When I was a young mother, I worked outside the home. My job as a television news reporter was demanding and time consuming. Juries. Stakeouts. Crime scenes. Long hours that couldn’t always be predicted. My husband traveled so we hired a babysitter to make sure someone was always home.
Many of my friends traveled a different path. When children arrived, they quit their jobs to be full time stay at home moms. They shared stories of Mommy and Me classes, holding their babies for a first swim lesson, being present at every milestone and activity. Sometimes they made me feel guilty.
I always adjusted my schedule and swapped shifts to be present for important moments like school plays, sporting events and volunteering in their classrooms. I was there for their first words, first steps, potty training and transitioning from crib to big boy beds. We enjoyed family dinners, holiday gatherings and great vacations. But these so-called friends had a way of making those who worked outside the home feel they were less of a mom than those who stayed home full time. Once, one of them asked if I ever felt guilty about “having someone else raise your children.”
Seething, I told her our babysitter wasn’t a replacement for us and I remember defending myself. But why? Because she made me feel guilty? My husband reassured me that I was a great mom, and I shouldn’t let others tell me how to feel. He was right.
We’ve always been a great team. If I was away, he did what was needed. Laundry. Shopping. Driving. Attending events. When he was gone, I did the same. Unlike the stereotypical TV shows of the 1950’s where Dad earned the money and Mom put dinner on the table, in my house Dad also put dinner on the table. We parented equally. This was not the case for some of my stay-at-home mom friends. Like their mothers before them, Mom ran the home while Dad went to the office.
There is no right or wrong as to how people choose to run their households and raise their families. But thanks to the choices we made, our boys grew up appreciating women as equals. I’m the first to tell you it’s easier to go to work than to stay home with young children. I’m also the first to tell you not to let anyone guilt you into making you feel you’re not as good as them.
Fast forward to present day. Our sons are well adjusted independent adults. I never think about something I might have missed, and I never feel guilty. Rather, I feel proud. Proud of the young men my boys have become and proud of everything we shared and continue to share together.
As the years went by, it occurred to me that perhaps these women guilted me to mask their own insecurities. Maybe they envied that I worked outside the home. Maybe they resented marrying men who left the child rearing and housework to them. Maybe they needed to validate themselves and justify their decision to stay home. Or maybe they were happy and genuinely believed their way was the better way. I also realized it didn’t matter.
One of my son’s was just married. He married a woman who shares the values we instilled in him. He knows how much he’s loved; how proud we are of him and that we will always be there for him, his brother, and his family.
Being physically present 24/7 for your children doesn’t define you as a better mother. You are the only one who can define you. How you raise your children is your choice. If I had to do it over again, I’d do it the same way.