Journal

Career vs. Family: Reprise

Back in 2012, I wrote a post about career versus family and the balancing act that must be done when one is trying to “raise” both. So now I can provide insight to my past self because I am in the position of having a career and a family.

But if we’re being realistic, I don’t think I have much more insight than I did then, except I realize that I could never be a stay-at-home mom. I always thought I could because after all, my mother did it. So why couldn’t I? I was so wrong. The three months of maternity leave I did take were hell on earth, and I couldn’t wait to get back to work so I could feel like I was actually doing something.

But you ARE doing something! You’re raising a baby! people tried to tell me. It didn’t erase the fact that without work and no routine to speak of, with sleep deprivation and zero energy, I was starting to get severely depressed. I was honestly thinking of dropping the baby off at the fire station and checking myself into a mental health institution. It was that bad.

Then I went back to work and the world brightened instantly. I went back to normal. The fog lifted. Everything was better. My hat is off to the stay-at-home mothers of the world. I don’t know how you do it. I admire you deeply.

Even so, all this is not to say that I would choose career over family. A career should serve the family, not the other way around. The family does not exist to serve one’s career, and if it does, you’re doing it wrong… or you’re a politician.

My three months of maternity hell leave made me question my own motives. Do I love my job at the expense of my family? I don’t think so. I try my best to keep my time within the standard eight hours a day and not take on unnecessary extra work. I keep it in my head that a job is a job, and a job cannot love me in the way that my family can. If I lost my job, it would be devastating but ultimately replaceable, but if I lost my family, it would be devastating and irreplaceable.

Perhaps if circumstances were different, and my family was in a situation where I did not have to work to keep us afloat, I would have enjoyed being a stay-at-home mom. Perhaps it was just postpartum hormones, and not simply being out of work, that made me so miserable. Perhaps if I had started my family before starting my career, I would have wanted to stay home with the child(ren), but alas, today’s economy really doesn’t allow that. Gone are the days when one can get married straight out of high school or college and expect to live on one person’s income while supporting children.

As my son gets older, perhaps things will change, and I’ll be better able to balance career and family. Now I feel like one or the other always gets the short end of the stick. “They” say things like Do what’s best for you and your family, not what everyone else thinks is best, and that’s what I try to do. But man, those comments from the peanut gallery can really get you down. (And that’s a post for another time.)

6 thoughts on “Career vs. Family: Reprise”

  1. Maggie, I think a lot of women would agree with you, and it is good that you are being so honest. We call our jobs work, but many times our job makes up a part of who we are as people, and it is important for ourselves and our families that we are true to who we are, isn’t it?

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  2. My mother always worked, and it was true that my parents needed the income (my father had a very steady job, but she made more money), but it was also what she did — her career. If she had ever tried to be a stay-at-home mom, then it would definitely have been “If mom’s not happy, then nobody’s happy!”

    Quentin Tarantino made a movie about this once (yes, really) called Kill Bill Vol 2. (Volume 1 is about something else). I wrote about it here (scroll down to point 2): https://u-town.com/collins/?p=1159#TWO.

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  3. I was once a work-at-home mom. It is true that you get to take care of the household and the kids. But there will always be a moment when you get to ask yourself if being a WAHM is making you fulfilled and happy. And now that I am back to office work, I am happy although still learning how to effectively manage time for family and work.

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    1. I think that being at the office is a nice break from home, and home is a nice break from the office. 🙂 I find that I have more of a balance that way.

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