Foolish Predictions.

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When I was collecting essays for Mommy Wars, one of the questions I asked each contributor was the following question I ask you to ponder now:


Did you know, before you had kids, whether you wanted to work or stay home once you became a mother?


Everyone reported that they had known exactly what they were going to do once they had kids.


Everyone was wrong.


Ambitious moms called their bosses the day before maternity leave ended and admitted they couldn’t leave their babies for a minute, much less an entire day. Women who’d dreamed of staying home and singing lullabies fled back to work after six months home, shocked at how they hated the at-home routine and isolation. There is no predicting what kind of mom you will be, or how much you will like or hate parts of the job.


"I wanted these kids so badly," my friend said this morning. "What I never could have known was how hard it was going to be." She is 31. Her four kids are under age seven. Her husband travels almost every week for business, as does mine. So she knows about hard. "And I never would have predicted how terribly I miss working," she continued.



I always thought me or my husband would stay at home. We have 2 kids now, and both of us work. We have a day care center that we love. I think they are doing a great job, and can offer more than either one us of could if we stayed at home. I am grateful that life cannot be perfectly planned. If you don't allow yourself to accept the unexpected, you miss out on many joys, such as the joy I have when I leave a child at day care with a poopy diaper and ask them to change it as I leave for work!


Having worked for 13 years before having my first baby, I assumed I would go back to work. I had no idea how hard it would be to be a SAHM for 12 weeks during maternity leave and how hard it would then be to leave my precious baby at home with someone else, even though that someone else was family.

Before I left on maternity leave, I crafted a plan that outlined a more flexible work arrangement -- off on Fridays and working from home one day a week with three in the office or traveling. Going back with a plan in place that was much more flexible and less time consuming made the transition work for me. It was still hard and emotional, but enabled me to do both mothering and working in a manageable way.

I don't think I could handle full time at home or full time working -- both are extremes that require exceptional trade-offs. I prefer something flexible that enables me to meet the priority for the day.


I knew I wanted to work. It was the act of actually leaving my child with another human being that was so hard and I knew it would be. It is hard for every woman, no matter how badly you need a break after those first few weeks of new babyhood.

There are so many choices when you first get pregnant or are planning to (if you plan it). When to do it, how far apart to space your kids, choose a midwife or a doctor, get an epidural, have your baby circumcised, breast or bottle, go back to work, daycare center or home-based daycare or nanny. And the people with all the answers are the ones who don't actually have to make the decisions...the people without kids or the people who aren't you at least.

I will admit I don't get being a stay at home mom. I just don't think I'd be happy. However, I also couldn't do a job that required 60+ hours per week and travel whether I had kids or not and I know there are a lot of women that do that.

I'm so glad I live in a time of choices though. Can you imagine being the woman who really wants to work stuck in 1950s suburbia? Or the Russian woman in 1930s Moscow who really wants to stay home, but everybody has to work, so you have to deposit your kid at some drab state-run facility so you can go to some factory. And I know there are a lot of women in the here and now who don't have a choice about whether to work or not, so I try to keep them in mind. It would be soooo boring if everybody did the same thing, wouldn't it?



Milk Maven


Before I was ever pregnant, the only dream I had was to stay home and be a mom. After years of trying to get pregnant, I finally had my daughter and all I wanted to do was stay home and stare at my beautiful baby, all day every day, but I had to go back to work for financial reasons. So when she was 12 weeks old, I hunkered down and went off to work.

Surprisingly, 5 months later I got pregnant with my second. During that pregnancy, my husband and I struggled with whether I should go back to work or not. After my son was born I was home for 11 weeks with a 14 month old and a newborn and they were the worst 11 weeks of my entire life. I couldn't wait to go back to work just so I could get some rest. I simply could not do it. I love my children with all my heart, but I just need the time at work to decompress. Work is Mommy time and I need it. I think it makes me a better mom.


I am always wrestling with this question ... but really working is just a must. I too live in So. California and my husband is a teacher - making two incomes a necessity. Before I had kids, I just figured I'd have no real problems going back to work - but once you become a mom it seems like guilt comes with the territory. I felt bad for leaving my little guy - even though it was with grandma. I wanted to be the one to see every moment, hear every word. Still, I think if I did have the chance to stay home full time, I'd drive myself a little nuts. I enjoy work and striving for more ... not more in terms of material things, but more in terms of personal growth and contributions. I think finding a part-time solution would be ideal ... or at least some sort of telecommuting option.


I had no idea that once my daughter was born that I would instantly choose parenthood over the workforce. Don't get me wrong, I have worked every single day since my kids have been born but it's been on my own terms - in my corporate job and now as I've attempted to start my own company. Sure, I'm always busy and oftentimes distracted by everyday deadlines and demands, but at the heart of it, I want to make sure that my kids know that I pursued my passions while raising them and didn't miss a moment of the milestones. I love my kids with all my heart and hope one day, they'll do whatever their heart desires...of course all in moderation. Because once you become a mom, that's what you discover - you can have it all -just not all at the same time!



I knew I wanted to keep working, and I found out that I don't have the patience to stay home full time. I never realized how hard it is to stay home, and how quickly you can reach your breaking point. I like my job and I was an older mom, so I was reluctant to give up the career I had already established. I was surprised at how much I enjoy all of the other stuff that comes with being a mom. I still find ways to spend time with the playgroup moms that I met when my child was an infant. We expanded our relationship to moms night out etc. I like the pick up, and drop off that I have a chance to do when I work from home. I even like going to all of the birthday parties, and we have a lot since my daughter is a preschooler. I do feel like I miss a lot of these activities due to work, but I also wonder if I would enjoy it as much if it was an everyday thing. I do have guilt and questions about my choice when things go wrong. For example, if my daughter has an emergency due to a fall, illness etc - and it is the nanny that takes her to the doctor, and then I am dealing with it by phone until I can get home. Most of the peds are working moms, so I never feel judgement from them, but I feel like I should have been there. I read Mommy Wars about a year after my child was born. I was inspired to realize that my choice could be fluid instead of all or nothing. I think it was easier for a lot of the women profiled in the book because so many were writers, or something related to more creative fields. I am in finance, and it doesn't lend itself to as many part time situations as described in the book. I found my flexibility by taking a position with a bank that isn't as hard core about long hours since it is not an American bank. I would say that at least every 3 - 6 months something happens that causes me to seriously think about staying home full time.


I always wanted to be a SAHM, and for some reason never fully discussed the topic with hubby. I've always enjoyed working but have never been overly ambitious. I always wanted children but also love to contribute financially to our home. I had a four month long maternity leave and I guess we both naturally assumed I'd be returning to work. We had my MIL to take care of my daughter, so I just kept working. We moved to Southern California and bought a house(we both are originally from here and have both our families here) so working was no longer an option, it was a must. I regret not discussing it more beforehand and not preparing better to have the option to stay home. My husband travels most weekdays and be a part time single working mom is most certainly a challenge, but with only one is pretty manageable.
I think in this situation, we all sometimes want what we can't have; the grass is always greener. On the days that I really want to be home with my daughter I think, "hey, I could do this!" but days when I am home with her I think that maybe I'm a better working mom.


Well, I must be in the minority, because I knew I wanted to keep working; everyone around me (including my boss) told me not to rush it, because you never know how you're going to feel until you look in your baby's eyes. But I knew I wanted to keep working. What I didn't know was how I was going to manage it -- I was a lawyer with a DC commute, gone for 12 hrs on a good day, which wasn't compatible with being the kind of mom I wanted to be. So I knew the "what," just not the "how."

Luckily, the world changed. When I was in college, PCs were pretty rare, carphones were as big as a loaf of bread (and ridiculously expensive), and the internet was nonexistent. When I had my daughter less than 15 years later, I was able to telecommute from 1600 miles away for 3 years. Even now that I'm in an office, cellphones and BBs mean that I no longer have to stay there all hours just in case a client calls. Most importantly, firms have started to realize that just because you don't want to work 60 hrs a week doesn't mean you aren't still a valuable asset. I was elected partner while working an 80% schedule; my only current internal conflict is whether I maybe want to drop back to 70%.

So in short (too late, I know), I've known since I was a kid that I wanted something that didn't seem to exist. But somehow, the world caught up to me, and I have more than I had ever dared hope for.