Through all the years we tried so hard to become parents, I always assumed I would go back to work after my initial maternity leave. It wasn’t even something we ever really gave much thought to. The discussion always revolved around how long of a leave I would take, not whether I would return at all. And now that we are finally parents and I am a mama, I find it odd to call myself a working mama. It’s not that I wish I could stay home. But applying the term “working mother” to myself puts me smack dab in the middle of endless debates between working mothers and stay at home mothers. I am usually game for a good debate, yet don’t want to be part of this powder keg.
Here’s my dirty secret. I don’t think I would be a very good stay at home mom. I am quite happy with how we have things arranged now. While I do wish I could spend more time with him, I also relish my daytime life and the stimulation it brings. You see, I’m a nerd. I like thinking about hard and complex problems and learning new things. The biggest thoughts my son has right now are around how to get his foot into his mouth. As adorable as he is, I can only blow raspberries with him for so long. That’s why I feel like we hit the jackpot with our daycare situation so I can see Seven during lunch for some fun and cuddle time and then head back to work for intellectual stimulation.
I’ve just come to this realization with the blow up over new Yahoo CEO. You may have heard that this company with huge problems just hired a CEO who is pregnant with her first child. But what was really hitting the airwaves was her statement that her maternity leave would only be a few weeks and she would work throughout it. The reaction of nearly everyone was that she is so naive and will surely change her plans or suffer the consequences. Everyone assumed she was completely off her hinges for planning such a short leave. Doesn’t she know how hard it will be? Doesn’t she know that she will just want to cocoon with her baby in a mother-baby bliss for months on end? My reaction to reading all of these reactions was defensive. Part of it was realizing, hello, she is incredibly privileged and will have every assistance a new parent might want. A nanny, a chef, a housekeeper. It’s not like this CEO will be doing any of her new baby’s laundry whether or not she has a long maternity leave.
But even more than that, I resisted the idea that all new mothers will want to spends alone with their new baby. I love my son fiercely. Yet spending time away is healthy for me, and thus for him. I realized the reason I’ve been feeling guilty since I returned to work. Guilt for a working mother is par for the course, right? Except I wasn’t feeling guilty about putting him in daycare. It is a wonderful place and after a transition period, he is very happy there. They take good care of him and I visit every day. I felt guilty for not feeling guilty. Am I so unlike all other mothers for not feeling guilty? I felt like every time I read something about how women really want to spend 6 months or a year with their new baby or sob every time they drop him off at daycare, it was society calling me a bad mother. Even though I didn’t feel like one.
In the end, I’m glad the Yahoo CEO is making the choice that she is because it lets other women admit that some of us are excited to get back to work.