The first year of parenthood, ok, let's be honest, all of parenthood is full of choices.
Do I cloth diaper or use disposables?
Do I splurge on the organic formula or is the regular stuff ok?
Do I follow baby-led weaning or start with purees?
Do I stay at home or go back to work?
The decisions you make don't always feel black and white, especially with your first when you are learning as you go and feel clueless most of the time. But the options themselves are pretty straightforward. This or that?
So in the case of choosing to go back to work after becoming a mom, it makes sense that you continue to see your options as this or that. It's partly true. It's hard to go back to work AND stay at home unless you have a pretty great work set-up. It could happen. But the choice for most is either-or, at least for the time being.
What I am talking about though, are the mixed emotions and questions that come once you've decided to go back to work. Or even once you've been back for awhile.
- Do I love being back at work, or do I miss being at home?
- Do I enjoy the freedoms and adult conversation at work, or do I feel guilty for not being with my kid?
- Do I want to grow my career, or do I want to be present with my baby?
You feel like you have to choose between your career and your family. And for a lot of new moms who are experiencing mom guilt as they return to work, they question whether they are making the right choice.
They question if the money or the health benefit is worth it. They question what the long-term impact of daycare or a babysitter will be for their child. They question whether their baby will love them as much when they are away for so many hours each week.
These are all valid questions and ones that I have grappled with at each return to work. They are not fun thoughts to have, but I take solace in the fact that because I am thinking them, I'm probably a good mom who cares and wants the best for my kid.
Changing One Little Word
But what if all of the questions and choices you face as a new working mom didn't have to be so black and white?
What if you tried using the word AND instead of the word OR?
Instead of thinking "do I love being back at work or do I miss being at home?", think "I love being back at work AND I miss being at home."
Instead of, "do I want to grow my career or do I want to be present with my baby?", try "I want to grow my career AND be present with my baby."
I can have a career AND be an amazing mom.
I love what I do AND I love being a mom.
None of these things are mutually exclusive, but we tend to tell ourselves that they are.
Give Yourself Permission
Just changing that one word can be so freeing. It gives you permission to feel the messy and conflicting feelings that come with being away from your baby.
Holding space for both thoughts won't always feel true, and that's ok. But instead of laying out two different paths for ourselves, instead of making things black and white, doesn't it feel better to combine all aspects of ourselves? To give ourselves permission to feel both things at the same time?
It might feel a bit like internal conflict at first, like you're being pulled in two opposite directions. You've probably been conditioned or conditioned yourself to think that you can't want to be at home and want to be at work at the same time. But I'm living proof that you can. And I think most working moms have or do think that same thing at some point.
Blending these two pieces of our lives is messy and is at times full of conflict both in us and around us. That doesn't mean that you've made the wrong choice, or that it's not worth it. It just takes practice.
Practice at work and practice at home. But mostly, practice in your mind.
What either-or statement have you been telling yourself lately? What would happen if you tried replacing the OR with AND? Hopefully, it gives you some freedom and permission to feel pulled - to work and to home. And that is ok.