You Don't Need to Feel Sorry for Me When You Learn I'm a Working Mom
I chose this path, thankyouverymuch.
“Oh, I'm not home with him during the week,” I told the stranger sitting across from me at a wedding when she assumed I spent every waking hour with my baby boy.
Her face dropped, the way one’s might upon learning a friend has terminal cancer.
Except my working isn’t anything like having a fatal disease, thankfully. So I’m not sure why so many people look at it this way.
This is simply the most recent example of the reaction I get after I confess that I’m a working mom of one small child, 4, and another very small child, 8 months. Yet her response is far from an anomaly. Although there are plenty of folks who seem unfazed or maybe even interested that I’m employed-while-mothering, there are just as many who seem to feel terrible that I’m a working mom, suspecting I had no say in my fate.
I’ve told myself it’s in my head. I must be imagining these horrified responses. And then come follow-up remarks like, “I could never be away from my baby,” and my favorite, “I wouldn’t want anyone else raising my child” that assure me, nope, this pity is definitely real.
Strangers, spare me your pity. I’d wanted so badly to be a magazine editor-in-chief when I was in college, and here I am! For me, it’d be ideal to do the job I love in less than the 10 hours a day I’m away from my kids, but until I figure out how to do so much on a part-time basis, I’ll stick with my full-time dream gig.
I’m acutely aware that not every working mom willingly selects to be away from her children five days a week. It’s not fair to assume that every mom who works wants to. My own working mother envied her stay-at-home moms’ friends’ ability to pay all their bills on a single salary. She probably would have quit her job if my dad raked in more cash. While my husband, kids and I certainly wouldn’t live as comfortably if I forewent my earnings, we’d get by just fine, despite being far from rich even with both our salaries in our New York City suburb. Still, I really like our situation the way it is.
I love my children more than my work. They do and will always come first. Fortunately, I’m in a position and at a company where I don’t (often) have to choose between my kids and my job. They’re learning and having fun at the high-quality daycare we are so lucky to be able to afford. You don’t need to feel bad for us!
Yes, working motherhood is exhausting. And when a kid gets sick or an unexpected project comes up, it’s hard to figure out how to handle the routine shake-up. But it’d be crazy to think that staying at home with kids is any less challenging or rewarding for many moms.
Save your concern for the moms who don’t get paid parental leave, the ones who are in physically intensive jobs that cause them to lose their unborn babies, the ones who can’t get hired because they took time off to care for a child. They deserve your sympathy. They need your help. But they don’t need your fallen face. And neither do I.
Written by Meredith Bodgas for Working Mother and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.