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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Finding your balance...

Working mother VS stay home mother....

I’ve always known that I wanted children just as much as I wanted a career. From the time I was old enough to work (well… maybe a little later, for the sake of not sounding too dramatic. I wouldn't want you to think that at 15 years old, I was already on the grind earning my dollars!), I've been working.

Then I had my beautiful children… 
Did the prospect of being a stay home mom, to focus on my children, husband and be the household manager ever present itself as a serious thought for me? NO. I could never be a stay home mom, not only because our household requires 2 incomes to function properly, but also because I need the stimulation, the daily change from home to the working environment. At home, I challenge myself to be the best mom and wife I can, and the rewards are instant (loving, devoted me + clean house = happy home), however for me, I know it would have been an overwhelming situation if that was my day-in and day-out life. At work, I earn an identity other than “mom”. I get a certain stimulus from interacting with adults, a joy from knowing that  I’m a positive contributor to the workplace, and a satisfaction with knowing that I’m a role model to my kids (in this particular aspect of life). But mostly, I get the reward of bringing home that additional pay check, which allows our family to have a better financial structure.

Just as much as I know for a fact that I wasn’t meant to be a stay home mom, 2 months ago, something happened that made me question myself as a mother. It made me question my priorities and whether or not I’ve had it all wrong for the past 12 years…

I have two beautiful children; my son is 12 and my daughter is 9. When Jayson was born, it was an easy adjustment. I used to call him my handbag, because everywhere I went, he was there right along with me. Quiet and easy going, he was a joy to have around and even for anyone to baby-sit. Having a child wasn’t as daunting a task as I’ve heard it could be. Between my husband and I, I was able to go back to work full time after 2 ½ months of maternity leave, and we were able to keep him out of day care until he turned 2.
3 years later, my little princess Jazzmine came along and that’s when I truly felt that I had a family, because things weren’t as stress-free anymore. Who carries 2 handbags?  It’s not as easy to ask someone for help when you have to watch 2 instead of 1. With the support of family and great friends, we made it work. As I spent the last decade of my life building a career for myself, while maintaining what I believe to be a good family structure, I didn’t notice that my priorities (or the way I managed them) were skewed towards work. From time to time, I would have an inclination that I needed to spend more time with my kids. It became obvious when I would come home and hear the fun stories of what they did with daddy. It became more obvious when we realized that all the scheduled activities Jazzy wanted to be involved in, were all catered to stay-home moms (and their open schedules). Unfortunately, she never got to be involved them, whereas Jayson was luckier.

I have been looking at my kids lately and thinking; they are well adjusted, well behaved, happy kids but more and more, the guilt in the pit of my stomach was making my days away from home and them really unsettling. Was it guilt or was it just being exhausted and needing a break from the 100 MPH lifestyle I was living, trying to be “Wonder Woman”. I was starting to realize that, what I thought may have been a work of art in juggling all my responsibilities, wasn’t as perfect as I thought…

Two months ago, I came home and on our kitchen calendar there was a permission slip for a volunteer chaperon on a school activity for Jazzmine’s class; she had filled in my name, her name, her grade and on the part that asked what time the parent would be available she wrote in capital letters, “NEVER”.
I was standing in front of my calendar, reading those 5 letters over and over, with my coat still on, my bag in one hand and groceries in the other and I felt deflated. The kids were upstairs with their dad and at this point, no one had realized that I was home. I went into my room and while tears were falling down my cheeks, I was making the decision that my children were more important than any career and things had to change. Quickly, my mind was going, and while getting dinner ready, I decided that I needed to quit my job. I had to find a 9 to 5, anything that would allow me to be a chaperon, carpool mom, soccer mom, or cheerleader mom… all those things that I now knew   I needed to do, in order to be the perfect mom.
My daughter came downstairs with her joyous self and gave me a hug. I showed her the slip and asked her if that’s how she really saw things and very matter-of-factly she said, “Well mommy, you always work so I know you’ll never do it but that’s okay, I don’t care”. The fact that she meant what she wrote and tried to make me feel good about it by saying she didn’t care, pained me even more. The fact that my 9 year old cared more about protecting my feelings, than declaring what she wanted most, just emphasizes how wrong I had been.

That night, I went through the motions of our evening ritual. After the kids went to bed, I went into my bedroom and sat there for what seemed like hours, until my husband came to lie down. As soon as I told him we needed to talk, I started crying hysterically.  I had let down the most important people in my life by choosing not to see. Now confronted with my failure, I was lost. Through my tears, I told him something had to give. I was going to scale down and focus on my baby girl and all the things she had been missing out on. He listened to me, while rocking me and trying to calm me down.

My husband finally held my head in his hands and said, “Baby, what do you need from me? Whatever you want to do, I will support you but instead of wanting to take such extreme decisions, which truly are not necessary and wouldn’t make you happy, why don’t you look at the little things you could do that mean the world to her and will keep you doing what you love. On your day off, set up mommy/daughter day, where you pick her up from school, instead of her going to the afterschool program and let her choose what she wants to do. Go on date with her and you’ll see how you’ll make her day, how she will look forward to those special moments with you and this without you having to compromise your career…”

Stay-home mom VS working mom, for me, it has never been an option. I always envisioned myself working, although my priority has always been my children. I was willing to give up what I knew fulfilled me as a person (outside of motherhood), so I could be a better mom instead of finding the balance that would’ve allow me to be a better manager of my life.

Since that conversation with my husband, my daughter and I have lunch dates, spa days, cuddle time, and she signed herself up for the basketball league at her school. I have found time to go and be a cheerleader at her games, instead of telling her she couldn’t because my schedule doesn’t allow it. I’ll never have an 8 to 5 schedule but the schedule that I have will have to make place for my kids.

Again, we go back to “If I’m happy than you’ll be happy”, and finding that right balance for your life.

Love always,

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