To Work or Not to Work, That Is the Question. Again.

Now that I’m half-way through my pregnancy, people are getting more daring about asking personal questions. I understand the curiosity. Everyone wants to know what we’re having (a boy), what name we’ve chosen (not telling) and whether or not Dawson, our oldest child, is excited to have a sibling.

But when an acquaintance, or rather, a nosey friend of a friend, asked if I was going to quit my job once the baby arrived, I became defensive. I didn’t really understand why she was asking this question or what business it was of hers. She was polite, and I tried to reciprocate so I replied, "No. I won’t be quitting my job."

The look on this woman’s face was one of horror. It bothered me so much that I said, "Why are you looking at me as if I’ve just turned into an alien?"

She quickly contorted her face into a smile and said, "Well, most moms I know are staying at home with their kids. I quit working right before my first baby was born. I just didn’t want my daughter to be raised by someone else."

I didn’t know what to say. I tried to stay calm and told this person that as parents we make decisions that we feel are best for our children and ourselves. Decisions one parent makes may not work for another, and as mothers (and fathers) it really is in our best interest to support each other.

"Well, I’d feel guilty for leaving my child in daycare." my faux-friend told me.

Parenting isn’t easy. It’s one of the most complex responsibilities I’ve ever had. Hearing this person bring up the issue of Mom Guilt irked me to the core.

"Well, I suppose I have an advantage," I began. "I work from home, and my son is in daycare a few hours a day, three days a week. I don’t think there is anything wrong with allowing him the opportunity to socialize with other children his age in a childcare setting."

"Well, I guess we all do what we have to do," she finally conceded.

It’s the "Mommy Wars" all over again, people. And I’m truly horrified that some of us are still debating the pros and cons of staying home with our children vs. working while raising children (or is it raising children while working?). I just don’t understand why this issue won’t die down.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: We cannot do it all. We cannot have it all.

No matter how much we’d love to be the "perfect" mother <em>and</em> career woman, it just can’t be done. Perfection is a myth. There will always be sacrifices to be made. Mothers who stay at home may worry about not contributing financially to the family dynamic. Mothers who work full time may stress over how much time they spend at the office vs. quality time with their kids.

I know many will say it’s just a matter of finding balance. When I think about it, I picture a balance scale. On one side we have motherhood, on the other we have career. When I think of the responsibilities of being a parent and a working woman, I picture rocks. The more time I spend doing motherly things, the more rocks I add to the motherhood side, leaving my career rocks by the roadside (and vice versa).

However, being a mother and being a working woman aren’t the only responsibilities I have. Not only do I have to make time for my children and my job, I have to set aside time to spend with my husband, to clean the house, to weed the garden, to do laundry, to help my aging parents, to walk the dog and most importantly, to take care of myself. Which side of the balance scale would these commitments belong?

This is why I believe it’s not a matter of finding balance, but rather prioritizing. Some days my children and their needs will be top priority. Other days my work will come first, and my children will be with a our trusted childcare provider.

I cannot be with my children every single minute of every day. When I’m otherwise occupied by equally important tasks as child rearing and working, I’m grateful that my husband can step in. When he’s working, I have a fabulous support network that includes my parents and siblings, and yes, our daycare provider. Without these people in my life, I don’t know what I’d do. They love Dawson as if he were their own child, and he is always well taken care of. I find myself very lucky.

That’s not to say I don’t have moments when I question my choices. Yes, the Mom Guilt creeps up on me sometimes, but I’ve learned that when this happens, it’s just a matter of telling the guilt to shut the hell up.

We do what we have to do, and we do the best that we can. What more can we ask for?