What I Learned About Life and Motherhood When I Went Back to Work

Hello friends. It’s been awhile since I’ve posted here. I’ve had guests. I’ve been working and I’ve been doing some other writing that should be published soon (stay tuned!). If you’re interested, please check out The Finder. We’re an expat magazine in Singapore designed to help expats (and locals) find where to go, what to do, how to do it and general support. It’s brand new and we’re working on building a great site with lots of traffic! Tell your friends! As always, thanks for reading. Here is my latest:

I’ve gone back to work after almost 4 years at home with my kids. I got the job a while ago and have been anxiously waiting to start, unsure of how I’d feel. I’m not sure I’ve been at it long enough to make any grand declarations but I do feel like I’ve gained some clarity on some of the anxiety inducing feelings I had about this new transition. I’m relearning some important life lessons.

  • Kids really are resilient. My kids have been through some big changes before, but I forgot. We are still working on a new routine but they are adjusting. Of course, they test the waters with tears when they see me dressed and ready (in something other than running shorts) when they wake up. But by the time breakfast is served, they are all smiles. The hugs I get walking through the door at 5:15 are as big, and as fun as the hugs I got at 3, outside their classroom doors.
  • Whatever it is you’re thinking of trying, but hesitating, because [insert all your excuses here]…take the chance. Try it. Even if it’s not what you thought, you will learn something. I wasn’t really looking for a job but this opportunity presented itself. I could’ve said no because it’s difficult to find a babysitter. I could’ve said no because I’m almost 40 and have never done this before. I could’ve said no because I really enjoyed being physically around for my kids. But I said yes. If I stay for 3 more weeks or 3 more years, I’ll never wonder what might have happened if only I tried it. Always take the chance.
  • Over complicating your feelings only causing more stress. I think about my kids all day and that’s ok. It doesn’t mean taking the job was a bad decision. It doesn’t mean I’m a bad mom for leaving them. It doesn’t mean I should try to come up with a plan how to stop thinking about them. I think it just means I miss them. I’m not sure if this is the same as acknowledging a feeling so you can let it go but I think it’s on the same idea.
  • Today should always be the priority. While going back to work is certainly not as dramatic as someone dying or getting sick, it’s helped me remember to take life one day at a time. We’re always in a rush. To do more, be better, get to the next thing. I don’t know everything I need to know yet to do my job really well. I worry that tomorrow I’ll fall behind or that when my kids finish school next week, things will fall apart. That may happen. But today is here and therefore, most important.
  • I don’t think working will make me a better or worse mom. Parenting is a daily struggle no matter what. You always wonder if the grass is greener but I hope I can remember that how I mother makes me better — not, working or not working.
  • The quality of your character and how you treat people has so much more influence on how your kids (and others) see you than the tasks you complete. I’m not sure my kids understand “I write articles” any more than “I did the laundry.” Maybe when they are older they will. But for now, I’m not sure I’m teaching them any grand lesson about contribution or responsibility.  Stop putting so much pressure on yourself.
  • Let go of the guilt. The working mom guilt, the stay-at-home mom guilt, the I locked myself in the bathroom guilt, the I shouldn’t have yelled guilt, the I “cooked” cereal for dinner guilt. Its taken me nearly 40 years but I’m beginning to feel like guilt is just a twisted way for us to think we’ll feel better. We think if we punish ourselves for our mistakes, it will somehow make things better. It doesn’t. It’s useless. Will I feel guilty when I miss a school function because of work, absolutely. But feeling guilty will do nothing to make my kids feel like they are a priority. So let go of the guilt and try again.

Despite all this unsolicited wisdom, I don’t feel like I’ve made some cosmic shift from one kind of mom to another, the way I thought I would.

It’s helped me to see that the role of mother isn’t weighted differently depending on circumstances. Having 4 kids doesn’t make you more of a mother than having 1. Working at home doesn’t make you more of a mother than working in an office. Presence doesn’t always equal the amount of hours you are present.

We share the same fears and hopes. We love with the same fierceness. Our mothering is deeply personal but motherhood is reassuringly and earnestly universal.

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7 thoughts on “What I Learned About Life and Motherhood When I Went Back to Work

  1. This was absolutely perfect. I loved reading your writing. It is filled with so much wisdom and I can tell you are a very level-headed and loving mommy! Thank you for sharing!! This made my morning much brighter. 🙂

  2. Read your blog on huffpost….liked it :)…I always try to get rid of the guilt to leave my kid back n go to work …and to be true most of the time i am able to overcome that…but at times we as mom’s just need some more reassurance to stay put on what we are doing n things would be okay…and at those times blog like that of your s are a boon ….ty for writing such a nice article…

    • Parenting, working, staying at home…none of it is easy. And no one should have to feel like they are the only ones who find it difficult. Thank you for reading! (And leaving a comment!)

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