It’s come up a lot lately, as since March I have worked a part-time job that I wasn’t looking for. It’s not a dream job. It’s definitely not great timing. And yet, after several hilariously direct conversations with my potential employer, I ended up going for it.
In the week I was learning and mulling, I sat in a circle of women, mostly mothers and one young newlywed, and fielded this question: “Christina, do you ever regret staying home with your kids?”
It’s an interesting one whose answer is more complicated than it seems on the surface. Short answer: Of course not. But do I miss work? Absolutely. I miss tackling problems that can be solved, feeling proficient at something, making money, having my work (and, sometimes, very existence) validated. I miss going to work sometimes, which this part-time-from-home solution does nothing to solve, but which I’m not looking to solve at this moment. Naturally, the perks of being able to stay home with my children are numerous. I’m available for field trips and sick days; I’m there every day when my girls get off the bus. I get to go to a mom’s group, a morning Bible study and playdates; I get to read stories every afternoon before nap time; I get to be outside on perfect days and take impromptu trips to the park or the beach; I get to have coffee or lunch with friends on occasion; I get to go to Trader Joe’s on a Tuesday morning instead of with the masses on Saturday afternoons or weekdays after five.
But do I worry about the gap in my resume and experience? Definitely. Our workplace culture—in general— isn’t kind to mothers. I remember fielding the insinuation, when I had two babies and worked full time, that someone else was raising my children. And since I’ve been home, I’ve sometimes felt the accusation that I’m somehow “wasting” my time, education, experience or talents by being home. That I’m not living up to my “potential.”
Juggling work and home and kids is a struggle, but I remind myself that because it is hard doesn’t mean we’re doing it wrong. I called it juggling and not balancing for a reason-- to juggle requires there to be a ball in my hand and others in the air at any given moment-- they cannot all be held and balanced at once. And sometimes some of them fall. But there are things I get from working that my husband, children, friends and even creative pursuits can’t deliver. It’s not fair of me to ask it of them. And there are seasons where I have needed these things more than others. Maybe I need them now.
But also, I have been reminded that I am competent. I have skills, knowledge and abilities that make me a desirable employee. I can exhibit a level of professionalism on the phone that belies the fact that I’m sitting at a desk in my cluttered laundry room/office, praying my child stays enthralled with the show he’s watching since he is skipping his nap today.
Now more than ever, I am embracing what I’ve always known to be true: there is no right way. This might work well for us for now, for the duration of this contract. When our little girl arrives this summer, it will not. I reserve the right to shift, and I am grateful for the freedom I have to change my mind. I am grateful for an employer who, though she cannot relate to being a mother, recognizes the need mothers have for flexibility in their work options and does not see this as a liability. I wish more employers realized the upside of hiring women in this season of life—of offering them something other than an all-or-nothing proposition.
Absolutely, I recognize that having this to wrestle over at all is in itself a privilege that not many are afforded. If you find yourself in that place, without options, I hope you never for a minute allow yourself to feel guilt or condemnation for your situation. Whether you work by necessity, choice, or some combination of the two, or whether you’re home because you have to be, because you want to be, or a little of both, I hope you find rest in the knowledge that you are doing the best you can for your family, and that is always enough. I don’t know whether my choice was wise or ill-timed, but I’m working to navigate it with as much poise as I can muster, and I’m proud of the effort if not always the results. And I’m maybe illogically looking forward to a couple months from now, when work falls away and focusing all of my efforts on welcoming our newborn will—in some ways—feel like a relief.