I arrived back at work today after two days of “ice storm” cancellations and delays (read: cold rain), poured myself a cup of coffee, sat down at my desk and breathed a huge sigh of relief.
While my co-workers groaned about getting back to the grind and fondly recalled days of sleeping in, I sat blissfully at my computer, enjoying the absolute silence, the uninterrupted typing, and the lack of anyone throwing toy trains at me, climbing my legs, pulling my hands, or the latest – biting my thighs.
I love my child. It goes without saying, but just in case I start to whine, I’ll say it anyway. Holding him last night with his cheek pressed to mine, his fuzzy penguin-pajamed arm wrapped around my neck made me want to sit still and watch him breathe all night.
But being home for the past weeks with a rambuntious 2 year-old also reminded me that I made the right decision to go back to work. The day-to-day activities of parenting a toddler have their moments of delight, but mainly moments of mayhem and fatigue. Over break, I would yearn for his nap time so that I could read my novel, drink hot tea without spilling it onto my lap, and talk to grown-ups about grown-up things.
An article on salon.com today called “Regrets of a Stay at Home Mom” starts with the opening line – “Consider this a warning to new mothers: Fourteen years ago, I ‘opted out’ to focus on my family. Now I’m broke.” http://www.salon.com/life/pinched/2011/01/05/wish_i_hadnt_opted_out/index.html
As hard as parenting is, you rarely hear moms express their regret at staying home. It’s usually the other way around. In this author’s case, the article has a feminist angle that I appreciate, which is that women often sacrifice their careers to raise children (sacrifice meaning that they want careers, but choose to “opt-out”), trusting their financial safety to their husband’s income. As we all know, kids grow up and 50% of married relationships end. Which leaves guess-who having a hard time finding a job. Not dad.
This is just one story. Many moms choose to work; many dads stay at home. Some workplaces and careers are forgiving of time off; others are not. But it’s a pressure in our society on women, the thought that we will “miss out” on our children’s childhood and therefore need to “opt-out” of work.
When I said to a co-worker this morning that I was glad to be back, she said, “don’t feel guilty.” Because that’s how we’re supposed to feel. Thankfully, I don’t. I just feel very fortunate to have the most wonderful boy in the world. And the most wonderful people who look after him.