About seven years ago, my husband and I decided to start trying to have children and grow our family. I remember talking with my coworkers about how excited I was and one of them asked me what my work plans were. This seemed like a crazy question to me because for my entire life, I had two dreams: become a teacher and then have babies and stay home with them. For as long as I can remember, that was the “plan” I had for myself, even if I couldn’t quite put it into those words.
Fast-forward to the birth of our first son in 2018 (five years ago today, in fact). At the time, my husband was relatively new to the job and didn’t yet have insurance. I had to continue working and it almost killed me to leave my firstborn each day to go to work. By the time I had my daughter two years later, we were insured through my husband and I was ready to stop working and embrace the full-time stay-at-home mom life. I was so excited and ready to spend every moment with my children.
To add to that, my last day working was the day everything shut down for COVID. During my first year off work, I suffered from postpartum depression and anxiety. My entire family and I got COVID, we lost my father-in-law, and we moved to a new city and state, about 45 minutes from my friends and family.
Along with all of these changes, and in addition to being a new mom, I realized that staying home with my kids was a lot more challenging than I anticipated. It was such a joy and privilege to be able to be with them each day. I was getting to see them learn and grow constantly. I was able to pour into them fully and without the influence of another caregiver. I learned more about them, their personalities, likes, dislikes, habits, and quirks, but I also experienced unexpected struggles, such as the guilt of not providing income, but still spending money.
The requirement to always be “on” without time away from my children. I was constantly stressed, tired, and touched out. My depression and anxiety were at an all-time high with little face-to-face support. This wasn’t because my friends and family didn’t care, but because COVID made it hard to see them regularly. On top of that, most of them were working during the day. I turned to social media as my “friend” which only made the problems exponentially worse. I was filling my mind with highlights and romanticized versions of stay-at-home moms with their perfectly manicured appearances, tidy homes, happy children, and schedules full of fun and engaging activities. Their kids were well behaved and napped independently for hours, giving their moms time to do all kinds of projects. Meanwhile, I was wearing a three-day old mom bun, my house was a wreck, and I was eating my kids’ cold leftover mac and cheese that they refused to eat. Pop Tart crumbs were everywhere and I was constantly falling behind on my home duties (that were self imposed, I might add).
I felt like I could never measure up or do anything right.
Despite the encouragement and support of my husband, I felt like a failure. While I didn’t feel successful at my new role, I didn’t have any intentions of going back to work. Until January 2023, when the opportunity of going back to work full-time was presented to me.
My initial thought was no.
If I went back to work, it meant I was a failure. Everyone would know it. I couldn’t hack it as a stay-at-home mom, so I had to go back to work. All of the super moms who had it together would know I was weak and wasn’t as good as them. I also thought that if I went back to work, it meant I was a bad mom who didn’t love her children. What kind of a mom would need a break from her kids in order to be more loving, patient, and kind? I was also nervous about returning to work after being gone so long. What if I couldn’t do it anymore? If I couldn’t teach my own kids at home (we planned on homeschooling), how could I possibly be capable of teaching other children? And the scarier part…if I COULD teach other children, what did that mean about my relationship with my own kids?
Now that I’ve prayed through these feelings and discussed them at great length with my husband and mentors, and especially now that I say them out loud and write them down, I know they aren’t true. I want to encourage all mamas who work or are considering going back to work. Staying at home with your children doesn’t make you a good mom. Working full-time doesn’t make you a good mom. Working from home, part-time, or in any capacity doesn’t make you a good or bad mom. Your worth is so much more than what you do for a living. Doing what’s best for you (mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally) and your family is what makes you a good mom. Loving your children enough to make tough decisions makes you a good mom. Filling your own cup so that you can pour into others makes you a good mom.
Making huge decisions is scary and difficult, and so is raising children. But going into those decisions knowing who you are making them for, as well as having the support and encouragement from those around you, is instrumental in making wise choices. We do the best we can for those in our lives, not to impress others or try to measure up to the people we see on social media…because, guess what? They have the same struggles and insecurities, too.
Let’s stop shaming moms or making them second guess themselves for making choices different from ours; we’re all just trying to do our best. Let’s show up and show support for each other instead. Check in on the stay-at-home moms who might feel isolated and discouraged. Encourage the working moms who might feel guilty for being away from their children with their time stretched thin.