It Must Be Worth It to be Worth It

I've always wanted to be a Mom.  Other girls wanted to be a doctor, a scientist, a business woman.  I wanted to be a Mom.

After college, I left my job at my grandparents' pet hospital to start a job as a clerk typist, telling myself it was just temporary until I got a real job that used my degree.

Two years later, I was promoted to eligibility worker.  I didn't enjoy my work, but it was a decent and stable income.  Not everyone can love their job, I told myself, and at least I was lucky enough to have a job.

We got married a few years later and decided we'd try to have a baby right away because, "Who knows how long it will take?"  But it didn't take long.  We married in September, decided in November that we would have a baby whenever it happened, and found out I was pregnant in December.

I knew I would have to continue working even after we had the baby.  I know.  I know.  "I thought you said you wanted to be a Mom!"  We lived in San Francisco, and if we wanted to ever move from our tiny one bedroom apartment, or be able to afford groceries, I had to keep my job, no matter how sad that made me.  And I reminded myself again how lucky I was to have a job, and that if I couldn't be a stay at home mom, then did it really matter what I did?  It was all the same since none of it meant I could be with my baby.

The day after I went to my first prenatal appointment, I started looking for a different job.  This was really happening, and we needed more money!

I applied to any position that paid even one penny more than my current position paid.  Five months later, I was terrified on day one of my new job, certain that I was not going to be able to do the work.  I was sure that somehow I had tricked the interview panel into choosing me and that I was going to fail miserably.

But I didn't fail.  I kind of even enjoyed it.  I worked for 6 weeks before leaving on maternity leave (a story for another time).

When my baby was 12 weeks old, and it was time to go back to work, I was very sad... more like depressed.  It just seemed so unnatural.  How could I be expected to leave my little tiny baby??

I reminded myself that I needed to go to work because I needed (along with my husband) to provide for our new little family.

Luckily for me, I worked for people (women who were mothers themselves!) that understood the difficulty of those first few weeks back at work.  They were supportive and helped me through the transition.  But I still was sad about not being able to be home with my baby, not being able to be the Mom I had wanted to be since I was little.  I started asking other mothers for advice.  "How did you do it?  What made it easier?  Did anything make it easier?  Did you hate yourself?  DO you hate yourself?"

And I found that all of them, even the women who didn't want to be stay at home moms like I did, had a hard time going back to work after their babies were born.  It was hard for everyone, and that was normal.  Yay!

I was speaking to our director one day, telling her I sometimes found it hard to be at work when I really wanted to be with my baby.  She sympathized and said she often felt the same way.  I was taken aback because she was so great at her job and seemed to be a natural "business woman," so I asked her how she did it.

She said, "I realized after having kids that I can't just have a job to have a job.  The income can't be the only factor for my job because money alone isn't enough to justify being away from my kids.  It must be worth it to be worth it.  I need to have a job that fills needs other that just financial ones."

It was an hallelujah moment for me.  She didn't explain why she needed to work outside of the home or to make herself feel better for doing it.  She accepted it as her reality and figured out how to make that reality something that helped her, rather than something she was working against.

With that in mind, I couldn't help but try for new projects at work and seek out promotive opportunities.  If I was going to have to be away from my kids anyways, why not put all of my effort into it and make it worth it?  It helped!  I got special assignments and was assigned to various extra projects and ultimately got a promotion!

Then I got pregnant again.  I just had my second baby 11 weeks ago.  So now, as I get ready to go back to work, and I find myself kissing both of my babies and crying to myself about how little time I'll see them during the day and all of the little things I'll be missing out on, I repeat her words over and over.

I'm still not someone who would keep working outside the home even it wasn't financially necessary.  I'm still someone who, when we can afford it, will be home with my kids as much as possible.  (And someone who knows this may never be the case.)  But as long as my reality is that I must work outside the home, I will make sure that I have a job that fills other needs.  I will put all of my work energy into making sure that my job is the best it can be, that I'm doing the best work that I can do, and that I'm getting the most out of it.  It must be worth it to be worth it.


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