The Mom Dilemma – To work or not to work?

Mom dilemmaGrowing up I knew that I would go to college.  It wasn’t an option not too.  It had been a part of my plan for as long as I can remember.  Neither one of my parents had the opportunity to go to college after high school, though they both made it through much later in life.  It was their dream that my brother and I would both go to college and they worked tirelessly to see that dream happen.  They paid for every cent of our undergraduate degrees in engineering.   We both then went onto secure Master’s degrees in business from MIT.  I also received a second master’s degree from George Washington University in engineering.
With all this education and many dreams, I entered corporate America and climbed the ladder quickly.  I was a VP in my young 30’s.  The Sky was the limit.  The internet craze took the nation and caught up in the whirl wind; I raised money and had an internet start up.  Life was good.  My career fast paced, exhilarating…my life going places.   Then the bubble burst and so did my company.   My dream collapsed before my eyes.
Always the optimist, I thought — not even 35, I had a World of opportunities before me.   One reporter had followed my company’s progress closely and our relationship blossomed.  We married a year after the company closed.  Within the next five years we had two children.  Our oldest born with Down syndrome. ( I will talk more about this in later blog entries.  For now, just know he’s a joy in our lives.)  I was still working, still career focused.  We had hired a nanny to care for the little ones.  She was amazing and the kids were thriving.   I was in a key senior position at a company that was being acquired.  Upon acquisition, my position was eliminated.  I was fortunate to have been given a nice severance package.
Coincidently, my kids were broaching school age and our nanny who had been with us for five years needed to find full time versus part time work.    Thinking the kids would be in school and that I’d have time for entrepreneurial efforts and writing,  my husband and I decided that rather than hire someone to care for the kids or put them in after school programs, that I’d take on the responsibilities from 2:30 on.  Little did I know?
It turns out that when you drop the kids off at 8:20, your work day doesn’t begin until 9:00.   You also have to leave the house by 2:00 to be back in carpool line to pick up precious cargo by 2:30.  So an 8 hour work day becomes five.  In those five hours, much has to be accomplished – house cleaned, laundry done, kids activities planned, shopping for household items, food, lawn care, preparing for dinner, packing bags for their after school activities and snacks, emails, phone call returns, bills, banking, financial planning, dog walked, cars cleaned, thirty minutes of exercise).   You also have many half days, sick days, vacation days, school trips, school activities, doctors and dentists appointments, that eat up at least twenty percent of this time (you get the picture.    It is a rare day that I find myself with extra time to ponder my next creative effort or to write.
So, like many before me, I’ve fallen into the mommy trap.   Everyone (husband included) needs the mom.  The mom is the CEO of the household/family.  When I worked, I tried to do both jobs.  It was exhausting and often I felt like I could be doing better at both.  It was not a good way to feel.   Working as a mom is harder than working in an office in many ways.  In an office environment, it’s about a goal, a team, and an individual contribution.  As a mom, it’s mostly about someone else with little recognition, no pay, no incentives, and no retirement benefits.  Moms need to be self starters to stay sane and to drive themselves and their families towards family and individual goals while keeping peace and harmony in the family unit and promoting good health and happiness.  It’s a hard job.
Having done this job going on three years now, I realize that though many days I want to pull my hair out with frustration – mostly because I can’t find the me-time that I’m looking for — that no one is going to do this job better than me.  I can’t pay someone to be a mom for my family.  I have come to believe that if you have children and you have the means, that one parent (probably the mom in most cases) should be there for them.  I’m not saying that you can’t be a good mom and work.  Many of the mom tasks can be outsourced – laundry, yard, cleaning, etc…  I do believe, however, that it is better for a family if one parent is able to focus on the family.   No one will love and care for your kids better than you do.  If you don’t have to outsource the most important part of your life,why do it
Having said that, I know that I am at my most marketable right now.  I sometimes wonder if the income I could be generating for our kids and our retirement is more important than the role I am actively engaged in as a mom.  My decision, you already know, has been to be with my children. I’m actively participating in their lives at a time when they are still craving parental guidance and love.  I am closer to them then I’ve ever been.     I wonder daily if I’m making the right decision.  College is very expensive.  Life is very expensive.  Am I being selfish by choosing to spend my time with them?  Would they be better served if I were to be generating income to meet future needs that may arise?
I know others have made a different decisions and I’m also cognizant that I may choose to re-enter the job force and that my decision doesn’t have to be a permanent one.  I’d love to hear how each of you have made this decision.  I’d also love to hear from those with older children if you have any regrets based on the decision you made and what would you do differently, if anything?
I do believe there are no wrong answers just different paths we all take to get to the same place.



15 Comments

  1. Khushi

    Thanks for laying out the dilemma, I go through this nearly every day. I know there are no wrong paths, but sometimes they feel wrong 🙂

  2. Munny

    Deslie, its surprising how uncannily ur life resembles mine. But I think all mommy lives are connected in some way. I agree with you 100%, that there needs to be some one at the end of the day to run a family, which is a non stop job. My son is growing up too, and my husband commutes and does long hours. But there will always be this nagging question in your head that if you are doing the right thing. And I think you ABSOLUTELY are.

  3. A dilemma, indeed. Why is it so hard for us moms? I guess the rewards are equally sweet….but I yearn for an equilibrium where I can not only be there for my kids but also put all my education and experience to work. A part time job, maybe…but even today, part time jobs at relatively higher positions are so hard to come by and I wonder why Corporate America is not interested in tapping into this pool of talent?

  4. shonalie

    I’m trying to do what neelam (comments above) mentions – work as a self employed professional so I can schedule work time around my kids school times and nap time. But you’re still expected to pay your part of the moftgage, be the household CEO and be there for the kids 24/7. What ever choices one makes – remember that the years from 0 to 5 are the hardest and they need you the most.

  5. Priya K

    Hi. I llike the article, but I dont think 0 to 5 are the hardest. In US it is the preteens and tweens when you want to be at home! So the problem is here for the long haul.

  6. Indrani

    Deslie, I simply loved your post, because it resonated so much with my thoughts and beliefs, not to mention the dilema that educated stay at home moms go through. I go through the same from time to time But with my husband traveling frequently, I took the decision that I need to be around for my son, and fill for Daddy on most of the weekdays and let hubby focus on work without the worry of picking up our son and taking him for various activities. By God’s grace if money is not the reason for which I need to work, I felt its better that I do my part as a Mom well. The first 6 years of a child’s life are crucial as that’s the time when the foundation for academics, personality, physical well being as well as spirituality are formed. I do plan to get back to work when my son joins a full day school two years from now, but as of now, I am happy to be with him, share his joys and disappointments and hear him speak fondly of his teachers and friends. To give up a high profile job and be at home for your family takes a lot of courage and I am glad you have the courage to do so. All the best!

  7. Tacy

    I really love this post! This is such a struggle for most moms I know. Thanks so much for sharing your journey!

  8. sue

    I too face these thoughts daily. i m not a career orianted person. however, being a stay at home mum isnt to appealing either. I m good at my job and it feels good to be away from home for a portion of a day. when i get back home, i spend all my time with my 1 yr old daughter. I have my parents at home who look after her very well. so i do not feel the guilt as such. However, i keep contemplating being there for her after a while. when she really needs me. i want her to have a childhood similar to mine, of getting home from school knowing her mom is waiting to hear all her days stories. anticipating hot snacks made by me. Helping her with her crafts and homework. I enjoy cooking and this passion of mine will also get accomplised when im at home planning all healthy meals for my child and husband. Yes, i will not deny that money and independence are BIG factors of all this planning of mine going wrong. But 8 hours of work= good money/visibility = 8 hours of lost time with your only child. Is it worth it?

  9. Khushi

    Sue,
    you have put it so beautifully. I am struggling with the same thing…as I assume are many others. I did a course recently which had this suggestion – write down the 2 – 3 things you want to have accomplished by an age. Dont worry about professional or personal, just write it down. Then work backwards and see what decisions you can make to get there.

  10. Bangalorean

    Yeah it is a very tough decision. I am a mother of two kids. But somehow, quitting the job was never an option for me. it is not just for money. but fearing the loss of identity, the job satisfaction, securing the kids future/education etc. But to mange both well, it really takes an extra bit like planning all activities much ahead and cutting down the sleep hours. etc but at the end of it I feel it is worth it. Choosing to work or not to work is purely an individual’s choice.

  11. sue

    Hi Khushi, Thats a good suggestion…ill try that. have you tried it yourself? how did it work out?

  12. I personally feel that the mother should stay home with the children. I have always been home with my children. My oldest is 16 and my youngest is 11. My husband has always worked. Since 2007 I began homeschooling them. I am now working from home, so there are options for Moms who want to be home with their children. As for me time, sometimes you have to pencil that in on your schedule and just go for it because Moms need time to relax and enjoy themselves too outside of what they do for their husband and children even if it is only taking time to enjoy a good book.

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  14. SteveB

    It’s a challenging issue for sure. It’s become a strain that now everyone; men and women; must decide what they want to do for a career when they’re just starting high school, and yet the prospect of a life looking after children doesn’t enter the picture. I know there is a movement in Europe where a lot of women are electing to stay at home because they’re actually happier in their role as mothers. This doesn’t mean they can’t work…it’s about having the choice. As a single father, I actually prefer working from home so I can spend time with my daughter without having to worry about constant hour-long commutes and “fitting her in…” But when I suggest this approach, people think I’m either crazy or lazy.

    Work / Life balance is exactly what it sounds like. It’s about making decisions that fit the individual, and tailoring the options to the most comfortable and satisfying life journey, while still managing those obligations. Sometimes hard choices have to be made, but all anyone can do is try it out, right?

  15. Heather

    Hi there! I was hoping you would be able to answer a quick question about your blog! My name is Heather and if you could email me at Lifesabanquet1(at)gmail(dot)com that would be great!

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