SOCS-Moms (Working)

Life in the Boomer Lane did a recent post about the Mommy Wars debate or Is it a good thing for kids when their Moms work?  This brought back many memories for me and I could write more than a short post about them. I think the answer to this question is a very individual, one size does not fit all, one.  Many mothers do not have a choice.

It sounded good in theory that I would continue working while having children.  I believed in women having careers.  I was a RN and worked in a hospital in my early married years. I remember another RN I worked with crying because she had to return to work , after maternity leave, when her baby was 6 weeks old.  She said her husband wanted her to go back to work.  I felt sorry for her.

I thought I would want to return to work after having a baby but when my son was born I found I was not happy about leaving him with a babysitter or my mother-in-law while I returned to work. Luckily, my husband was willing and able to support us and I stayed at home. I am not saying this was easy because where we lived most mothers did work and it was very isolating to stay at home. I did worry about money as well. A “Mommy and Me” program was a lifesaver for me. This was a program where Moms would get together, once a week with their kids, for activities and discussion.  We would alternate watching the kids on the playground while part of the group would meet with an early childhood teacher to discuss child rearing issues.  I remember one woman there describing the isolation of being a stay at home Mom with a baby. She said she would look forward to talking with the mailman.

By the time I had my second child I remember the role of stay at home Mom sometimes made me feel like I wanted to jump through the kitchen window. (Don’t worry it was on the ground floor.) There were reasons I thought it was more important for me to be at home.

I had a bad experience with a Co-op Preschool when my son was 2 years old, he was bullied by an older boy, and I decided I would not trust any preschool or child care until my son could at least talk well enough to report any bullying or abuse to the adults. So my kids did not go to daycare, or babysitters or preschool until they were at least 3 years old and I stayed at home with them.

I did go back to work, part-time, when they were the ages of 4 and 8 respectively. So I know the trials of being a working mother. It was a harrowing experience finding a preschool, that had 8 or 9 hour days, that I was comfortable with for my daughter, and did not resemble a child care factory. I remember one large well known one that had about 120 four year olds who were released for play time onto the playground at the same time. I was concerned about the staff’s ability to supervise all those kids and that the kids would fight over the few swings they had.  I remember the staff person telling me that the state of California only required they have 5 square feet of space per child on the yard.  I said, “but how do you get the kids to stay inside that 5 square feet?” Another thing was the mandatory nap time.  My daughter did not take naps and I asked if there was an alternative. I was told she could have a stuffed animal with her while she stayed on the cot for an hour and a half.  I finally found a small church run preschool.  When I told them my daughter did not take naps, they said that is fine because she can stay up with the teacher. I knew then I found the right place.

Many of the Moms with kids at that preschool did not work, however, and would pick their kids up at noon. There was afternoon care available for the kids of the working mothers. If you wonder if kids prefer to be with their Moms instead of daycare I will quote my daughter. I remember her asking me one day if she had to be the “staying girl” again, which meant did she have to stay with the small group of kids in the afternoon. It hurt to hear that from her but I felt I had to work at that time for financial reasons.

I returned to work, part-time, after my husband had a life threatening illness and I felt he needed support in supporting our family. Shortly before I was to start back to work I remember we were all watching the film “ Beaches” together. My son, who was about 8 years old at the time, became upset and went into his room. I thought he was upset because of the material in the film and my husband has just come through a life-threatening illness. When I asked my son if he was upset because of Dad he said no, it was that he did not want me to go back to work.

It was stressful balancing work and being a mother. As a nurse, I worked every other weekend. This helped with childcare costs because my husband could be with the kids on weekends. But it was still hard because the kids missed me and it was hard leaving them when they were sick.

It was hard other times, like when my neighbor called me at work one afternoon. She usually picked my son up after school because I did not get home in time to pick him up. She told me that when she went to pick up my son she couldn’t find him anywhere. I told myself not to panic. I remember having to make the drive home to look for him. I later found out that my son was hiding at school from the neighbor because he didn’t like her.

And the times when I would have tightness in my chest rushing to pick my daughter up on time from school after completing my hours as a home health nurse. She would get so upset if I ran late. I would try to reassure her that her Mom or Dad would always be there to pick her up.

I do not think it is always so ideal for the mother or the child when Moms have to be working.

|LindaGHill|

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20 thoughts on “SOCS-Moms (Working)

  1. Dan Antion

    This is a very good post Deborah. I understand some of what you dealt with, but not the stress you must have experienced. We decided that my wife would stay home with our daughter. It was a hard decision. I could support us, but we certainly noticed the loss of her income. For years, I would hear “why doesn’t your wife go back to work?” And, after our daughter was in school, “what does she do all day?” These are personal decisions and, in many cases, we aren’t even aware of the underlying reasons.

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  2. JoAnne

    My children both had trouble adjusting to day care, but we got through it, because we had to. One of the best times of my life was the summer I stayed home after my baby girl and my son 22 years ago. It was like a slice of heaven.

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  3. John Holton

    I love the line “How do you get them to stay in that five square feet?” We never had kids, so this was an interesting read. My mom worked full-time as a teacher in Chicago. She took several months off when she had my youngest brother (who’s 20 years younger than I am), and I remember her practically counting the days until she could go back to work. (It was her second marriage; she was in her early 30s when Dad died, and raised us pretty much by herself.)

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    1. Deborah Drucker Post author

      Thanks John. I know that concept of 5 square feet per child really got to me. My hat is off to your mother. I almost lost my husband but he recovered. I remember I was so scared to be left with 2 very young children. It is hard enough with 2 parents.

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  4. LifestyleswithLia

    Hi Deborah!
    Hope all is well with you — This was a very interesting read about your experiences with your children and working/staying at home…I don’t have any first-hand experience myself, but I can imagine that the decision either to stay home or to work is a difficult one…I could feel the emotions within the words you wrote here…
    This post gives great food for thought — Thank you!
    All my very best to you,
    *Lia

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    1. Deborah Drucker Post author

      I think it is difficult when they are so little. It is always difficult to balance work and family for mothers. It is good for you to have contact with other mothers at home and time for yourself as well.

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  5. shanjeniah

    I’ve been so lucky! I stopped working when my eldest was almost 5, and my youngest 2, so that I could focus on homeschooling. Before that, I worked part time at a small child care facility. There were times when I would nurse before leaving, come home to nurse during a break time (spending most of the break driving to and from), then come home half an hour before my husband left for his job as a chef… those were long days, and my patience was usually worn thin before I got home to my own children.

    We’ve chosen to live more simply than we might, if I worked away from home, but I wouldn’t trade it. I’ve been with the kids for all of their growing up, and now, with them nearly 11 and getting close to 14 and the possibility of an actual job, we’ve got a great relationship that’s making the shift into and through puberty a lot less tricky than it might be.

    I’ve been able, this last few months, to begin doing things on my own. In another year or two, I may take a part time job again, when my daughter reaches the point where she looks forward to time at home without a parent, rather than just tolerating it as she does now.

    It’ll be different, after so many years home. I imagine it’ll be bittersweet, in the same way that my son’s deepened voice is.

    I think that what works best for a family is the best option. Not all options are open to all families, and I don’t get the point of picking one another apart for making choices we wouldn’t make, when we aren’t living the other’s life.

    In the end, if children are happy and well-tended, I think that’s what matters most.

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    1. Deborah Drucker Post author

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I think this topic strikes a cord with many mothers. My point was that people can make it all sound simple and good. Work and be there for your kids. Or your kids do not need you to be there. The comments so far and my own experience has told me that it is not simple and so good to have to balance working with parenting. I think being a parent is an important job and women are not paid for it so it is often not valued the same as working outside the home.

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      1. shanjeniah

        I totally agree with you there. Parenting is how people are made – not just the getting here, but the adults those adorable babies will grow into…it would be wonderful if all parents who wanted to stay home to be with their children were at liberty to do so, and if it were an easier matter to give truly nurturing support for those families where both parents want to work.

        Too many times, though, it’s about needing the money – and that’s likely to leave parents and kids feeling like something important is missing.

        I truly loved the children I cared for- but all of us knew I wasn’t their mother, and that made a difference, when Mommy was who they wanted.

        My kids are the independent type, but, several times a day, each of them will come to me for a hug or a few minutes’ connection – it’s grounding for all of us. I’m profoundly grateful, now that they’re older, and the years left with them needing me this way are shorter than the years that they’ve already lived.

        For sure, I’ve had people look at me askance, and say they could never stay home – but, for me, and for my family, it feels right, right now, and I’m so glad to have been able to be with them.

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      2. Deborah Drucker Post author

        You last paragraph speaks to the lack of value placed on the role of stay at home mothers. As if this was the less desirable or important job. I think if it were valued more people would look at it differently. In the meantime, mothers have to follow their hearts. Mothers also need time to do things outside the home that they find nourishing to them as well.

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