QUESTION: I recently returned
to my part-time job after the birth of our second daughter. Since
returning, I have had a very difficult time making the decision of
whether I want to continue working or become a stay-at-home mom. The
fear of doing the right thing haunts me. In my heart, I believe being
a full-time mom is in the best interest of my two daughters and husband,
but how do I know if have made the right decision?
ANSWER: There is no "right" or
"wrong" decision. If you should choose to stay home with your children,
particularly when they are quite young, that does not mean you will
not want to pursue work or other activities that interest you outside
of motherhood as your children grow!
Consider the ages of your children and
their needs, as well as your own needs and desires. You are working
part-time. Are you enjoying it? Or are you missing your children more
than you are gaining emotionally from your outside work? How are your
children cared for while you are away? Are they in the care of their
father or another relative who has a loving investment in their development?
If they are in paid care, what is the quality of caretaking? How are
the children adapting to the current situation?
Talk with your husband about this decision.
You are a team. What do the two of you believe and feel to be in the
best interests of your children? What are your needs and desires?
Be suspicious of basing your decision
on "all or nothing" scenarios. Life is about change. You can devote
your time and energy to your children, particularly in the first three
years of development, and rest assured that if you are content to
do so, they will benefit from your availability. You will get to know
who they are from an early age. And these are precious years of development
which cannot be recovered, should you feel later on that you missed
Your children will eventually and gradually
grow out of their dependency on you. As they grow older, they begin
friendships and relationships of their own. Though you remain primary
to them, you do recede in importance. So there may be plenty of time
for pursuit of other activities, even as soon as the next year or
Consider their dependency on you and
your needs, which when fulfilled will make you emotionally (as well
as physically) available to them. The purpose of family is to nurture
the development of all of its members over the course of a lifetime.
Determine what the most beneficial balance is in your present family
system. But do not "pigeonhole" your identity. You are a woman who
is also a mother. Not the other way around!
The label "stay-at-home mother" does
not give credence to an identity that leaves room for anything outside
of motherhood. Very often, when women become mothers they forget they
are people first, with needs outside of the role of mother. Unfortunately,
society forgets this, too!
Be careful not to confuse a choice to
stay home with young children for your identity. Loss of identity
to motherhood will cause depression later. You may choose to appropriately
delay or slow down your pursuit of a career (or other interests) while
your children are quite young, but this does not mean that you ignore
your own development as a person.
Motherhood is an expansion, not a replacement,
for your sense of self. Every woman is an individual. You must determine
what immersion of your fulfillment should come from being a "mother"
in concert with your children's changing needs. Do not back off from
fulfillment in motherhood. This is a part of your identity! But refrain
from making decisions based on guilt for either staying home or working
part time. Enjoy your role as "mother" fully, in whatever form contributes
to you being more of the unique woman that you are!
Remember, nothing is set in stone! Remain
true to your values and beliefs. You know what is best for your family
as a whole. And expect this balance to change over the course of the
family life cycle.
to Article Archive