If I had wanted to spend my days surrounded by small children, I would have majored in Early Childhood Education. Instead, I earned my undergraduate and graduate degrees in English Literature, and spent my 20s and early 30s forging a sales career in both commercial and trade publishing. Enter marriage and a move; I found myself in another state, unemployed (we'd moved for my husband's job), pregnant, and trying to envision how life as a stay-at-home mom would be, as I'd never before contemplated the possibility.
My son entered the picture, and I was overwhelmed with joy, hormones, and the insane absence of sleep that comes with nursing a baby every hour-and-a-half. Around the time my son began sleeping through the night, I began feeling antsy and wondered when I would begin to feel fulfilled through motherhood. The answer, I came to realize, is that I would never feel fulfilled solely from being a mom. I needed more. I needed a different challenge, something that would challenge my brain and make me feel that I was making a valuable, tangible [financial] contribution to my family; I needed my career.
I spent those first 8 months of my son's life taking him in, learning how to be a mom, learning to love in ways unimaginable, and gaining a newfound patience I didn't know existed; I also spent it wondering how badly the gap in my resumé would hurt my career. Feeling more rested, I began a public blog, with plans of using it to hone my writing skills, gain some new social media and marketing skills, forge a way to work from home, and most importantly, fill the inevitable "having a child" gap in my resumé.
I hate that career women often feel torn between motherhood and their careers, feeling pressured to resume working so as not to hit a bump in their career trajectories (or out of financial necessity). Women have the feminist movement to thank for this confusion of our roles (do we focus on building our career, stay at home to raise our children, juggle both?). In a way, the feminist movement was both a blessing and a curse, as I grew up knowing I was going to attend college and focus on a career, but never even considered the ramifications of juggling both career and motherhood; thankfully, I haven't really had to... much.
This is where my guilt comes in; I feel guilty because I've not succumbed to the mom guilt surrounding many of the parenting decisions I've made. I love being a mother, but my world does not revolve around my child. There are so many other facets to who I am and having a rewarding career is one of them. Because I'm at home with my son, I've been slowly building a career that's taken over a year to show signs of plausibility (and will allow me to both be at home with my son and financially contribute to our household). As a result of my forging a writing and marketing career during naptimes, bedtimes, and early mornings, I often feel harried and overwhelmed by trying to do everything without outside help. The reality is that my work often bleeds over into those times when my son is awake, and I am not ashamed to admit that I often put PBS on the television to occupy him while I work.
These are my truths: My son has known his alphabet since he was 17 months old, and is able to read small words at just under 2 years old; I'm pretty sure he learned this from the PBS show, Super Why. My son has been able to count since he was around 14 months old, and I'm pretty sure he learned this from the PBS show, Peg + Cat. Do you see where I'm going here? I can't take credit for many of my son's accomplishments because I've not really worked with him (I don't sit down with flashcards and repetitively go over letters and numbers -- he needs to enjoy being a kid for a bit). I do take credit for his love of reading, and his excellent vocabulary, as we read books together daily.
PBS has helped to occupy and educate my son, and I feel absolutely no guilt about it. Like the [silly] saying, "A happy wife is a happy life," my motto is "A happy mom means we all get along." Splitting my attentions between raising my son having a career often means that I don't fulfill the role that society often dictates, but I'm perfectly okay with it (and sleep well at night). You can keep your mom guilt, thanks!