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On being working moms

By Robin Dearing
First, we’d like to clarify that there is no such thing as a “non-working? mom. But we•ve taken the title of “working mom? to mean a mother who works outside the home. We•ve each contributed to this entry as it’s such a compelling topic and, obviously, one with which we all can relate. So here are our thoughts on being working moms: Lynn Workin’ 9 to 5, what a way to make a livin’. Somethin’, somethin’ somethin’, it’s all takin’ and no givin’. Dolly Parton made a great movie about the life of working women. But that’s Hollywood. This is real life. I’ve been workin’ for a livin’ since I was 11-years-old. The money I made babysitting, waiting tables and working in the kitchen of a commune outside Woodstock put me through college with a very small loan at the end of it all. I tell you this because I think work is good. Work is your friend. We should all do work of some kind because there aren’t enough cardboard signs for everyone. The only time since age eleven that I wasn’t employed was during the latter part of my pregnancy and for the first two years of my son’s life. I was blessed to be able to stay home with him for those first two years, and grateful that his dad paid the bills. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Staying at home raising your kid is hard work. It is often boring, lonely, exhausting, tedious and it’s the most rewarding time you’ll ever put in on planet Earth. Eventually the time came for me to start bringing home the bacon again. That meant putting my toddler in daycare. The image I am left with is my son grabbing on to the side of the door as we walked in and screaming as if someone was ripping out his toenails. Of course, Miss Carol told me that by the time I made it to the parking lot he had forgotten all about me and was happily playing with the other abandoned children. Alex and I were lucky to have had great daycare. We owe many thanks to Miss Carol, Miss Rachel and grandma and grandpa. I have a great job. In fact, I have two great jobs. My Monday through Friday and then some is at The Daily Sentinel where I’ve been happily employed for over seven years. My every other weekend more or less job is at Plum Creek Winery where I’ve been happily sipping with customers for a couple years. Both jobs are different, but alike in that they pay me cold, hard, cash to buy things like braces, sporting equipment, vacations, college and lots of other wants. The paychecks also take care of needs like a house, gas for the car, clothing and food. I am very fortunate to work for a company that is family friendly. I wouldn’t — couldn’t — work here if that were not the case. Even with the flexibility to leave for doctor’s appointments, orthodontist appointments, parent-teacher conferences, sick calls from school and other such occasions, the guilt of being a working mom never leaves and after twelve years it hasn’t gotten any easier to deal with. It’s a constant, nagging worry that sits on my shoulder all day. The little voice inside my head that asks, “Why am I not at home with my kid? Why am I not making cookies instead of buying them for the class party? How am I going to juggle the work I need to do today, shop for groceries, make a decent dinner, clean up, run off to practice/school activity/insert one of a hundred things here and then get home, put a load of laundry in, nag about homework, insist on a shower and a reasonable bedtime?? And let•s not forget the volunteer time I put in, too. I’m not bitching or bragging, and I have never asked for a pity party. (However, if you want to throw me one, I’ll bring the beer.) But I gotta tell ya being a working, single mom is damn hard, and I think I’ve done a pretty stellar job of juggling it all. My kid is healthy and as happy as a 14-year-old ever is. We have all our needs and the majority of our wants taken care of. He’ll have money in the bank for college, and I’ll have some left for a hopefully long and happy retirement. And you know what I’ve discovered? A lot of the stay-at-home moms bring store bought cookies to the class party. Richie Making parenting decisions is hard but defending those decisions is even harder. At times I feel as though all womanly eyes are casting a scowl of scrutiny my way. I feel as though my decisions are being analyzed, questioned, then spat in hissing whispers behind my back. Worse yet, point blank statements make me the center of timeless debates and often times, outdated unsolicited advice. Examples include: cloth diapers: “why would you want to use them??; cradle cap: •you should give him a bath more often? and breastfeeding: •I think he’s just hungry?. The worst of which is, •Are you going to work?? This is a loaded question. There is no •right? answer. If I say •yes?, then I•m selfish. I must not care if “other people raise my children.? I must not really love my son if I could leave him for eight hours a day in the hands of a probable child molesting caregiver. These are paraphrases of actual things that have been said to me. If I say •no? then I•m a free-loading gold digger who just has children because I’m too lazy to do anything else. Homemaker is not a title that commands respect. I usually answer yes to this question followed by a blanket statement like: “We need the insurance? or •I like my job.? Sometimes, when I just don•t want to deal with it, I say “I don’t know? and just walk away. Yeah, I•m like that. The truth is I never considered not working for a lot reasons. I really do like my job. I’ve seen lots of successful women who combine work and family. I’ve always worked and really don’t think that staying home would be enough for me to feel satisfied. I put myself through college so that I could stand on my own two feet independently. I have a student loan. I like the sense of equality it brings to my marriage. I’d like to retire. I’d like to go to Disneyland. I want more kids and I’d like to feed them without tapping the taxpayer. I like having a car and a house. Often, my blanket comment is rebuked with a high pitched sarcastic, “It must be nice.? (Note to everyone: Don•t ever say this to me. I think people who use this phrase are idiots.) Know what? It IS nice to have a car and a house. AND, there’s nothing wrong with both parents earning an honest living for their family. We work hard for what we have and sometimes our choices do bring us NICE things. My baby is not being “raised by someone else.? He•s never been away from me for longer than 4 hours since his birth. He’s not left with a babysitter at any other time then while I’m working. He’s taken care of by family. I feel as though my priorities have never been straighter. My son and husband are at the top of the list. Working helps my household pay the bills and I make it a point to spend quality time everyday with them. I know working is not the “right? decision for everyone, but it•s “right? for us right now. Robin Back before I had kids, I thought that when the time came to start a family, I would stay home with the kids (I also thought my kid would never take a bottle, pacifier, wear disposable diapers or eat canned baby food • yeah, I didn’t know squat). But then I had Margaret and I realized that nothing that I had thought I wanted was going to happen in this reality. I was working full-time when I became pregnant. Bills had to be paid and we had to eat. I had to work. After Mar was born, I went back to work at a previous job for a while. I quit when Mar was about 9 months old. I stayed home until I came to work at The Daily Sentinel when she was 18 months old. I was glad to have the time with my baby and I will never regret that time. It was wonderful … for the most part. But the part that wasn’t wonderful was truly awful. We couldn’t afford for me not to work. Every month I grew more and more depressed as we went further and further into debt. It felt horrible. I felt stuck and helpless. My husband was working as much as he possibly could so we could pay the mortgage and feed ourselves. I never saw him and when he was home, he was exhausted. It was no way to live. So we made a change and I came to work for The Daily Sentinel. It was hard taking my toddler to daycare knowing that she was going to be spending her days without me. Comments like, “it must be hard to leave your baby for someone else to raise? rang out in my mind. I felt guilty. But a funny thing happened •& Margaret thrived in daycare. Our daycare lady was wonderful. Mar still calls her Gramma Julia. We are forever indebted to her. She potty trained Mar, kept her on a great schedule that included naps and loved her. It was wonderful. Margaret got to play with kids her own age in a postive environment. Then she went to pre-school. We made a good selection and Mar was in another great environment where she was prepared for kindergarten and received all the stimulation that a growing pre-schooler needs. I couldn’t have done for Margaret what they did for her. I no longer feel guilty. I made the right choice for my family.