(From the (Mommy) Battleground is going to be a series of occasional posts about my stance on different Mommy War topics. As always, the intent is just to talk about my experiences, not tell anyone else how to live their lives)
Well now that I’ve been back for almost 3 weeks and am clearly an expert, I have to say that, (some) experts be damned, I think that daycare (with a provider we love and trust and who surprised us by coming to K’s adoption) is not only an acceptable choice, it is a great choice for our family.
Prior to the baby, on most days, I liked
my job the work I do. I liked the challenge, the pace. I liked interacting with other adults, coming up with theories about why things are happening the way they are, and attempting to effect change. I liked going out into the world and then returning to a home I was better able to appreciate. There were frustrations, sure, but overall I generally felt good getting out and about and using my skills and making money.
During maternity leave, I believed nothing at work would ever be the same again. And most things are different, but not too significantly. I still generally like work with the addition of liking having time that is “mine,” particularly because I enjoy being productive and I feel so productive when I’m not on edge wondering when the baby will wake up / need to nurse / need a change of scenery / etc. I still like using my skills and making money and I appreciate home even more, trying to push through the days faster to see K and C and spend a bit of quality time together as a family.
What I really like about being at work, though, is that I think in some ways it makes me a better and more attentive mom in the time we do have together. Sure, some days I’m really tired / overworked / just done and I’m not really at my best for anyone, including the baby, but I think more days than not I’m able to turn off and tune out work once it is over and give all my focus, energy, and love to my little person. The early evening is much better now with K than it was when I was at home all day with her because I’m ready to unwind with her and sing and read and play instead of feeling like I just need a moment to myself and handing her off to C so I can get that moment. Even more importantly, I think K does well in daycare. She seems to benefit from the constant stimulation that I alone am unable to provide her and she is often most pleasant after a full day at daycare (I also wonder if this doesn’t have something to do with getting a free flow of milk from a bottle throughout instead of having to work at the breast, but that’s a topic for another post).
I do feel guilty at times, being separate from K and letting others care for her. But what I find I feel more is not that I want to spend 24/7 with her, not that I need to see her every moment of the day, but that I want more months of this life at this age, with work and everything else, than I am going to get. That is, I am not convinced that 24/7 time with K would be any more quality than the time we have together now but I do think I could be very happy extending this young age into the future. I want more of it than I get as a working mom, but also more spread out so I can do and have both. I think the greatest quality of life for me would come from a 65/35 baby/work balance during the week instead of the 35/65 I have now. That is, a part time job (with full time benefits, paying the same amount as I make now so that we could still afford daycare).
In the broader, outside-of-me sense, the working / staying at home battle seems ridiculous (as do most of the mommy war topics). There are just so many factors that go into deciding what is best for one’s family that it can’t be boiled down to “working is (always) better” or “staying at home is (always) better.” Even the best research in the world can’t convince me that all women have the temperament to do one or the other. Likewise, I can’t be convinced that for many families who rely on a dual income (or a single income for single parents!) there is much of a choice involved at all. So if you have found a way to successfully care for your baby and feel good about yourself and your place in the world, I salute you. Way to go mama!