Tuesday, March 26, 2013

To Work or Stay at Home: Is the Grass Always Greener?

I saw an interview the other day with a woman named Sheryl Sandberg, who is the COO of Facebook. The conversation was all about her new book, Lean In, and how not just men should be getting important roles in the workforce. Sandberg's main point was to say women should be treated equally and deserve high powered jobs just like men, which is not necessarily a novel idea (nor an idea that I disagree with). But the interesting part was when the interviewer asked Sandberg if she felt like she had a good balance between her home and her work. As a married mother of two, she seemed pretty reluctant to admit any difficulties in navigating her extremely busy lifestyle (after all, this was an interview in support of women working, admitting it was hard might be like admitting it was wrong). Sandberg, like all of us (working or staying home), seemed to be trying to convey the message that she could do it all! and everything on her plate was manageable.

This really got me thinking about the work vs. stay home discussion that has been passed around mom groups everywhere. There's no easy answer, and there are obviously pros and cons to both. But when Sandberg was asked if she felt like she spent enough time with her kids, the busy COO said that she, like every working mother, feels "job guilt" about not spending enough time with her family and is "somewhat intimidated" by moms who DO stay home. I started going through my mental rolodex of working moms that I know and I couldn't disagree with her. In fact, I couldn't recall many (if any) that had not mentioned at one point or another that they sometimes wished they could stay home or felt guilty that they couldn't. On the flip side, as a SAHM (Stay At Home Mom) myself, I have often felt intimidated by working moms because when people ask me "what I do" it often falls flat to say, "Oh, I stay at home." It seems that some people have a viewpoint that SAHMs lounge around most of the day and then cook dinner at night, leading me to feel defensive and inadequate compared to moms with "real jobs."

Which leads us to the topic of the discussion, is the grass always greener when it comes to your career as a mom?

To be honest, right after Titus was born I wondered if I had made a HORRIBLE mistake in quitting my job as a crisis counselor. I had such a passion for my clients and our ministry, and all of the sudden instead of a highly challenging and stimulating job, I was now sitting on the couch 17 hours a day and watching Real Housewives marathons because he would only sleep if I held him- and when he wasn't sleeping, he was eating.

I was bored. I'm not afraid to say it. And here comes more word vomit: sometimes I still am. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining, I'm just trying to be transparent here. Titus is almost one and although things have gotten much more interesting around our house as he's gotten older, there's not much mental challenge in walking a baby in circles or sitting behind him while he bangs on the coffee table. I love him dearly and I find him so funny and sweet and entertaining, but that doesn't mean that he fills the mental space that my job did. In fact, that's why I started my Etsy shop, because I needed something to STIMULATE me. That is, in fact, the best way to phrase the missing piece of the puzzle. When you hang out all day with a person who can't communicate and does very little besides roll around and drool and try to eat their own fingers, you don't feel very stimulated. I know, there are play dates and trips to the park and running errands, etc., but in all sincerity, a majority of my week as a SAHM is spent staying home (i.e. the title), even with all that stuff plugged into our schedule. And when we do get out of the house for "activities" ( Target, mall walking, Hobby Lobby) it seems like we mostly do so just so we can fill up the time in the day, not because we actually need to do it.

On the flip side, I can't imagine having to get myself and a baby dressed and ready to go in the morning. Most days I wear yoga pants and sometimes I don't even brush my teeth til 10am, so I can't imagine getting my hair and makeup and clothes fixed plus diaper bag packed and breakfast for a baby. And if I only had time to clean, cook, and do laundry after 5pm I feel like it would never get done! My house would be a total disaster. Not to mention that I would hate only getting to see Titus early in the morning and late at night. Plus, even if I still had my old job, the majority of my income would go to childcare, which would make the financial benefit just about a wash.

So what's the answer? Work and feel guilty for missing out on time with your kids and rarely having a clean house? Stay at home and feel jealous of those who leave the house each day and actually have adult conversations?

I know for me I wouldn't trade staying at home for anything. That's not meant to sound noble, there are definitely days I wonder what it would be like had I chosen to do things differently. But at the end of the day, I know for me the pros outweigh the cons at this stage in our life. When I'm done having kids and they're a little older I think I would love to go back to work, but its been a huge (and ongoing) process for me to accept that this is not a temporary setup, but instead the career path that I have chosen long term. I will hold the job title of "mom" longer than any other job in my life, and this is only the beginning of putting others wants and needs ahead of my own each day. And as cheesy as it may be to say, I really can't imagine doing a more important job than raising my children to be respectful and contributing members of society and trying to create a sane and stable living environment for them to grow up in.

So what do you say? Is the grass always greener? Have you ever wondered or wished you were doing the opposite of what you chose?


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