“I work from home… but my 9-month-old daughter still goes to daycare every day,” I find myself telling a new neighbor or family member from back home on the East Coast.
As soon as the sentence comes out of my mouth, the guilt hits, and I immediately scramble to find the words to justify our situation. “I work on East Coast hours and my customers expect me to be available for phone calls throughout the day,” or “She only naps twice a day.”
Why do I feel that it’s necessary to add the conjunction “but” every time I describe our family situation?
And, why do I feel the instant rush of guilt that causes me to provide additional details that the person I’m conversing with probably doesn’t even care about?
In my head, the other person is judging my choices, or perhaps it’s a bit of guilt for putting my daughter in daycare, instead of keeping her home with me.
Whatever the case, why do I feel like I should be able to do it all, that I should be able to work full-time and take care of my kid?
However, as I learned firsthand just a few weeks ago, in order to be at my best as an employee (and mom), having my daughter go to daycare is the best scenario for our little family. I certainly can’t do it all.
My daughter was sick with a stomach bug all week, so she couldn’t attend daycare, and I couldn’t take an entire week off of work without using a large chunk of my vacation hours, and without leaving my projects abandoned.
So what was the far-from-perfect solution? I sat her on the floor in my office, with a segment of her alphabet foam mat and a mountain of toys, and also worked during her two naps. I also had to use some of that vacation leave. (Luckily, her dad was able stay home some of the time as well.) I felt bad not giving her my full attention when she wasn’t feeling well.
It was impossible to devote my full attention to both, to be ‘super mom’ at the same time as ‘employee of the week.’
I must admit, we all breathed a little easier when she was back at daycare the next week, not only because we were so thankful that she was healthy again, but also because it was a mentally exhausting week.
Let’s face it, as parents, there’s not much time outside work and tending to your kids as it is, and when you have a sick child at home, there’s virtually none. I don’t think I left the house in two days, and then it was to walk the dog. The house was even more messy than usual, and we likely subsisted on pizza (a Friday staple in our household, but not an everyday food).
I haven’t been a mom for very long, but it does seem as though there is often this feeling of having to do it all, and feeling judged for whatever decision you make that’s best for your family, whether that be staying home with your kids, working in an office, working from home, or whatever the case may be.
I’m not sure how to change that conversation on a larger scale, but I can start by changing my own conversations, and my conjunctions.
“I work from home, AND my daughter goes to daycare every day, where I know she is having a great time learning and making new friends.”