Feeling grieved by having to work outside the home - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 16 Old 01-31-2004, 10:42 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I have an 11 month old daughter and would take off a few years if I could.

My husband is a SAHD and is doing a great job of it - he spent serveral years in the military and retired . This is a whole new life for him and is truly a rich experience for him. Plus my salary and benefits are way too good for me to quit - it's really the basis for our retirement and financial security. If I quit now, we lose everything (military retirement). And my husband is not a U.S. citizen - he could never get something that would give us the same pay and benefits.

But I waited until I was forty to have my daughter and I feel like I am really missing out on something that will never come again. I also feel like I am ignoring a very powerful biological pull to be with her - although I am still breastfeeding whenever possible and we are alternating co-sleeping with her (so I can get enough sleep). Still I feel like I am doing something terribly wrong at times - it's almost a physical pain.

Overall, I think I am the only one who is somehow disappointed. My daughter is thriving, happy and confident and her father has enormous energy.

I think this is something that I will have to accept and allow myself to grieve over privately because I don't want my husband to feel guilty. Also, I am in a work/social environment that in no way supports breastfeeding or attachment parenting. I really feel alone at times with this and am too exhausted to get connected with LLL.

Has anyone else experienced such conflicting feelings or felt isolated as an AP? Any advice?
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#2 of 16 Old 02-01-2004, 12:03 AM
 
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I don't know that I have alot of advice for you. Just wanted to send you hugs and say I'm sorry you are feeling this way.

I think having a choice about going back to work can make such a difference. During the first year I was home with my baby, I couldn't imagine having to go to work. I knew my heart would have broken to leave her. I was so fortunate to be in a position where I didn't have to.

But when she approached 1 year I began to miss work, and very slowly I eased myself mentally into trying it out again. I negotiated a short-term contract at my old work place, thinking if I hated it, it wouldn't last forever.

Well, I love it. DD is home with DH and they have a ball together.

I often wonder, if I didn't have the choice, if I *had* to be at work, would I feel differently? Would I resent it? Would I feel, as you do, that I was missing out on everything?

Since it sounds like you can't change your situation, maybe looking at it this way will help...I hope!

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#3 of 16 Old 02-01-2004, 12:23 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for your kind response and comfort. I think just being able to honestly say that I'm hurting is really helpful. Reading your response brought tears to my eyes and I felt better almost immediately.

In so many ways I'm lucky to have a great husband who is a wonderful Dad and loves being home. And I'm grateful to have financial security.

But you help me consider that in many ways it all about how I look at it. If I were "forced" to stay home, I'm sure there would be the hard adjustment of giving up the independence I've always enjoyed by working!

I really feel like the challenge is finding a way to accept what is lost by working full time and not letting it sabotague my enjoyment of my precious family.
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#4 of 16 Old 02-01-2004, 11:49 PM
 
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Elynor's Mom -

I just wanted to say welcome to MDC & I'm also sorry for what you're struggling through. It does sound hard... even though you are doing what you decided was best for your family, it makes a lot of sense that you would still feel ambivalent. In part that's just a state of mind thing I guess - when at home we miss "the world," but when we are out there it hurts to miss so much at home.

It is important to talk about what that feels like, the grief I mean for what you are missing out on. No situation is ideal, but also I think there is a way in which this society sets us up for a very difficult road. (Compared with countries that have a year of paid maternity leave, for example). And we are often now so isolated from friend/family supports. Sigh. I just read an interesting book called "Flux" that talks about women balancing work & family, trying to do & be it all. Basically what came thru for me was that nearly every woman profiled felt she was failing at some aspect of her life.

Well, I've got a house to clean before monday comes around. Just wanted to send you a hug.

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#5 of 16 Old 02-03-2004, 09:38 AM - Thread Starter
 
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mamabutterfly - thanks for you kind and thoughtful response - I really appreciate the hug!

I think you've hit on one of the most frustrating issues - our (U.S.) society seems to place us in a no-win situation. I had 6 weeks maternity leave at full pay -- in some respects (globally speaking) I should feel fortunate to have this much. But the reality is - I think it's the child who gets cheated. I'm in the military and am deployable at 4 mos. following birth (I was deployed to Africa with 24 hours notice). What does this say about how much our government values the well-being of children in military families? My husband is Czech - and the women in their military have a minimum of 9 mos. maternity leave and are non-deployable for 3 years.

Do we then use this as a reason why women shouldn't be in the military and remove the feminine influence from this power insititution? During my first post-partum deployment I managed to keep my milk going by pumping manually in a tent under a mosquito net when noone was looking and was fortunate that my daughter has a strong nursing instinct and picked it up immediately when I returned. But the stress and worry was overwhelming at times. I almost feel like the system is deliberately set up to discourage us from making a career of it. In any event, I work in an all male environment - and while some of them are really involved with their own children they have no perspective on what I might be going through.

Well, that was quite a rant...

Thanks again - I really appreciate this forum - hope I will be able to contribute to the support network here.
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#6 of 16 Old 02-03-2004, 01:27 PM
 
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Elynor's mom, I am so sorry things are tough!

My best friend from High School is in the military, and was just deployed to South Korea. Her son is a bit over one year old. Luckily, her husband and son joined her a month after she went, but I'm sure it was tough on her and them, too. She was nursing, but stopped, it was too much.

Nope, so many parts of our society are not family-friendly! And it is so absurd, because happy children are the BASIS of our society, since they grow up into the adults eventually. No long term considerations.

I myself left a secure corporate-world job in the "glamorous" film & television industry because it was not family friendly - my minimum work day was 10-hours! All my Industry friends put their kids in daycare for 11 hours a day, but I just couldn't do it. At least you have a parent home with your child, you are fortunate in that. I myself am now officially a welfare mom while I try to figure out what the heck I'm going to do for work while my son is small (I'd figured I'd be able to stay in film & use the on-lot preschool, but there weren't openings when it came down to it).

No, the world is not family-friendly. And it truly is society shooting itself in the foot!

Good luck, mama. Keep nursing as you can, keep as close as you can. Taking care of your family long term is also a just cause and good thing, as well as the day to day care. Keep your chin up!

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#7 of 16 Old 02-05-2004, 02:54 PM
 
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I know, about the not being child friendliness here, and I still get mad thinking about it. I'm from a European country with excellent parental leave options, but live and work in the US and had to fight for my leave to start one wk before due date (thanks to my ds for arriving 11 days early!!) and then feel really grateful for being able to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave. I know lots of people have it even worse, but really, 12 weeks is a very short time to recover and a baby is still really small to leave in someone elses care.
Anyways, just venting..

mama to my August boys ('03 & '06) trying to figure out what to do after 5 losses
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#8 of 16 Old 02-05-2004, 04:46 PM
 
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Elynor's Mom,

Welcome to MDC! This is a great forum for working moms especially, because we face some unique obstacles (both professional and personal) that are really hard to deal with if you are by yourself. First of all...WOW!.....being in the military is tough. I'm impressed! Being a mom in the military has got to be even tougher!! You must be very strong and courageous, both qualities that will serve you well in finding the right balance between work and motherhood!

I totally commiserate with you! It is almost a physical pain that one goes through. Although I am not in the military, I chose a career path (law) that is not overly family friendly. I work in the public (gov't) sector, so my hours were much more reasonable, but they still conflicted with my ability to balance work and family. That is one of the toughest things a woman has to do, I think. The balance is an ongoing process, though infancy, toddlerhood, pre-school, gradeschool, etc. We are constantly trying to find the right blend. Just when we find it, then something changes....

Anyway, here's a look at my attempt to balance both: I was the main breadwinner (carrying the insurance and a bigger salary) I had 11 weeks of paid maternity leave. Unheard of for corporate America, but it was barely enough time for me to adjust to the thought of being a Mother, let alone time to actually *parent* my precious baby. DH started his own business and worked out of our house, so we had a wonderful sitter who came to our house and stayed with dd while I was at work. I cut my hours as short as possible and even came home to nurse during lunch. On average, I worked 30-35 hours. Sounds like a nice balance? Not really. To be precise, I snuck out of the office every day, dashed like a bat out of H*LL to get home, nursed dd, tried to get her down for a nap, and then rushed back to work and tried to appear like I wasn't gone for 1.5 hours or so! Needless to say, the stress was overhwelming at times. At work, I pored over Babycenter.com and MDC boards, because it helped me feel connected as a parent. In between, I was trying to discreetly pump. On top of that, I snuck out early to go home at the drop of a hat! But, I was unwilling to change the schedule. Changing meant that I would spend more time at the office and even LESS time with DD.

Like you, I grieved for the time that I was away from dd, for the moments that someone else held her, for the lost chances.
No matter how much I tried to rationalize it, my gut told me that I WAS missing out on things. The question then became, for me, Could I handle this? She, on the other hand, was totally thriving.

Me? I was more and more torn. I felt like something had to give. I was tired of playing "catch-up" You know, where you try to squeeze in "quality time" or you try to make up for being gone. You hope and pray that when the next milestone comes, you will be there....I finally realized that I wasn't the same person after having dd that I was before having dd. Whereas my path and career were pretty mapped out before, now, things were different. I was different. At the same time, I also realized that time was going by so fast. Before I knew it, my little baby was a toddler, walking, starting to talk, etc. A year flew by and I was no more "balanced" than I was when I went back to work!!

Fast forward a few months. I continued to long to be home more and decided I would be happy working only part-time. Needless to say, giving a part-time mom employment was not on the priority list for employers, but after A LOT of red tape, I finally secured a pt position with the County. DH and I sold our condo in the city and moved to the suburbs, thereby reducing our cost of living. DH, who was formerly self employed as a contractor, had to go out and find a full time job with benefits, which I didn't carry anymore since I worked only PT.

It is now going on 8 months and I feel that I have finally found some "balance"...at least for now! I wouldn't trade my schedule for the world. It fits perfectly for me right now. We had to make some sacrifices, but I think in the big picture, they will be minore. What strikes me is how "transitory" all of this is. Even now, I think how much dd has changed (she's 2 now) and how in a few months, she'll be in pre-school....Yikes!

I think the day that it will be time for me to enter the work force full time will be the day that I start to envy the FT mom's at work. Naturally, working pt is a little bittersweet as I see my colleagues moving up in the office, getting promotions, etc. But, when I see the women who have children, I feel bad for them, not envious.

Sorry this is so long. I just wanted to let you know that I totally sympathize with you. It's ok to feel sad. It is agonizing to realize that your priorities have changed but that circumstances around you haven't. It is even harder when the environment of your chosen career is not conducive to being a mom. Co-sleeping, breastfeeding, attachment parenting, etc, all help to maintain your connection to your dd. It sounds like you are doing a wonderful job. Expressing your feelings and voicing them out loud is also very crucial. You're also so lucky to have your DH be a SAHD. At least you don't have to spend $ on childcare and your dd is with a loving parent. Take heart that we are all in the same boat. We all have to find our "balance" in different ways, whether it is extended materinity leave, part time, cutting hours, or simply acknowledging that we are doing the best that we can under the circumstances we have. Peace be with you and your family!!

Libby
mama to a sprited 2 yr old

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#9 of 16 Old 02-07-2004, 05:01 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally posted by gabry
I'm from a European country with excellent parental leave options
Gabry, I appreciate your "venting." I am in Europe now and was referred to German doctors for my maternity care. They saw to it that I was able to take a few days off before the baby was born. If I had been forced to remain in the military medical system, it is quite likely that I would have worked up until labor.

It is truly something that we just don't "get" in the U.S. where I think economic progress has superceded all else. Thanks for the shared perspective!!!
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#10 of 16 Old 02-07-2004, 05:15 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally posted by madison

Taking care of your family long term is also a just cause and good thing, as well as the day to day care.
Madison: Thanks for the wise words. And the the commiseration. I think it is what I've needed most over the past months and just couldn't find. I'm feeling a bit "tribeless." I read about your situation and others, and while I feel better in a way, knowing that I'm not alone -- I can't help but think, "This is wrong - it doesn't have to be this hard!" It always seems to come down to the impoverishment of women in terms of lower (or no) salaries and reduced retirement security - a great reward for the exhausting job of bearing and nurturing our society's children. I know this is not a new tune - but the more I read about women who have reached a point of security in their jobs - acutally, the "wealth building years" that are so vital to security in old age - and then having to choose between that security and the well-being of their children, the more it infuriates me.

I sense unspoken retaliation in my situation - something like, well, if you're going to insist on getting into "men's business" you have to follow all the same rules. I don't want to get into a male slamming mode - but the institutions we work for are really still run according to the male reality. I also sense that while my colleagues seem sympathetic, it's pretty superficial.

OK then. Venting, venting, venting...I just feel so powerless.

Thanks again for the kind response.
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#11 of 16 Old 02-07-2004, 05:45 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I finally realized that I wasn't the same person after having dd that I was before having dd. Whereas my path and career were pretty mapped out before, now, things were different. I was different.
Libby - thanks so much for your wonderful, long answer. You've given me a great window on another woman's dance down a similar path. I don't know even now where I will go with this situaton. It was really insightful to read how you morphed from the amazing, heroic attempts to balance it all to the state of compromise you are content with at the moment. (I can't imagine for a minute one of my male colleagues going through what you described!).

I am still trying to find a "balance" I can live with. I am focusing on the positive and searching for kinship. I am so grateful for my husband - and know that if all else went to hell, I'd still be lucky for his support and great parenting. I also read & research the web like crazy - I guess I am assembling a virtual tribe of sorts with whom I can trade validation and support. So, in that sense I am truly grateful for modern technology. And, now that Elynor is almost a year old, I am getting some of my physical energy back which contributes to my emotional/mental energy both at home and on the job.

Quote:
Naturally, working pt is a little bittersweet as I see my colleagues moving up in the office, getting promotions, etc.
This is an interesting note - and I think it must ring true for a lot of women who have scaled back or even simply become mothers in the workplace. The kudos generally go to those who stay late and stay focused, and don't disappear from the office for extended periods (such as for maternity leave - or just vacation to keep a balance with the family). I went from being one of the most vital members of my workplace to one of the most marginalized.

I think this was partly because of my absence for maternity leave and vacation, but also because of my loss of drive and my reluctance to deploy. Everything became much less important once I had my daughter. I'm really selective now in where I want to put my newly limited energy - and I don't think it sits well with those who thought of me as a "do-it-all, go anywhere" type. The reality is, I probably seem less dedicated, and it's because I AM less dedicated! I wonder if this will change...? In any event, I wasn't prepared for how quickly all my past work and accomplishments would become irrelevant - and it hurts to see newcomers take over my turf (even though I don't really want it anymore!). In truth it is the loss in status that hurts -- I guess this another thing inherent in motherhood. But how senseless it all is. I am increasingly dispirited by what seems to me to be a sort of spiritual and ethical bankruptcy in the workplace as well as the pre-motherhood role I played in it...

Well, a long answer to a long answer. Thanks again for your generous support and for sharing your personal path. I really appreciate the opportunity everyone on this thread has given me to share my frustrations and efforts. It truly is a gift
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#12 of 16 Old 02-07-2004, 12:59 PM
 
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If it's any consolation (it is a little bit to me), in Europe (at least in my country), once you're done with maternity leave and all that, it's not much better. It's easier to work pt with benefits, but it also makes you somewhat less respected and less likely to be considered for promo's etc, and childcare is very expensive with long waiting lists. I have two friends who wanted to pump at work but essentially gave up because of both the physical and cultural environment at their companies.
I try to look at the brighter side of things and think about the things we do have, but it is hard sometimes. I can imagine that in the military environment that might be even harder, but you seem to be very strong about it!

mama to my August boys ('03 & '06) trying to figure out what to do after 5 losses
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#13 of 16 Old 02-12-2004, 04:49 PM
 
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"The reality is, I probably seem less dedicated, and it's because I AM less dedicated! I wonder if this will change...? In any event, I wasn't prepared for how quickly all my past work and accomplishments would become irrelevant - and it hurts to see newcomers take over my turf (even though I don't really want it anymore!). In truth it is the loss in status that hurts -- I guess this another thing inherent in motherhood. But how senseless it all is. "

Elynor's mom, sorry my post was so long and thanks for actually taking the time to read it! ITA agree with your post above Losing status, after working so hard to get it, is hard! But, I like to look at successful women around me (ones that are mothers) and find strength and courage from their paths.

Ironically, after I made the decision to go PT, and discussed some of my thoughts with others, my femal colleagues were sooo supportive, many men too. Also, to my surprise, many of the women that are now in VERY prestigious positions, took time to have kids or work part time. They told me this almost in secret. Like they were coming out of the closet! The BEST comment I ever got was from a woman who is now a state supreme court justice who said, in front of a group of men, that the best decision she made was to work part time until her kids were older and she could go back FT. THAt made the world of difference to me! She's about 75 right now and did it at a time when women hit the "glass ceiling" a lot! If she could do it, why not me, or anyone else, for that matter. Losing a little status doesn't mean that you can't ever get it back or find it in a different form!!

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#14 of 16 Old 02-20-2004, 01:30 AM
 
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I returned to work because I had created a professional life that I enjoyed, and that I felt I could mold to accomodate my family. I had some degree of choice, but even though I make much less than Dh, every little bit helps and my income eases some of the burden on Dh - I feel good about doing that.

But the first 20 months were horrible. I HATED the work I once loved. If anyone had any idea how not into what I was doing I was, I'd have lost all my business. I was so distracted, I'm amazed no one noticed.

What happened at 20 months was Dd stopped crying piteously when I left for work. Part of my setup is that my office is attached to my home, right downstairs, and my mother comes over to be with Dd. Still, I hated hearing her cry, and I hated missing the hours of her life. I felt cheated. I felt like all my striving had just gotten me to a place of misery.

But at 20 months, Dd suddenly stopped caring when I left, because she was busy with Grandma. The relationship she has with my mother as a result of the time they've spent together delights her, so it delights me. Relieved of the sound of Dd's crying in my ears, I realized I really loved my work. I engaged more fully and while she is always in my heart, she is not very much on my mind when I am working. I think this is healthy for us both.

The past few months, she's come down to the office with me and she sits with Grandma at a desk and draws. She loves watching me work, she's fascinated by what I do, part of her play is to mimic my work.

Also, she's been coming to lectures I give and classes I teach. Dh takes her to see me talking as long as she stays quiet, or to visit the classroom during breaks. She likes to "give a talk," she'll stand in the bed and pontificate.

And I really like the idea that in her mind, this woman who cleans up after her, makes all the food, finds lost toys, whose job it is to sleep next to her, is also someone who has a roomfull of people want to listen when she talks. It's a model I did not grow up with, and I think that my working never threatened the bond I had with Dd early on, and will build a different kind of bond that may serve us well in her teen years (I'm always one to prepare ahead).

As others have alluded to, when you don't feel you have a choice I'm sure the whole thing looms even worse. In general, the less control you have, the worse you feel. If you can find some way to share this with your Dd even in some small way, it can create a sort of common interest. Whether it's helping her develop as a conversationalist while you talk about your work, or looking at pictures that relate to what you do, I think, as I've already said, another form of bond can be forged.
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#15 of 16 Old 02-26-2004, 09:40 PM
 
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Originally posted by Elynor's Mom

I guess I am assembling a virtual tribe of sorts with whom I can trade validation and support. So, in that sense I am truly grateful for modern technology.
Hi Elynor's mom,

I've been facing a very similar battle. Though I have good support at work regarding pumping and sometimes being a bit light on the hours (I'm hourly so I just get paid less).

I'm having a heck of a time with getting the REAL support, the kind where I can share with other working moms and learn from what they've done that works and hope to develop some tools from their experience.

I've started a parent's group, in the evenings, but all the moms but me are stay-at-home moms and I just get really discouraged. I know that the "tribe" is needed, but I think that moms are already so tired that the idea of meeting once a week is too daunting.

My daughter just turned 1 and I've missed a bunch, but my DH, is a self-employed contractor and takes her to his jobs so at least she's getting daddy's care during the day. It works out, mostly, but I feel really drained and like I'm not taking care of myself at ALL when I come home.

If you find an cohesive on-line tribe, please let me know about it. I've just started participating on the mothering lists so I don't know if it can be found here.

Sorry this is so long (it sounds a lot like a rant too)
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#16 of 16 Old 02-29-2004, 11:04 PM
 
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