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Am I A Bad Mother???

post #1 of 62
Thread Starter 
Hi Mamas,

I'm looking for a little "been there, done that, my child is fine" type support.

I'm a new mother to a beautiful, 4.5 month old DD. I returned to work out of financial necessity when she was 3.5 months old. She is with DH Monday and Tuesday and a nanny Wednesday through Friday. Things seem to be going ok. My boss has 18 month old twins and is very compassionate and supportive. I'm pumping enough, DH loves spending time with DD and our nanny is a sweetheart. The moment I get home DD is in my arms. I feed her, pop her in the Ergo for a long walk and try to make every second count. Despite all these positive things, however, I find myself plagued with guilt over returning to work and constantly worry that DD is being forever damaged by my not being there for her 24/7.

Recently I was on another parenting site, I won't name it but the author had some really strong words for working moms. She actually said she'd live in a tent before she left her child to work. She also said we only get one chance to experience this magical time and working moms basically flush their chance down the toilet.

Since visiting that site I've been hovering on the edge of tears. I feel like such a bad mother. And the thing is, being a first-timer, I have no experience to fall back on. Is my daughter being irreparably damaged by my being away from her? I don't know!

I'd love to hear from some moms who worked or are working and have older kids that are doing fine. I need to know if it's going to be okay or if I should go out and start pricing tents...

post #2 of 62
UGH! That makes me want to stomp over to that other site and assault the author with office supplies.

Fortunately, however, we all get to mess our kids up in our own, unique, magical ways, and her opinion should just fade into the background along with that of EVERYBODY ELSE - no matter how often they tell you that their way of doing things produces genius babies who poop rainbows and solve world peace problems.

Clearly it's hard. We don't get bonus points for being working mothers, nor do we produce detached sociopaths who cause world peace problems, no matter what you may hear. There are lots of things to read about the effects of SAH parenting vs. shared care/working parent on children, and you should inform yourself about what that looks like and things that ease that experience. But remember - YOU get to decide what works for your family, not smug authors who aren't YOU.

Also, ahem, we don't get to be any more or less smug about our choices than SAHM authors, unfortunately. It's a lot of work to maintain attachment with your kids, and working DOES add an extra burden of being awesome in whole new ways. But...it can be and is done and done well by women all over the globe.

Your DD loves you, you love her, and she KNOWS that. JUST like the kids of all the other parents, no matter HOW they work out schedules and care and all the myriad needs and responsibilities, get, give, and KNOW love.

Congratulations on your beautiful new one, and remember to love yourself too - parenting and working is tough and the guilt can wear you out.
post #3 of 62
Oh, holy cow. I've done both. I've been a sahm now for THIRTEEN years. I did go back to work when my eldest was three months old. I hated it, I missed her. But she was with Grandma and Grandpa and she did fine.

She actually said she'd live in a tent before she left her child to work.
Yes, because that's just excellent for children.

I wish I had something magical to tell you. It's incredibly complex. I'll just say that when I quit my job 13 years ago I was most definitely one of those zealous sahm converts. I've learned a lot since then.

Hugs to you.
post #4 of 62
I'm really sorry another mother made you feel so bad about needing to work.

I'm currently at home on mat leave for DS2. I am fortunate that I get almost 13 months off (mat leave + some vacation) but I CAN'T WAIT to return to work. I had a very tough time on mat leave with DS1 and loved returning to work then. This mat leave was more enjoyable but I still am counting down until I return to work.

For me... I love my job. I love the work I do and the people I work with. I miss it often. I do a job that I needed a lot of education and training for and I do my job very well. I was an older mother (35 when DS1 joined our family) so I was quite established in my career. I do think this is why I had a hard time on my first mat leave (going from feeling like I knew a lot, to being a new mum... yikes, talk about a big learning curve!).

Both boys will be in daycare/preschool full-time in January. DS1 loves his preschool and thrives being around the other children. I even kept him going part-time when I was home with DS2. Our DCP is very loving and the kids all do well there. They do crafts, songs, so many activities, field trips, etc. and I really feel like DS1 has learned a lot from them. Could he have learned all that with me? Likely. Maybe even more. I don't know. What I do know is that DS1 is a very normal 3 year old. Ahead in some areas, behind in others and right on target in some.

It was hard leaving DS1, and I'm sure it will be tough leaving DS2, but it was the right decision for our family. And seeing how DS1 thrived at DCP made me feel even better with our decision.

Technically, I could be a SAHM. DH could provide for our family based on his income alone. However, I would not be happy being a SAHM. I love being with my boys BUT I love the additional fulfillment of my career. ** It would be much tougher to feel this way if I had a job I didn't enjoy but that is not my situation. I also couldn't be dependent on DH for money.

Don't know if this helps at all.
post #5 of 62
Seriously, I had times I had to step away from the internet after I had DD--sometimes it's better to just consult your inner compass than to expect internet strangers to guide you.

No, you are not a bad mother. And neither are the other millions of working mothers around the world. My working mother was not a bad mother. And you don't even have to justify it that you are working from necessity. Maybe you like what you do and it's part of you--that's ok, too. You change, but you don't cease to exist once you have a baby.

Satisfy your own moral compass. Raise your baby YOUR way, not some internet wacko's way. She doesn't have your child. Her children aren't attending your childs daycare. She's not married to your husband...that voice should not get any say in your life.

I went back to work when DD was 10 weeks old, and I commuted into the city and was gone from 7am to 6:30pm. IT WAS HARD. But we are super attached, she actually thrived in daycare, and except for the guilt, worry, and sometimes feeling judged just like you did, it was all really good. I didn't hate being at work but I was tired! Now she's five and she's cute as a button and we're more in love than ever. I do wish I had had more time with her when she was a baby. But, I don't think I've ever wished that I just quit and never went back to work. The whole argument about never regretting having spent more time with your kids...I actually think that's a very personal thing too. There are plenty of people who've walked away from their jobs to SAHM only to find that it's not for them and that they lose their balance. Other people love staying at home--but we're not all alike and you're the only one who knows what is right for you!

Be kind to yourself and focus on loving your baby and enjoying her!
post #6 of 62
The best mom I know went back to work when her baby was one (1!) week old, because she had to. Her kids are amazing people - they're intelligent, polite, well-behaved, hard working - everything you'd want in a kid.

My LO is 6 months old (today!) and I've been back to work since 8 weeks. She's going to grow up to see that her mother is smart, ambitious, and also loves her beyond reason. I don't think being a SAHM is the ideal, nor do I thinking being a WOOHM is ideal. The ideal is what works for you. Every family is different, and every child is different.

I think moms who rip apart other moms because they aren't alike are the worst. The deck is already stacked against mothers, and it's awful that other moms just make it worse.
post #7 of 62
I've spent time in a very traditional culture where all the women "stay home." But they have a lot of work to do. Some of it very hard. Some of it too physical to take a baby along. But they do the work. They leave the baby in the care of another trusted person in order to do the work that can't include baby--for safety or whatever reason.

As long as there have been women, women have had babies, and women have had to work, and somehow manage a life involving a lot of both.

You certainly don't need other people's judgment to weigh you down with more mother guilt. You're caring for your child.
post #8 of 62
Heck no! I went back to work when DS was eight weeks old and we have a super-tight bond. What's that saying? It takes a village or some such...not everybody is fortunate enough to stay home and experience the "magical" (yet poopy!) time.

Everyone's situation is different and you have to do what's right for you and your family. Right now you are still relatively new to the game so will doubt yourself and your choices. I felt more confident at the one-year mark but I second-guessed myself on a regular basis until then. At that point I finally started passing the bean dip when a more experienced mom would tell me what I was doing wrong.
post #9 of 62
No. That author has skewed views.

Your baby is well cared for by YOU, your dh and your nanny. In many many societies, baby care is shared by a number of women in the family. The whole model of one parent staying at home with children is fairly new, and not all that proven. Our Babies Ourselves is a really interesting book that talks about some of these trends.

I went back to work when my kids were 5.5 and 4.5 months old respectively. They were cared for by my dh for the first year-year and half while I worked, and then they entered daycare 3x a week. They're 6 and 9 now and healthy, happy, well-adjusted, attached kids!

My mother stayed home with her kids (it was the 50s and early 60s, there wasn't a lot of daycare). She should have worked some of the time. She was a much happier person, and therefore a better parent, when she was intellectually engaged. She wasn't a bad mother, but she would have been better off not being home all the time.
post #10 of 62
I know that type of post...the WOHM are ruining their children and missing all the magic rants. They make me feel awful too, and want to cry, even though I am a WOHM. I went back to work with DD1 when she was 6 weeks old, and I just went back after DD2, now 7 weeks old. So I've been a WOHM most of my children's life, almost 4 years now. Some days I think I would LOVE to be a SAHM. Those are the days when DD1 is being sweet, and takes to my ideas and projects with enthusiasm. When the baby coos and smiles, and nurses with sleepy contentment. Yes, those are nice days, and yes, I'm sad that as a WOHM I'm limited in how many of those days I get to experience. But when DD1 is screaming and crying because I won't let her empty the fish tank on to the floor, DD2 has gas and is screaming and crying, the house is a mess, the dog runs away, the laundry has tissues in it, and the dinner is burnt, those are the days I think heaven that I am a WOHM. It saves my sanity.

As for the kids, after working with kids for years I can tell you that children are amazingly resilient. SAHM, WOHM, or no mom at all, it doesn't matter. Great, smart, sassy kids come from every type of household. What matters to the kids are that they are loved, valued, and have their needs met. You can do this. Your care provider can do this. A teacher can do this. The more, the merrier. Being a certian kind of mom is not a magic bullet for happy and successful kids. There is no magic that can assure that. But loving your kids, and doing the best you can with the options you have, will stack the deck in your favor.

As for the SAHM vs WOHM debate, I say it is more for the mom, and sometimes the partner, than for the kids. Do what makes YOU happy, and makes your DP happy. Trust that your kids will be fine. (And will, in fact, have a better long term immune system due to stresses in childhood. Scientific fact!)
post #11 of 62
Originally Posted by 1jooj View Post

As long as there have been women, women have had babies, and women have had to work, and somehow manage a life involving a lot of both.
Hey my mother-in-law raised 3 children while farming. When her kids were small and too little to be around cows being milked, she would tie the kids to the kitchen table. By today's standards, she'd be a terrible mother. In those days, that's what most mothers did to keep the kids safe while work was being done.

We all make choices. You have to be confident in your choice. I find women to be hazardous to each other. For some reason, there seems to be much competitiveness between women as a way of garnering self-esteem. If I chose "X", I am a better mother than she who chooses "Y". As a PP said we will all mess-up our children in our own ways. While avoiding the "mistakes" my parents made with me, I have made many others with my son. It's all part of being human.

Just love your kids for who they are, everything else will fall into place. And love yourself for who you are to your kids. Anyone else's opinion just does not matter.
post #12 of 62
I've made the choice to stay home even though it means living on a laughable small income ($563 a month in the San Fransisco bay) but it's more for my benefit than for my LO. I don't want to miss this so I stay home and we live in poverty. Assuming your child has a good nanny I don't see any reason why my kid is any better off than yours. Loving care, no matter who it is from, is what counts.
post #13 of 62
For some reason we feel the need to undermine other people's choices in order to validate our own. You need to steer clear of blogs written by crackpots who would chose to live in abject poverty to be there for all the "magical" moments with their children. I actually know a guy whose mom raised them in total poverty so she could stay home. His childhood was incredibly difficult. He never knew where his next meal was going to come from, didn't have electricity etc. He is an incredibly resourceful adult though, despite his issues with his mother. Your baby will flourish. I personally think it's great for a baby to have time to bond with their dad. Dh and I work opposite hours and he is so much better with our dd than most of the dads I see.
post #14 of 62
You are not a bad mom! Frankly the whole "live in a tent before she left her child to work" thing really rubs me the wrong way. MIL was a single mother raising twin boys and did everything she could so that DH and his brother wouldn't have to live like that. Would her children feel the same way?
post #15 of 62
Also, your child has a parent full-time 4 out of the 7 days per week. That's pretty awesome. And your nanny is in-home I imagine, which means your daughter is always in her own safe environment.

My son is almost 6 & of course doesn't remember any of those years in daycare. I went back to work FT at 5 months. It was actually hard on me, for my VERY sensitive child would always cry at separations. I was plagued w/ doubt for the first 4 years, and tried all kinds of work combinations (ie. full-time days, full-time nights, part-time different shifts). I finally took one full year off w/ him, the year before kindergarten (though I continued to take on-line graduate classes part-time, just to stay current in my career & have mental stimulation). It was a fantastic year for both of us, but I was very ready to transition to my adult world at the end. Anyway, my choices were based on the temperament of my child. If my son had been more easy-going, I would have worked FT throughout those years.

I'm pregnant again & do not want to put my career on hold for another full year (especially at age 40), so w/ this second child, my plans are to start daycare after the first few months. I love reading about women returning to work & finding career/home balance. I disregard the SAHM zealots, for I personally feel that women who work are often more interesting as people & have something unique to offer their children in the long run. My mother worked throughout my childhood, and I always noticed that her conversations were more intelligent than most mothers; she was a great role-model for her daughters. Surrounding yourself w/ baby and kid issues 24/7 can really narrow one's world and conversation. I've noticed this "brain drain" in some of my friends, too.

I hope this doesn't sound like I'm undermining other women's choices, for I do understand why women choose to be SAHMs. I'm just trying to be honest about my own personal observations/feelings.
post #16 of 62
Whoever wrote that certainly has strong views, but it doesn't make her right.

My mother stayed home with us. She made us her life, her reason for being - and not in a healthy way. We had a pretty strict budget, which wasn't a terrible thing but certainly wasn't an easy thing either, like the year I remember that I had to wear worn-out boots with bags over my socks. There was nothing really that magical and glamorous about it.

My dad was absent most of the time. When I see the difference with my DH and our son, because he HAS to step up because there is no single SAHP, it's wonderful.

I think what is most important for children is to grow up in a family that is responsive to them AND to each other's needs, which is stable and loving and kind. That may well include paid, professional, caring caregivers. There are a lot of ways to get there.
post #17 of 62
Originally Posted by NicolleLynne View Post
Recently I was on another parenting site, I won't name it but the author had some really strong words for working moms. She actually said she'd live in a tent before she left her child to work. She also said we only get one chance to experience this magical time and working moms basically flush their chance down the toilet.
Know what's more damaging to a child than having a parent who works? Having a parent who can't take care of them! If you need to go back to work for financial reasons, then you're taking care of your child, and therefore, a good parent.

I do understand how you feel- my first son, I was able to stay home with him until he was 3 1/2. I'm pregnant and due with my second son in January, and, out of neccesity, I will be going back to work when he's 6 weeks. It's killing me, the thought of not knowing my baby like I was able to know my first baby, but I'm doing what I have to do. Sometimes living in that tent is not the best option.
post #18 of 62
Thread Starter 
Hi Mamas,

I can't thank you enough for all your compassionate, wise and insightful responses. I'm so relieved to find that the "live in a tent/stay home at all costs" attitude is not pervasive in the progressive/crunchy parent community.

Being a new, working mother is already so challenging, I don't understand why some so-called "parenting experts" like the "live in a tent lady" find it necessary to make it even more so by piling on fear and guilt. I found it particularly galling to note that the same woman who tells mothers not to work, also runs a $9000.00 dollar "family retreat" out of her home. Where is the average family supposed to come up with that kind of money? Are women supposed to be entirely financially dependent on their husbands or partners? What happens to them and their children in case of divorce or separation?

What all your responses and my own burgeoning mother's instinct have inspired me to do, is take a really honest look at my situation and ask myself if I truly believe my daughter is being harmed by my working and the answer is no. She wakes up every morning with a smile, her pediatrician says she's doing great, she's meeting all her growth milestones. She's doing fine! The only person struggling is me and I can choose not to if I want.

Thank you all again for helping me see things more clearly and positively. For the first time in a long while, I feel like me and my little girl are going to be fine and better than fine. We're going to be great!
post #19 of 62
And let's not forget that the WOHM bashers always manage to leave working FATHERS out of the mix. How come Dads get off so easily? It's ok for Dads to work but not Moms? Horse patooty.

I went back to work when my son was 3 months old. We were lucky in that DH and I work opposite shifts so for the first 2 years, only we watched him. He just recently started daycare 3 days a week and loves it.

Not everyone can SAH, financially we could not live on DH's salary. We would literally have to squeeze into a studio apartment in a horrid neighborhood. DH would then have to take on another job and we'd eat crap too. I'd have to give up my car so we'd be stuck in the apt. all day. There would be no $ for internet or craft supplies or really anything extra. I know this because for kicks, i plotted it out on paper one night. Sorry but not the life I want for my kid.

DS and I are super attached and I really haven't missed anything. I got to see all his firsts and I am home by 3 everyday. Working women are extremely important in this world! Anyone who feels they have to put a WOHM down, needs to look at their own life first.
post #20 of 62
I had to go back to school when my ds was 11days old. It was hard, and not even full time! I'm in school full time now, am a single mama, and my ds is fabulous! He loves his daddy (who he spends a good amount of time with), and he LOVES his mama - he's a mama's boy all the way around. He's well attached, very sweet, loving, meeting all the milestones early. He's also getting a bit rambunctious - which just cracks me up!

I love him, and I'm doing the best I know how - which is really all we can do.
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