What does fulfillment look like as a mom? The answer isn’t so black and white. Whether you stay home or work, Facebook serves as a constant reminder that we’re doing it wrong. In a sea of Pinterest perfect parents, it’s tough to glance at your sink full of dirty dishes and growing list of client emails, wondering why you just can’t seem to get it together in comparison. When it comes to different viewpoints on the role that mothers should hold within their families, society and social media both paint a very distinct picture resembling one of the following mindsets:
Staying home is much more fulfilling than working because you have the opportunity to really be there for your children and have full involvement in their lives. It’s also a luxury for your spouse and improves your family’s overall quality of life. You never have to pay for daycare, and when your child is sick, you get to be the one caring for them without stressing about missed work time. Bonus: you have the option to wear yoga pants or leggings every day of the week.
Staying home is terrible – your children are sticky, demanding creatures that run you ragged. You barely have time to pee or shower, let alone get any housework done, and it takes an obscene amount of effort just to get dinner on the table. You’re so sick of wearing those damn yoga pants, and it’s a win if you leave the house without a questionable stain on your zip-up. Sometimes you fantasize about what it would be like to put on a pencil skirt and kick up your heels on an office desk, or brush the dust off that diploma you’ve had packed away in the attic.
Being a working mom sucks. You’re missing everything – your son’s soccer tournament, your daughter’s school concert, and whatever else is scheduled during working hours. You’re the parent huffing into the auditorium when the kids have already lined up on stage for the school play, all eyes on you as you shamefully hide in the back row. You are sick of the hustle of never-ending meal prep and shelling out a substantial chunk of your post-taxed income to let someone else care for your children. Sometimes you wonder what it would be like to sip your coffee in the comfort of your own home – not dribbled down your blouse as you run to catch your morning train.
Being a working mom is great because you are setting a true example for your children. You are raising your sons to know the value of a two-income household, and your daughters to recognize that women can achieve their dreams and accomplish anything. You’re a strong, independent woman who juggles it all. Childcare is great because your kids are being socialized and are accustomed to multiple caregivers. It also feels good to contribute to your household income. Hell, you’re probably the breadwinner.
Then, somewhere in between the blurred lines and the bullshit lies reality.
Despite all the toddler tea parties, trips to the park, and fancy office views on Instagram, there really is no black and white when it comes to motherhood. Sometimes things are, in fact, very gray. Depending on the moment it’s met, that gray can be cold and stifling, sending you into a downward spiral. It can also be calm and welcoming – a much needed reprieve after a particularly rough moment.
I’ve been the stay-at-home-mom who was bored to tears, insecurely watching my friends from the sidelines as they climbed their career ladders.
I’ve also been the stay-at-home mom who felt such joy and fulfillment from spending my days at the zoo or devouring books with my toddler on a rainy day.
I’ve been the working mom who miserably trudges to the office each morning, wishing that I could just stop missing everything.
I’ve also been the fulfilled working mom who feels pretty bad-ass for balancing my family with pursuing my own passions and having an identity outside of my children.
I have a confession, though – while I have been all of these mothers before, I’ve never been just one of them at any given time. In fact, most days I’m all of them simultaneously.
Some days as I squeeze in client phone calls while bouncing a fussy baby, I find myself longing for an office with free cold brew. I start to wonder if leaving my full-time career was a mistake.
As I take the baby for a walk that afternoon and help my tween with her homework after school, I then feel deep gratitude that I have the opportunity to be their people.
As moms, we need to stop feeling insecure about our paths that are unique to our motherhood journeys. We must stop searching for a fulfillment that might not exist in every moment, but rather accept that sometimes fulfillment is fluid and therefore constantly shifting. The truth is, sometimes there are no perfect options – there are only perfect moments.
Maybe someday, though, I’ll leave it all behind and be the PTA mom. And maybe I won’t.
Maybe I’ll decide to work full-time again outside of the home.
Or maybe I’ll work part-time forever.
Whether your morning view is a sleepy toddler, a city skyline, or something in between – know that you are mom. And through all the many moments in your life, both perfect and imperfect, that is simply enough.