I dropped my daughter off at day care this morning, and it killed me a little bit. The idea of another mother watching my child because I was unable to do so. The guilt clung to my shoulders and suffocated my heart.
My other children ventured outside the house once they were old enough for preschool, and I justified this because it was preparation for kindergarten. At eighteen months, my youngest wasn’t eligible for preschool, but I needed to carve out some time for myself.
With three older children in school and extracurricular activities, my early-morning, late-night, and naptime breaks no longer existed. I was simply never alone, without being utterly exhausted. Being consistently overwhelmed every minute of every day led to an emotional break, and I felt like I was losing my mind.
I came to a crossroads: was I doing a disservice to my youngest by keeping her at home full-time? I was drowning under the weight of my maternal responsibilities without an outlet from the diapers and goldfish.
I was losing my love of being a mom. I no longer enjoyed the snuggles but felt stifled by them. I couldn’t engage in their fantastic stories. I couldn’t be present for their emotional struggles because I could not overcome my own. Every day I stayed home, without pursuing personal growth, my joy dwindled.
Then I had a conversation with one of my doctors, and it unlocked something inside of me. I told her how overwhelmed I was and how I missed my writing. She said, “I’m a better mom for working.” She went on to tell me how she was more patient with her children, more engaged, and how work offered emotional support when home life was tough.
This conversation incited hope that I could improve my situation, but then the fear set in. What if I couldn’t find the right person to watch my youngest? What if I paid more in childcare than I could make? What if failing as a working mom made me feel even worse than I did as a stay-at-home mom? It didn’t matter that I had basically run a company before having children. I was convinced that six years at home had dulled my entire professional skillset.
And so I waited, wallowing in my insecurities, and wading deeper into the waters of self-doubt. Until I couldn’t breathe, and the only option was to rise up for air. No one could save me. I had to save myself. No one would make me happy. Only I could do that. No one was responsible for my professional path. Except for me.
I accepted the realization that working might be exactly what I needed and absolutely essential to my well-being. I also knew some changes had to be made to create an environment conducive to success.
The Benefits of Work
If I was actually going to give working from home a real shot, I needed time during the day, while the sun was out. Morning time had been taken up by packing lunches, making breakfast, and herding everyone out the door. Naptime for one child meant quality time with another. And bedtime for everyone meant collapsing on the couch for mom. Those snippets of time I used to maximize had been obliterated by school related activities and the ensuing exhaustion.
Daytime childcare became my only option. So as the guilt and shame of a stay-at-home mom dropping her child off with another stay-at-home mom clawed at me, I made a different choice. I confronted my self-loathing and pushed back.
I reminded myself of all the reasons why day care was a great situation. For everyone involved. My daughter would be able to play with other children and socialize outside of our house. It would contribute to another family financially and help us further invest in our community. It would drastically improve our home life. It would give me back to my family by first giving me back to myself. And it couldn’t hurt to make a little extra money along the way.
And so I dropped my daughter off today with fear in my heart but the courage to fight for myself. For what I deserved. For what I needed to survive. A sense of purpose outside of my role as a wife and mother. I had the pleasure of being a woman today. With goals of her own and dreams and aspirations for a bright future.
And all of my fear and worry and stress was for nothing. After a morning full of tea and eggs and stories, one of my daughters said, “You were such a fun mom today.” My oldest gave me a hug and said, “Thank you for being such a nice mom this morning.” My other daughter squealed when I painted her nails later in the day with my newfound energy. And as I kissed my youngest goodbye at her new day care, she completely ignored me, trading my attention for a plastic cup of goldfish.
No one suffered because I prioritized my well-being. Quite the opposite, in fact. Today, we thrived.