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.)