Sick of Feeling Conflicted

From my office swivel chair, I can see a daycare.  It is really close.  It’s like watching it on TV.  The playground is eye level.  It is both comforting and torturous.

Yesterday after having a fairly ok day at work, I looked over – it was playtime again and the 4-year-olds were out.  I watched as a teacher bent down to hug a little girl and comfort her.  My little girl is 4.  Ms. Susan was probably comforting her just like that at that very moment.  In that moment, I WANTED TO BE THE ONE comforting my daughter.

I was able to hold back tears until I got in the car 5 minutes later for the drive home.

It does not help that my 2-year-old son pretty routinely accidentally calls me his teacher’s name.  I understand that it’s normal, that he doesn’t do it on purpose.  Well sometimes he does because he thinks it’s funny when I say “that’s not my name!  What’s my name?”  “Mama!” he giggles.  But the sting is still there.

As in most facets of life, the way I feel about being a mom who works is fluid.  Sometimes I DO feel 100% badass, like I completely love our set up and I love working and it’s a choice I’m totally comfortable with.  Sometimes I feel 100% defeated and trapped, like I don’t have a choice and am being forced against my will to do this horrible thing which is keeping me away from my children 11 hours a day and making me miss those important moments I dreamed of my whole life.

Yin and yang.  The actual truth lies somewhere in the middle.

But what I really want to communicate to you, dear reader, is I’m tired of always wondering if I’m doing the right thing.  I’m tired of feeling conflicted.

I ‘check in’ with myself and our ‘situation’ on a daily basis, sometimes several times a day.  It is crazy making.  Are my work and the money worth being called my son’s teacher’s name every day and the emotional toll of that?  Do I really have a choice to work?  Could we make it financially without my income?  Would I be happier at home with the kids all day every day?

Where I usually land is well-done crust of unending but mitigated frustration, surrounding a soft meringue of gratitude and contentment, with meringue tips of joy.  I’m a lucky girl with two great kids, a husband who’s loving and supportive, and a job that allows me to drive my own bus (so to speak).  I scold myself for feeling conflicted and pursuing these endless paths of self-doubt.

But because I’m me and cannot stop problem solving, I continue:  Wouldn’t it be nice if I could have a part-time career that would utilize my talents and skills, and allow me to pay for part-time daycare, so I could spend more time with my kids and have personal satisfaction from a job well done on both the home and career fronts of this weather pattern?  How would I find such a career?  Does one exist?  Is part-time work ever respected and appropriately reimbursed?  Could I do my current job on a part-time basis?  Do I even have the guts to pursue this thinking anymore?

Prediction:  Uncertain in America.  Let’s add some more meringue tips of dismay to this conflict pie.

Mary Beth is married and works full-time in the public health arena. Her previous work experience includes volunteering with the Peace Corps and working with state and local health departments. She has a daughter, Ivy who’s almost 4, and a son, Baby Roy, who’s almost 2. With her son gaining footing in the toddler years, she’s only recently “come up for air” and is feeling settled as a sane(ish!) family with a nice(ish!) routine. She blogs at Clip Clop Mama and tweets as @clipclopmama.

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17 Comments

  1. Lisa says:

    I totally feel the same way. My son will be 10 months tomorrow and the first day I dropped him off at school when he was 3 1/2 mo old, I sobbed all day thinking that he was going to forget that I’m his mommy who loves her little boy more than any words can express. I thought he would think that his teacher is his mommy and that I would be forgotten. So far, that hasn’t proven to be true – THANK GOD!!! When I walk in to pick him up at the end of the day, he drops what he is doing and crawls as fast as he can over to me. And God forbid I don’t pick him up right away b/c he will freak out. I have to admit, that gives me warm fuzzies every single day.

    While I go back and forth with my guilt, I try to remind myself that he is learning and doing so much at school – and if I’m being honest with myself, I know that he’s so much more stimulated with his art projects, music class, and just playing with his friends than he would ever be if he were just at home with me. I think it makes me appreciate the time I do spend with him that much more special and meaningful.

    So, that’s how I get through my guilt and justify spending $1270/ mo on “school.” *GULP*. I just need to constantly remind myself of all that on a daily basis!! :)

    Reply
    • Mary Beth says:

      It sounds like you and I go through the same back-and-forth convo… the kids learn more at school. Still wish I could get more time with them during non-cranky hours! And yikes – lots for school! That’s how much we spend on 2!!
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  2. Jessie says:

    I am a firm believer in the trend towards part-time work becoming more of the norm. I am a civil engineer, a mom to a 2-yr-old and a part-time employee. I went from full-time to part-time when my son was born and have even moved to a new part-time job working from home. I worked 3 days a week up until a month ago and now I work 4 days a week. Although I get no benefits (vacation, sick, health, retirement) I do get flexibility and balance. My boss hired me knowing that I may never work full-time and now he can take on projects knowing that I will only be working 32 hrs a week. I know that some careers would NOT work as a part-time gig, I do see more and more people transitioning to part-time. I love it and I hope it becomes more available and more socially acceptable.
    Twitter: jessieyeager

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    • Mary Beth says:

      I would love for that to be a real trend. UPDATE to this story – I asked to reduce my hours and they said ‘no.’ I understand why but can’t help but be disappointed.
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    • Kimberly Russell says:

      I too am a civil engineer, a mom to a 4yr old and a 10 month old. Unfortunately, I am the only civil engineer for the surveying company I work for and would not be able to work part-time. I would love to not work but I since my hubby is a farmer I hold all of the family insurance. So I’m kinda stuck.

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  3. Sarah says:

    I am a part time working mama. I work in the same field I always have (Communications) and I am compensated more now (hourly) than I was when I was full time. I believe that organizations understand many women are conflicted and it broadens the selection of qualified candidates when they make a position part time. The beauty of my setup is when I am at work, I am 100% focused on work, and am a lot more productive. When I am home, I am 100% focused on being at home. I enjoy working. When my time off ends, I am ready to put my pretty work clothes on and be around other adults. When my day at the office ends, I am ready to play tea party and snuggle with my two year old. My advice to you? Persue part time employment.
    Twitter: SareEmm

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  4. I feel much the same way, except that I don’t have a choice anymore. Once upon a time I worked at my pleasure. I was happy with our daycare and my husband made great money, but I liked my job and the adult interaction and the extra disposable income, so I kept my job. Then we decided he would leave his high income, high stress job to finish school and take a job at a nonprofit. I was suddenly the main breadwinner and my job was our family’s lifeblood. And now the nonprofit has eliminated his position due to funding, so starting Monday, he’ll be a stay-at-home dad until he finds employment (which will hopefully be soon) and I will be the sole breadwinner for the first time ever.

    I still haven’t come to terms with it. I want to be the one at home with my kids now. They are at awesome ages. I’ve worked really hard for years. Both my husband’s and my goals for our family included me being able to stay at home with our children. But life happened, and now he gets to be with them all day while I work all day. And I get caught up in the “it’s not fair” aspect of our situation, but then I remember that it could be so much worse. And I’m thankful for my stable job with a great company that provides amazing benefits and plenty of flexibility.

    But still. I wish it was me.
    Rachel @ The House of Burks recently posted..#MomFail: Batman StyleMy Profile
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  5. i really am in a position where i HAVE to be working full time (i guess i should be proud that i can be the breadwinner, and i have a career that i truly enjoy). however, my heart wants to spend more than 2 waking hours with my 9 month old. i think when the conversation around having a baby #2 becomes serious, we’ll absolutely need to look into part time work for me. i cannot give any more of myself without completely breaking. i’m not sure if my current career path would allow it, but i’m going to explore related fields.
    Terri @FindingDrishti.com recently posted..Outdoor yoga options: Summer 2012 ATXMy Profile
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  6. What you describe in your second-to-last paragraph? I want that exact thing. I want to challenge myself, and I want to have more time with Baguette. Yet I think that her day care is both wonderful, and wonderful for her, and I have no desire to take her out of it completely. (She and her best friend get to see each other every day. I don’t want to take that away from her.)
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  7. Annie says:

    Oh my. I don’t think I could relate to this post anymore. I’m actually in tears reading it. Feeling conflicted – you stole the words right from my mouth. I love working, feeling accomplished and that I’m my own person. I love knowing that I’m supporting my family financially and hopefully teaching my daughter a high work ethic. But guess what? I love my baby girl more. And, having someone else spend all day, everyday with her? Well, it just breaks my heart. Hey – if you figure out the answer, let me know, would you :-)

    Reply
  8. aly in va says:

    I can totally relate. I left corporate America and went into education when we started planning for a family (my husband works for corporate and I knew there was NO way we could both do 50 hrs a week). I will say being a teacher is very rewarding in that I have great daytime hours and summer/holidays out. I do still however become sad thinking about the amount of time my daughters spend in school/daycare, wishing I could be a SAHM and homeschool them myself….but that’s just not our path right now and we make the best of the time we do have.

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  9. Susan says:

    I am the mom of two – now 12 and 14. I live in Canada where, now, mom’s get the 1st year off as paid maternity leave. I only had 6 months but that was better than my SIL in the US who has 2.3 months.

    I realized very early on in my kids lives that I “needed” to work to be the best mom I could be. I love my kids to death but I needed something more. I was lucky in that I was allowed to work part time at my job for 10 years before going back full time.

    The down side of part time is that no one really knows how to divide work into parts so generally I was expected to do a full time job in less days. The upside was that I had a perfect balance of adult time and kid time. It also allowed me to keep my skills current and my foot in the door to the working world.

    Can you look for a similar position that would let you do job sharing or part time work?

    Reply

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