Career or Children -- Decide!
Okay. Im going to be the bad guy here (saying bad girl just doesnt have the right ring to it). I admit, I gave into the propaganda that I could have it all: I could have my two point five children, an exciting career, a steamy night life and even sleep every once in a while. You know: I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan;" I am woman, hear me roar," etc.
Until I tried to actually do it. Seven years ago, I was in a budding career and I got pregnant. Wonderful, I thought. I was going to take my three months leave to love my baby unconditionally, then go back to work. Everything would be hunky-dory except for two minor problems. I didnt think about the complications of wanting to still stay at home after three months baby love does carry a whallop, and three months is not enough time to change a pamper, let alone find good, safe, trustworthy childcare. And while I was fretting over that problem, my boss got tired of waiting for me and hired my temporary replacement. Well, at least my first problem was solved for the time being.
Then I started looking at data. If I went back to work right away, the childcare expense would almost blow me over, plus parking and gas, dry-cleaning and expenses for convenience foods (like pizza for us and baby formula for her). When I added that up and took away the income tax for additional income (one dependant minus the marriage penalty of two incomes), I realized that I could be working, literally, for one dollar an hour
More tid-bits of information that I got before making up my mind was about my child herself, both biological and psychological. I found a few scientific articles stating that babies and pre-schoolers brains were actually changed for the worse by long bouts of maternal separation (1, 2). I also found many shocking articles stating that if a childs primary caregivers are indifferent or even threatening, the childs ability to form healthy relationships from then on will be damaged (3).
I had a lot to think about. I was very glad to be in a position to think about it; many mothers dont have the option. I decided to put my career on the back burner and devote those years to my daughter. After she hit first grade and was in school for six hours at a stretch, I was able to start working on a regular basis. What did I do? Youre looking at it. I didnt go back to nine to five. Im a freelance writer.
Like the woman above, I write for a living as well as for fun. I even write for my daughter and her friends; my daughter is very proud of what I do. Yet I can work in relative peace because shes away and I dont have the guilt of shipping her off to strangers when I need to work because shes already in school. However, I can also take her to extra-curricular activities myself, pick her up, make dinner for her, even volunteer at her school every once in a while, just as I would if I were a stay-at-home mom.
In fact, the only thing I neglect is the housework Oh well. Cant do everything.
No, I dont suggest one or the other. Just one after the other. We as mothers dont have to decide anymore. However if you can take the precious first years of a childs life and dedicate it to the child. Remember, if you have children, the primary responsibility is to them, not to yourself Dont juggle too many eggs or, sooner or later, youre going to drop a couple.
(1)National Academy of Sciences, Hsu et al. PNAS.2003; 100: 12213-12218.
(2)Reuters Health, Mother's care boosts brain development?, July 18, 2000
(3)U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Administration for Children & Families, Understanding the Effects of Maltreatment on Early Brain Development, 2001