decided to ‘join’ and pay into the program.

Women take time off for pre-natal care that intensifies as the due date gets closer including additional trips to the lab for blood work, glucose tests, daycare visits/interviews, all the planning! And if you have any medical emergency due to the pregnancy (bed rest anyone?), your time off gets eaten up rather quickly.

When you are finally home from the hospital following the birth of your child, you have made it through the initial post-partum period where your body begins to shrink back down, you may finally be getting the hang of breastfeeding, you manage to shower at least every-third day, 4 hours of sleep feels like a miracle, and you look at the calendar only to realize, you have a week or two of maternity leave left. And your heart sinks.

And this is the working mother’s dilemma; do I leave my child in the care of someone else, or do I stay home? Can I afford child care on my salary? Can I afford NOT to work?

This dilemma is real. It is felt by all women who have been sold the idea that we can “have it all”. The idea that being a house wife is ‘archaic’ and not ‘progressive’. I am here to tell you, it’s all bullshit. There is no “right” way. There is no “my way is better than your way”. It doesn’t exist. There is only the way you choose to proceed based on your career goals, needs, support system, spouse/partner, and how you feel as a mother.

Women need to prepare for BOTH options and choose the best fit. You don’t know how you are going to feel after you have your precious new baby home with you. You may not be able to even imagine NOT being with your child, to nurse your baby on demand, to be there for each milestone. On the flipside, you may decide to stay home and feel stir-crazy by 6 months. Either way, you are making a sacrifice. The mommy-penalty for cutting back to part-time employment or opting out all together is not fiction. Women are ‘dinged’, penalized for these stop-outs and breaks in employment. We are overlooked or voluntarily pass up promotions for the needs of our families. We lose years of retirement contributions. We lose skills needed to compete in the workplace.

But the Universe is smarter than us. In return, we get TIME. Time with our children that we will never, ever get back.

“Time; You can’t buy it, rent it, borrow it, store it, save it, renew it, or multiply it.” (Dr. Alan Zimmerman)

Were you faced with the working mother’s dilemma? What did you decide to do?

8 thoughts on “The working mother’s dilemma

  1. Amy says:

    ❤️ Great post. I really thought I’d want to get back to work(school) right away and planned one semester off (4 months). Turned out I was overwhelmed with emotion and exhaustion and couldn’t function in a workplace for the life of me. I also could not stomach the idea of leaving my daughter (and I was privileged to have the choice NOT to leave her). Now that we’re planning baby #2, I’m trying to come up with a plan to not have to work for 18 months after the baby is born. Luckily that’s an option in Canada, without losing your job. Unfortunately my wife would prefer it if I took less time off for the $. There are so many factors at play in the decision to go to work, stay home, and how long of a leave to take.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mrsmotherdirt says:

      Amy, what a thoughtful response. Thank you for sharing your experience. If I had not had the opportunity to work remotely, I would not have wanted to go back to work and it was an unexpected feeling for me. Money is nearly always tight with one spouse working, but the alternative is paying nearly all your income to NOT be with your child. What a crappy choice. Few people have really planned ahead to stay home. Kudos to them.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Caitlin says:

    I am fortunate to have a workplace that is somewhat flexible with my time off. I only took 6 weeks full time (I didn’t enjoy them, I did not like being home all day). Then I returned to work half-time for the rest of my daughter’s first six months. I worked 7:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. (6 hours) and then a lot of days I did an hour or two of work at home during naptime or after bedtime. This is my perfect arrangement. After 6 months, I had to return to 8 hours in the office, so I’ve been doing 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. It works well enough. I pick my daughter up right after her nap, so it feels like we’re really only apart in the morning.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mrsmotherdirt says:

      Flexibility is SO important for new moms. I am so glad to hear you had a supportive experience. I agree, part-time work is ideal for sure. We are planning now for next year so I can go to part-time and be home to get my daughter off the bus.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Chandra Lynn says:

    I work for a university (professor). I was considered a high risk pregnancy, even though according to my OB, I had one of the best pregnancies she’d witnessed. I took off almost 2 months before my kiddo was born and then had another 4 months off before returning to work for fall classes. I scheduled my classes for 3 days. I ended my workday by 2:15 and was home with the kiddo most days of the week. My mom kept him the days I was at work. Even now, my son is 12, but I can still be available for school trips, special events during the day, and volunteering. One of the absolute blessings of being a professor is the flexibility of scheduling. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the next best thing to being a SAHM.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mrsmotherdirt says:

      Hi and thank you for sharing your experience. It sounds like you put a lot of thought into your work schedule and balancing your new role. Even 12 years later you are there for your son 🙂. That’s what I want for myself and my family.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Chandra Lynn says:

        And you will have it. I used to regret not being at home with him full time (up to kindergarten), but it was best for him/us. He’s an only child and the regular interaction with other kids was necessary. It still is.

        Liked by 1 person

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