Wednesday, April 29, 2015

From a Stay-at-home to a working parent

(Motherhood 2015: more confident and purposeful!)

As a first-time parent, I feel like I am like a baby bird learning how to fly from my nest. I am constantly trying to balance the demands of motherhood and my own ambitions.

When Maya was first born, I decided I wanted to be a stay-at-home parent. First, because I thought motherhood should be my sole job. Part of this is because my mother worked full-time when I was growing up. I also wanted to bond with my child and I didn't want anyone else taking care of her - she's my responsibility, right? It took me 26 months and several emotional breakdowns to get a babysitter to help just so that we could go out on a date. I felt like motherhood was my sole job and that to ask for help meant I was a failure. It was an extreme thought pattern, to say the least.

There's no doubt that it is one of my most important roles to raise a thoughtful, caring citizen of the world - but it is not my only job. Looking back, I think I was unhappy because I viewed motherhood as so one-dimensional and I went into it with such a naivete. I felt guilty about absolutely everything. I experienced a lot of joy being at home with my daughter, but I also experienced a lot of loneliness. I tried to meet up for mommy play dates, and it became all about the kids. I tried to meet up with my pre-baby friends, and they didn't understand me. I felt a loss of self of sorts, because let's face it - motherhood is not at all valued in society. Taking out the trash, running an errand, or working "a real [paying] job" is much more valued than taking care of a little human who is completely and utterly dependent on you. That's the sad reality. I wish it was more valued, but it just isn't.

Before having my own baby, I thought motherhood would be a piece of cake. I didn't realize it would be filled with sleepless nights, permanent worry, and relentless isolation. I became a woman who counted down the hours until my husband got home from work just so I could get two minutes of time to breathe. Inside, I died a little bit, knowing that I was waiting all day for a man to get home - my worst nightmare.

I became someone that I didn't really recognize. By trying to be the best mother I could be, I lost myself. I let motherhood completely consume every ounce of my being. Which is easy to do, as it is 24/7 non-stop. I didn't dress up anymore, I didn't do my art, and I didn't do much of anything outside being a mother. Every time I wanted to do something for myself, I immediately dismissed it because I felt selfish. It was an internal battle.

I started to realize that by trying to be the "best" mother - and subsequently forgetting about my self, my goals, and my needs - was not exactly a positive role model for my daughter. In fact, it was making me into the worst, most grumpiest, short-tempered, resentful person. But the truth is - I just didn't want my daughter to hate me for working. But then one day, I thought to myself, "Well her dad works full-time and she doesn't hate him - she loves him!" Then I realized that all this guilt was in my head - and it had nothing to do with her.

Slowly and surely, I started to do things for myself - essentially liberating myself from my own rigid mentality - and my daughter was fascinated by me. She loves it when I dress up for the day and even helps me get ready. I don't feel bad anymore if I need some time to myself - I just set it up for husband-ji or my mum to watch her - and guess what? The guilt doesn't come along with me! Sometimes when I need to run in to the office, I just bring her with me and she has a wonderful time playing in our work space. If I'm working on something from home, she tries to imitate me, and it gives me the opportunity to teach her too.

It is a strange thing, being the mother of a daughter who is so innately empowered. She is fearless, she is confident, and at the mere age of "almost" 3, she has already taught me so much about the woman I want to be. Or maybe, that woman is who I am - and she is helping me meet my self. Either way, I feel empowered just being around her. I feel like she wants me to empower myself.

(I brought Maya to work one morning and she had so much fun!)

In many ways, I'm still a stay-at-home parent. I still only work at the office 1-2 days a week. Now that my daughter is in preschool, I have more time to focus on my work and all the things that I want to do. Sometimes I go into the office and sometimes I work from home. It feels good to be doing something for myself again, and having a purpose, outside of being a parent. And that it doesn't take away from my time with my daughter - whatsoever. I feel more focused - on all fronts. In fact, I feel like it makes me a better mother.

Now I don't feel bad to tell her that mummy works. And I think she kinda likes it!

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Dear readers, have you switched roles from a SAHP to working parent? Does having your own personal goals enhance your life, outside of parenthood? Do you think society has a one-dimensional view of motherhood? Did you feel pressure being a new mother?

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8 comments

  1. Hi Alex,

    Congrats on getting back to work. My mother worked full time while my sister and I grew up. Some parents have the luxury of choosing to work from home or stay at home, unfortunately for my mother that was not an option. That said my sister and I always looked up to my mom and admired her for not giving up on her career. We became independently quickly and learned to help my mom manage the household. Also, we absolutely cherished the weekends we got to spend with both our parents. We had a weekend tradition of watching our favorite Indian program on tv and having brunch together. I'm sure things will turn out great for Maya and you . Good Luck!

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  2. Yay to finding a balance. Like they say, self care is not selfish though we have been taught that :)

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  3. hi Alex ... thats great news dear ... congratulations and all d best ...
    i love to read ur thoughts .... u know alex, i am working before my my marriage ..after marriage i didnt left job as me n my hubby was in same city and after baby ... my parents or inlaws take care of him till 2 years . i joined office when he was only 6 month .... after he was 2 years .... i shifted him to day care ..Alex i feel so guilt dat my boy lives in day care .. some times i see those little kids ..i feel dat its like jail for these kids ... i dont want to leave my baby to day care .. but i cant leave my job too .. my baby now he he is 4 years ... is regularly allergy with couhg n cold .... we give medicines after one or two months ... there are lot of things for which i feel dat i m not good mother .... ..but there is a different angle which u told here ... it gives positive feeling ...

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  4. Hi Alexandra,

    Soon I will be doing the opposite of what you are doing. I will go from working mom to stay-at-home mom! :) My son is 11 months old and I actually was switching jobs when I was 2 weeks from my due date. The job I got at the time was a dream to me. It was with a good company and one I had worked very hard to get over the previous years. Since I had not been at the company for a year, I only got 6 weeks of maternity leave (I'm an American btw). We had my MIL and own mom come into town to look after him when I returned from leave. Unfortunately, I had very long and rough labor and delivery experience that took me months to recover from. I was definitely not physically ready to return to work...blood sugar fluctuations, fatigue, physical weakness that was so bad I could not even really physically handle the baby for the first few months of his life. However, I'm much stronger today...he's 22+ pounds! Also, I think because my labor experience was so unexpectedly traumatic and my Indian MIL was being completely overbearing after his arrival, I did not start to feel bonded to him till he was 3 months old. Before that he always felt like someone else's baby. It makes me sad for the rough start, but that's how it turned out. Anyways, we put him in daycare at 3 months old. My Indian in-laws were constantly give us a hard time about this as they were 'not in acceptance of daycare'. However, over the last several months I have turned into a person I do not recognize anymore. My job turned out to be more demanding than expected and has made me into a grumpy and stressed woman. My lack of work/life balance in my life has caused me to gain weight after having the baby rather than losing weight, I've become unkempt--never straighten my hair anymore, no more eye makeup. I look like a a worn out mess. However, after much discussion with my husband, we decided it would be best for me to stay-at-home full time to raise him while he is in this period of being completely helpless. Plus, we are fortunate to be in a position where my husband can support all of us on his salary alone.

    I feel bad that I did not make the decision to be a stay-at-home mom from the beginning. However, I was actually not even raised by a stay-at-home mom. My mom worked while raising me as my dad's salary was not enough to support the whole family. She had to work. I went to daycare. That was all I knew. I think if I had chosen to stay at home from the start, I would have recovered from my traumatic birth experience significantly faster, I probably would have lost most of my baby weight (or all), and I would be a happier person today. However, in 2 weeks I'll be done with the job that has taken a toll on my health and happiness. I'm not sure how I'll do as a stay-at-home parent. I will definitely have to maintain structure and come up with many activities to keep the baby engaged and learning. I hope do this new role well!

    Also, I was going to say that I like these last couple of posts you have written about things you are doing for yourself. You seem happier...perhaps you are re-discovering yourself. I can tell you are an awesome and devoted mom. Maya and your husband are very lucky to have you! BTW, what exactly do you do for work? It seems to be artistic, but I can't make out what exactly it is?

    Congrats on finding more balance for yourself. :)

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  5. This was so nice to read. I identify with so many things you said... loneliness, guilt, not wanting to do anything for me, not wanting anyone else to look after my babe (who is almost 2 now), wearing yoga pants and the same stained t-shirts every single day (yup, zero dressing up!)... it feels good to know another mom struggled and found a way out. I've been avoiding figuring out how to work and finding a daycare, but maybe it won't be as awful as I think. :D

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  6. I think you are doing great job! It sure is contradicting on being a mom because a lot of the ideal is old fashioned and circumstances have now changed. I hope next gen moms will have it easier understanding that moms do all sorts of things beside being mom and it doesn't take away from any momness

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  7. Hi Alex..Being a stay-at-home mother to your own kids is not a “job,” no matter how difficult it is or how hard we work. Period. Getting to do nothing but raise a person you opted to bring into the world is a privilege, and calling it anything else is ignorant and condescending...Yes, from being a stay home mom to a working parent is indeed a happy journey in one's life...!!!!

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  8. Hi Alex, I'm so glad I came across your blog and especially this post today! I am exactly at the same place you've written about. My daughter is two and even the thought of leaving her at daycare and going back to work scares the hell out of me. Thank you for writing this! I think all moms, where they stay home or work outside the house are simply fabulous :)

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