We’ve all heard the joke: what are the three best reasons to become a teacher? June, July, and August. And it’s funny because it’s (partly) true. This summer was my first real summer “off” with my kids, and I enjoyed it immensely. We took a vacation to Florida, visited parks and the library, and crammed in as much time at the pool as was possible. My son played t-ball, and my daughter developed her sense of humor (that rivals any adult I know, I promise). But all this fun was not without side effects, namely exhaustion.
I was surprised to find myself happy to see the summer winding up. I walked through the school supply aisles wistfully eyeing post-it note pads and sharpies. I checked my calendar regularly to see how quickly the days when I could talk to humans over 3 feet tall about topics other than Mickey Mouse and fruit snacks were approaching. It was time to dig my school bag, books, and gradebook out of the dark corners of the coat closet, and I was thrilled.
And then the Mom Guilt set in. Why was I so happy to leave my babies? Wasn’t I always telling everyone that being a mother was my favorite job in the world? Didn’t I, at one point, want to be a stay-at-home mom? I should be sad, not happy, that I had to return to work. What was wrong with me? The answer, of course, is: nothing. There is absolutely nothing wrong with me and any other mother who finds joy in her work. I knew I had to dispose of the Mom Guilt, so, in my classic Type A fashion, I came up with a list of reasons why.
1. Working is not optional
I’m a single mother. I’m financially responsible for my children’s basic needs. Even if I wanted to stay home with them 24/7, I couldn’t–it is simply not a reality for us at this time. Fortunately, I get to work from home two days a week, which eases the Mom Guilt and aids my work/home life balance, but this is a luxury that is not afforded to most women. Even in two-parent homes, it is often necessary that both parents work. It is pretty illogical for us, then, to feel guilt over something beyond our control.
2. I’m a better mom when I work
Over the summer, I found myself running short on patience and longing for a respite from the constant refereeing of my 4- and 2-year-olds (when does that phase end, by the way? When they move out?). Since I’ve returned to work and a structured schedule, I find myself appreciating my time with my children more. I feel like my fellow mom-friend, Jen, who says, “At 5:00, I BOLT out that door and race to get to her.” Also, since I am not refereeing from sunrise to sunset every. single. day., I have a renewed reserve of patience. It’s a win-win for everyone.
3. I’m pursuing my passion
Our kids need good role models and not just athletes, celebrities, and musicians. As a parent, I want to live a life I’m proud of, one that I’m happy with, so that my children will be inclined to do the same. As the old adage goes, “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” One of the most important lessons I hope to teach my children is to find their passion and purpose in life and to pursue it wholeheartedly, without hesitation. I fully believe that I was destined to be a mother AND a teacher and that I can do both well.
4. Quality, not Quantity
Guess what? The kids and I haven’t stopped having fun and making memories since I returned to work. There have still been trips to the library and park and Skyzone (an indoor trampoline facility that I highly recommend). My son is still playing sports (flag football now), and Nora and I are still cheering him on from the sidelines. There are still plenty of hugs, kisses, bedtime stories, and laughs. I have no doubt that my kids will have plenty of lovely memories to recall when they’re older.
5. The children benefit
Because I work, my children get to spend time with the best, most reliable, and caring daycare providers. There, they get to interact with kids their own age, practice literacy skills, play music and sing, and engage in physical activity. While I try to practice all of these at home, I know I don’t do it nearly as well as they do.
As my friend, Evelyn, says, “Life is a big balancing act–whether you work outside the home full-time, part-time, or not at all.” And that is the truth–I have so much respect for ALL mothers–the SAHMs, the single moms, the moms who work part-time, and the moms who work more than one job. We are doing the most important work there is! The key is finding the right home/work balance for you…and not feeling guilty about it.