I Am a Working Mom

Living in Southern California is expensive, and living in Orange County is no exception.  I have been fortunate to stay home with my children for the past 5 years. It didn’t come without sacrifice though.  I also took a part-time job as a waitress to offset some of our bills.  It was a good fit since I love being around people and it allowed me to be home with my kids during the day.  But when I broke my ankle and had ligament replacement surgery it kinda made it painful to waitress for 6 hours at night.  And to be quite honest… I felt too old to be serving now, my body would ache after a long shift towards the end there.

Photo Addict at the studio

I have been a working photographer for 7 years now, never enough that I would say my primary income came from it, but its always been there. I recently made the switch in January from commercial work to families and children. It’s been a great change and it feels like I finally found my niche, and I’m really good at it since I’m so good with kids. The thing is, due to finances I had to make a very pivotal decision, we knew we couldn’t afford all our bills on one salary. We also knew that waitressing wasn’t an option for me anymore. So the question really became, find a job or accelerate my 5 year plan?  What is my 5 year plan you ask? Well for me, I wanted to slowly work on my career as a photographer for 5 years, so that when little C started kindergarten, I would open a studio and have my open hours be when he was in school.

When researching jobs I realized the problem I had before I had little C, no one really hires part-timers anymore, and no boss is going to give me the flexability I need. What if there is an amazing playdate I want to take little C to? There’s no way an employer would be okay with that. What about t-ball practice? Parent-teacher conferences? I just didn’t want to sacrifice this time with little C. But my family needed more income.

My husband and I decided to take a leap of faith and open my studio 2 years ahead of schedule.  It’s been by far one the hardest and scariest things I’ve done. One of the main things that’s been difficult is that even though I can take my child to work with me, I’m still working and not paying 100% attention to him. I have put him in preschool 2 days a week which has been great for everyone since he is mr. personality and loves it. But it’s really hard to get a business running successfully in the first few months on 2 days a week. It’s a really tough decision to go back to work. I don’t know how the women do it after 6 weeks. Little C is almost 4 and I get that “guilty” feeling if he’s watched more than one movie at the studio with me. It’s such a hard balance working mothers have to live. I know I’m extremely lucky that I can take little C with me, or decide to take him to Disneyland for the day, but don’t be fooled, even flexible jobs are still work.

I stll have a hard time saying it out loud…
I am a working mom.

Mommy Guilt

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Let’s talk about Mommy Guilt. You know, that little voice inside your head, or often coming from other people, that tells you that no matter what you do, it’s not quite enough. We all live under the specter of Mommy Guilt. Because let’s face it–sometimes we moms just can’t win.

Take the working moms vs. stay at home moms (SAHM). Working moms–what terrible people! If they loved their children, they’d eat ramen noodles every day and stay home to nurture their children in the way only a mother can! And moms who actually choose to work–you know, so they don’t lose their sanity–well, that’s even worse. What’s wrong with you??? And those SAHM’s–how beatific, the self-sacrifice in order to surround your child with your love and care 24/7. What do you mean when you say you’re bored and would love some adult conversation that didn’t involve discussing sleeping problems or food, both on the way in and on the way out? If you loved your children, you’d leap with joy for every precious second. Why on earth would you say something like, “I’d kill for a little time for myself”? Don’t you know that there are working mothers out there who would love to be in your position? What’s wrong with you???

Like I said–working or not, we just can’t win. It’s that Mommy Guilt at work, and the key word in Mommy Guilt is should. Working moms, you should stay home with your children. SAHM’s, you should be grateful and not complain. Working moms, you should do all of your parenting yourself, not at daycare. SAHM’s, you should put your children in preschool or a group setting, lest you raise some kind of weird, unsocialized freak who can’t make friends or get along with anyone else.

And of course it’s not just working vs. not working. This Mommy Guilt is pervasive. Just sit and think for a moment about your kids. Count how many times “should” or “shouldn’t” pops up. Right now I’m on the couch with my laptop while Mouse is in the Pack ‘n Play gazing rather dumbly at the sturdy carrying bag that came with some expensive blocks (which he just threw out of the PNP in favor of the bag). See that dull, rather unintelligent look in his eyes? Shouldn’t you be reading to him or practicing rolling a ball back and forth, which the book says he should be able to do but can’t, probably because he spends a great deal of time in the PNP playing with the sturdy carrying bag that accompanied the expensive blocks? I’m getting ready to feed him some lunch (although I should have started that already). When I throw stuff on his tray, it really should be fruits and veggies I grew myself, organically, in our back yard. I also should engage him with eye contact to work on his language development skills instead of taking the opportunity to fold some laundry or do the dishes (which really should be done already). Oh, and did I mention that Mouse doesn’t eat with a spoon very well? Why? Because he makes such a mess of it that nearly nothing goes into his mouth and it all ends up either in his hair or his sleeves or the floor or inside the dog. Of course, if I take the time like I should be doing and teach him this valuable skill, he’ll be far less likely to go to college eating like a caveman.

Wow, seven shoulds that I probably won’t do all lined up for the next ten minutes of his life. A+ Mommy!

Now honestly, I can’t bring myself to feel terrible about each and every one of those things. He’ll get it eventually. Much of the time, we moms are very good at managing that Mommy Guilt, recognizing it for what it is: total crap. But there are other times when the Mommy Guilt stays with us. When it really does make us feel like we’re not quite enough. This can be devastating. It can be positively paralyzing for moms. Did you know that you can have post-partum depression for a full year after your child’s birth? Nothing feeds depression like a big old dose of Mommy Guilt.

Where does all this Mommy Guilt come from? Well, the easy answer that every well-educated person gives is “society.” It’s simply a part of American culture, that no mom is ever quite enough. But it also comes from our own heads. Again, think about all of your shoulds and shouldn’ts. If we recognize that Mommy Guilt is crap and we are good enough, smart enough, and gosh darnit, people like us, why do we still carry all of this around inside? And what can we do to get rid of it?

Let’s talk about Mommy Guilt. Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

And yes, Mommy–you are enough.

The Scrivener