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My baby is four months old and I am happily breastfeeding him after a tricky start. I have been fortunate to get six months maternity leave from my job but am feeling conflicted about whether or not I want to return to work at all. It had always been my intention to put my baby in a daycare so I could go back to my job, but now that I am a mom, even leaving my baby long enough to go to the bathroom is a struggle!
Breastfeeding is going well, I am finding my feet and really enjoying the slower pace of life, but I cannot make up my mind what is the best thing for me and for my family, whether to return to the office to earn money and improve my future prospects or stay home and take care of my baby.
We can just about manage on my husband’s salary if we economize. I have always pictured myself as a career woman, but the thought of handing over my baby to someone else is not what I want now. How have other mothers who are lucky enough to have a choice made the decision whether to return to their job or remain home with their baby? Please, can moms share some of their experiences of doing either or both to help me decide what I want to do?
Many mothers have faced that same dilemma. I decided to stay home with my children because I realized that work would always be there, but my babies would not. Once those precious years are past, they are gone forever. Today my children are adults and they have told me how much they appreciated having me at home. It helped to forge the close and loving relationships we still have. I liked that those years could be relaxed—no pressure to be up and out of the house at a certain time every day, no need to rush through breakfast to get off to daycare, no need for schedules or careful planning. Yes, I am financially worse off than I might have been, and it’s not always easy getting back into the workforce, but, for me, the memories and experiences of my children growing up are worth a lot.
Teresa Pitman, Ontario, Canada
I find it helpful to think about this as a phase and, right now, my family needs the health insurance my part-time position provides, as well as for me to be home part-time. I try not to think too hard about the impact on my career, but focus on the impact I am having on my children. I can’t handle being away from my children for full-time work. At some point that might change, or my family’s needs might change, so I’m trying to be open to whatever the future brings for us. I feel confident that I can scale my work up or down or sideways into a different field to meet the needs of my family. Best of luck in working out what looks right for your family!
Sarah Lin, Santa Clara, CA, USA
My situation is a little different because I always knew I would stay home when I had children. My mother had to work and it was hard on me as a child. I’m sure some kids enjoy daycare but I wasn’t one of them. I wanted to be there for my children, but it turns out to be a beautiful thing for me too. I don’t miss a minute of their development. They fall asleep cuddling me and I often tear up realizing how lucky I am to be with them, living a slow, peaceful life. I get to be the one reading them stories and holding their chubby hands when we walk outside, watching their first steps and their laughter.
My husband was completely supportive. We saw as a childless married couple how hard it was when we both had job stress. We would frequently resort to takeout food, too. Now that I’m home, I can manage the house and food without the added stress of an outside job.
Of course, being “just a mom” can feel like not enough at times, especially when you have trained for and enjoyed a career. I have found I can utilize my talents through volunteer work or bartering. It’s nice to have flexibility. When I start feeling like I’m not doing enough, I focus on the small people I am raising. I can be replaced in any position except my position as their mother. These early years fly by so quickly. There will always be time for work but you can’t get the years with your children back.
I hope you find the answer that feels right to your heart. No one else can determine our path. If the path you choose doesn’t feel like it’s going in the right direction, you can forge a new one.
April Vanco Monroe, TWP NJ, USA
I ran into a mom at the store who used to come to our local LLL group. She told me that one of the biggest influences in her life had been a book called Sequencing by Arlene Rossen Cardoza. She was a very career-oriented woman, who had earned her PhD while she was nursing her babies. She stayed home while her children were little, teaching the occasional evening college course, but otherwise being a full-time mother. When her children were older, she began a consulting business helping not-for-profit organizations around the world find funding. She traveled regularly and had a successful career. After a few years, she decided she was busier than she wanted to be, quit the business and went back to part-time college teaching. She said that book really helped her see that mothering and careers could best be combined in sequence.
Liz Swift, Rutland County, Vermont, USA
I was going to miss my job because opportunities were opening up for me. Before we decided to have children, my husband and I talked about my staying home, but he said he would support my decision to go back to work if I decided to do so. After seeing how fast our son was growing week by week, it became an easy decision to stay home. He will grow so quickly that work could never come first. My career will still be there when he’s older. How could I miss his learning to roll over, his laughs, rocking him to sleep and especially nursing? That’s how I became a stay-at-home mom and I have never looked back.
Rachelle Sherer, Roseville, California, USA
I have been fortunate enough to combine my career as a piano teacher with staying home because I give lessons in my house and at times my husband, mother, or sister are there to take care of my daughter.
Jean Aubin, Toulouse, France
I had intended to go back to work after a few months but when my baby was four months old, he was so completely dependent on me (and I on him, to be honest) that I decided to stay home. Instead, we changed our plans, abandoning our ideas to carry out expensive building work and buy new cars.
I found the slower pace of life with a baby relaxing, in contrast to the frantic cut and thrust of business, and after a couple of years, before the birth of my second child, I started to make use of my professional skills in a voluntary capacity. When my children started school, I started to do some work from home and also took a part- time position in a local shop. It can be a juggling act and the jobs I do are not those my first-class education prepared me to expect!
I do feel a little wistful when I see the success and financial rewards of my contemporaries that I have missed out on, but I don’t regret my decision for an instant.
Carmen Last, Newcastle, UK
I found the slower pace of life with a baby relaxing, in contrast to the frantic cut and thrust of business, and after a couple of years, before the birth of my second child, I started to make use of my professional skills in a voluntary capacity.
When my oldest was born, I had no choice; I had to go back to work in order to keep a roof over our heads. It was hard, knowing that someone else would see him learn to sit up and hear his first word. The day I heard he’d started walking, I cried. Worst of all, he so desperately wanted to be with me all the time and would cry every time I dropped him off to leave for work. It was very painful for both of us.
When my second child was born, I was able to choose to stay home (with careful budgeting). He was a much less fussy baby, with mama there all the time. When my third was born, the transition to being an older sibling wasn’t hard for him with me there. Going off to school was harder on me than on him. The ones I stayed home with are much more secure and peaceful, both inwardly and outwardly.
As fabulous as a daycare may be, as loving as a grandma is, no one can ever love your baby the same way you do.
Maribeth C, Houston, TX, USA
Mother’s New Situation
My nine-month-old son will only fall asleep if I am breastfeeding him, day and night. For daytime naps, I have to lie down with him, and if I try to get up he immediately awakens and starts to fuss until I lie down with him again. At night it is the same story, and we spend three-quarters of the night in the same bed. Breastfeeding has been going well for us, and he is mostly a happy, healthy boy, but I am exhausted by his constant need for physical contact. How can I ever put my baby down to rest without his needing me to be there? Do other mothers find this problematic? My mother-in-law tells me I have “spoiled” him and that I should let him cry it out, but that is not an option I am prepared to consider. I am feeling “touched out” and would appreciate hearing from other mothers who have dealt with similar feelings.
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