Should I Be A Working Mother Or Not?

Posted: November 18, 2014
Here is a glimpse into the mind of a mother who grapples with a thousand questions when making the decision – to be a working mother or not?
I am a software professional, chugging along the corporate ladder for the last 15 years. Working used to be fun and rewarding, but not so much now. My top priority is not my project assignment, but my 3-year old daughter.
Ever since Agni has been born, I have become super-efficient at work. I multitask at the job, and try not to waste a single second. But I flounder with the juggling act when dealing with Agni and work simultaneously. I am not the multitasking Goddess that all working Moms are expected to be. Unlike my always-connected better half, I cannot reply to mails on my smart-phone while listening to her stories. Hell, I cannot even browse facebook while playing with her.
Not surprisingly, taking a long sabbatical is an idea which crosses my mind often. I visualize the yoga classes I can take, and the weekly spa visits I never have time for now. We will of course lose some of the financial freedom that we enjoy, but it will be more than compensated by the time and energy that I will save for my child. I will be able to cook, and read, and write.
Other thoughts follow. While growing up, I was proud to have a working Mom. I have always believed that women must be independent. I have a stressful job, still, my workplace is supportive, and I enjoy more flexibility in my working hours than most people I know. If I quit, will I be teaching my daughter the right thing? Will she understand the importance of having a career?
If I quit, will I be teaching my daughter the right thing? Will she understand the importance of having a career?
Also – my spouse shares most responsibilities at home. But let’s face it – if I switch to being a home-maker, it is likely that he would share far less of the workload at home. Again, not a lifestyle choice that I particularly care for!
On a more trivial note – I am able to say No to most social commitments now, on account of my busy schedule (and mostly asocial nature). Will I be expected to become a social butterfly once I am no more a full-time professional? Will my mother-in-law expect me to accompany her to all the relatives that she visits?
Eventually, bottom-line, I want to quit my job for my daughter – and for no other reason. So I must ignore all these side-notes and focus on that. It will be worth it when we go to the park on winter afternoons, and she will run after squirrels and monkeys, when I take her to those dance classes which finish before I reach home.
I raise the topic at the breakfast table – my better half makes just one comment – “of course we can manage on a single salary, but will we be able to save enough for her higher studies – if she wants to go for the expensive kind?” And here I was…thinking I am doing it all for her! So which one is more important – providing her the best possible education when she is 18 or teaching her, giving her quality time, now? And the most important question – Am I really quitting for her sake, or am I just using that as an excuse to indulge myself?
Am I really quitting for her sake, or am I just using that as an excuse to indulge myself?
I am reminded of when Agni was born, and I wanted to take a break for a year. A dear friend and Mum of two said to me, “Sure – she needs you now, but she will need you far more when she is five. Right now she just needs an adult who can feed and bathe her. Then she will need the irreplaceable you. “
I see the wisdom of her words. Agni misses me far more now than she did as a baby – and the time we spend together is more meaningful. So maybe the right time for a sabbatical is two years from now.

And so on and so forth I sway. Today I am staying put. Lets see what tomorrow brings.

Pic credit: Image of a mother and daughter via Shutterstock.

 

I am a working professional and mother of a hyperactive 3-and-a-half year

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Comments

27 Comments


  1. Rappelled with all these questions and a tired and guilt ridden me took a break from career when my daughter was 4.5 years old. With in 6 months I understood that I was not a better mom while staying at home all the time, I was the reverse in fact. I was a science researcher and staying at home was not helping me anyway to stimulate my brain. After having spend some quality time with my daughter any other chore was too monotonous for me. I used those months for finding alternative career, reading books, and a lot of introspection. Finally I came back to work with clarity that I would be a better mother/role model to a daughter through a work+home life. She need to have enough memory from her mothers life to tackle her work-life balancing issues as a grown up. Also I can think myself of leaving work/career dreams and stay at home but I cannot think the same for my daughter- at any cost I would want her to reach out to stars both at work and at home! So I need to keep going.
    She is 10 years old now, gets bored at times but is able to understand and respect the work life of her parents. We share stories of work with her and she shares her school stories with her. We find similarities in personalities and how human nature remains same both at school or at office.

    • Chandrima, Thanks a lot for sharing your thoughts. It is really good to read from you since you have been there, have jumped over the fence, and have seen both sides. Reading your post gives me the confidence that staying put is the right call. In fact, after writing this blog, I could articulate my own thoughts better, and I realized that though quitting feels like the right choice sometimes, working is more important, for me as an individual, and eventually, for my daughter.

  2. My God, I cant believe it… did you peek into my own mind and pick out the always present thoughts? I couldnt have expressed my current situation more clearly… It feels better to know that there are people out there who are in exactly similar situations with exactly difficult questions and decisions and exactly similar hesitations… Reading this has helped me feel confident about the decision that i too need in near future…

    • Thanks a lot, M, for your response. Makes my effort totally worth it! I hope that you will be happy with whatever decision you take, whenever you take it.

  3. In one article you enlisted everything that is on my mind.. I don have children yet bt m planning to . It’s gonna be a scary ride , But it sure makes sense to be around when he/she physically needs me and not just an adult. I alternatively have never thought of choosing to take a sabbatical, but may be going into a profession where the work load is nt that heavy or I can be home by the noon. Its all in the head creating turmoils.This whole IT professional career is not very good at giving me time to breathe..

  4. Dear Abha
    Your article has come at a time when I had started seriously to think over the very same subject…that I should leave my job in order to give my time to my angel…but was dwindling at the bombardment of various thoughts . .. your article is god sent Abha . ..Thank you so very much for sharing . ..god bless
    Kamalpreet

    • Thank you so much Kamalpreet.. It is humbling to know that your deepest worries can find so many echoes.
      I am glad to know it helped you. Writing this post, and reading all the comments definitely helped me a lot.

  5. Thank yout for putting in words the agonizing dilemmas that I now realise so many of us are feeling. I don’t really agree that your child will need you more when she is five. Science says that the maternal bond that develops in the first two years of life is a critical determinant of a child’s personality. A baby needs her mother as much as a five year old, she just can’t express it as well. So the one year break, I think, is justified. As far as careers go, if one has an option, I think the best option would be to have a job with a lot of flexibility, or work-from-home options that would give one the perfect balance of being able to nurture your child without losing out on your own dreams. ( I just wish I had that option!)

  6. :)..I think all of us try and do what’s best for our family, children in particular. Sometimes we hit, we miss and many a times we doubt. Off course , financial security is important but We really do not know what our life has to offer after many years down the line. If you are happy most days balancing work and home , that’s what you should do. If I am happy quitting my job and stay at home to spend more time with my family, that’s what I should do . I think it’s about our priorities …

    • SE .. you nailed it! But we being human .. are so unsure about our own priorities .. I want A, but if I get A, I have to leave B, so maybe B is better than A.. blah-blah 🙂 If only we could get A and B, and C and D.. 🙂
      Jokes apart, I loved your simple summary of my long rant. And yes – I fall in category 1, so I am staying put.

  7. Oh good Lord! This is like an insight into my own mind!! I have a 7 year old son, and almost every day contemplate on staying home versus the ever-so-hectic work life. As we grow higher up the corporate ladder, the expectations only gt more and more. Work is definitely very demanding, and I barely get time for dinner with family. I’m yet to decide, but your post has let me know that there are more moms like me out there. Thank you!

  8. Not many years ago our grand mothers were stay at home moms but they had so many kids that they could not really give time to each of them the way we think of today. They were not that educated too and could not answer to all the queries of their children all the time. Generation of our parents grew up like in a day care with their own brothers, sisters and cousins in joint families. Their mothers were busy in households, cooking and other activities. Our parents grew up fine and they were a generation of confident people. To provide exclusive time to your child all the time and for all the years of their growing up is a concept of nuclear family and modern educated women fall into trap of this because there is a utter lack of social support for child care in India.. There is a proverb a village is required to raise a child and I find it so true because only a mother cannot inspire a child as much the whole village can… It is time to rethink.. Society needs good day cares so that mothers could do what they are good at for some hours children can stay and enjoy that under trained teachers in day cares… Communist countries are doing great job in establishing social support for parents through day cares, day schools etc… Countries like Norway, Denmark,Sweden are changing a lot of policies for both parents to avail them so that both genders can look after children and go for work. By choosing not to work after child birth each mother is pushing the father to stay late at night at office because he becomes the sole bread winner…he is removed far from parenting roles this way…so he miss out on enjoying looking at their children growing. We should look for solutions where both parents get chance to work and be parent in equal manner…

    • Hi Chandrima .. Thanks for your comments again. I agree completely. We want to do the best for our kids, but the best is not just physical presence, it is also a lot of other tangible and intangible things.
      After a very long time (I guess ever since I became a Mom), I am quite clear in my head now – no more thoughts of quitting – no more doubts 🙂 Thanks a lot. Your earlier comments were a great help to me in clearing up my thought process. This is the right decision for me – may not be for everyone since many women do not have flexibility/support at office and home.
      I am sorry for the late response .. I have been very busy lately, and couldn’t get online earlier.

  9. Abha, it’s a difficult stance, moreso for a woman. We are many a times, at a stage of ‘should we or should we not? ‘ however, although, i like the idea of taking a break when the baby is 5 yrs ; at the same time it makes me wonder – children these days are up and have an opinion since they are 2 yrs!! Breaking into their mind to teach them what we want to – would be difficult. Also, As mentioned in the above comment, ffather’s role is equally important while work life balance is a necessity these days that need to be taught to growing children. Won’t staying at home and being present all the time, be over mentoring while making the child over-dependent on just the mother?? I wonder!

    • Yes Jayanti .. I agree with your comments about the need to make the correct role-models, and fathers also sharing the responsibilities. Based on all of these, and because of the fact that I always wanted to work, ever since I was a kid myself, and had never earlier contemplated the option of staying at home, I have decided to carry on with my job, and not get confused any more.
      You also talked about kids knowing their own minds since the age of 2 – that is very true nowadays. But then the challenge is to stay connected with the kid every day, whether you are working or not. I try to spend a lot of time with my daughter in the evening, even at the cost of housework, which I try to manage my getting up early in the morning. So all of us find our own solutions.

  10. I am in a same boat! I too have daughter of 4 years who misses me lot every day and she cries every day that she does not want to go to day-care she wants to come back to home and have fun like her other friends.This makes me so guilty for not giving time to her, not playing with her.
    but do not have the answer for the same.

    • Hi GK, Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Being a Mom is so so tough – it breaks your heart every day. But honestly, after going through endless loops of worrying about it – I have now become comfortable with the fact that I am working, and my daughter will see me less because of it. That is because while she may lose out on some of my time and attention, she will also get something more because I am working. Be it the financial security she enjoys, or the fact that I am an informed Mom, or just the fact that I make sure I spend a lot of time with her in evenings. Of course all days are not the same, but I do try hard.
      I also realized another thing which helped me. When I drop my daughter to school every morning – she gets very sad and tells me that she misses me a lot all day. She doesn’t cry but gets very emotional and teary-eyed. This kills me every morning, but I will never take her away from school just because of that. Nor will any other parent.
      This awoke me to the fact that my going to office also falls in the same category. She hates it sometimes, but one day she will be much better off for it. I had a working Mom, and it made me stronger and wiser. So keep working, and tell your daughter that going to office is like going to school – it has to be done. I also tell my daughter sometimes, that I need to work to help others, just like the maids who come to our houses in the morning to help us. Or like the doctor auntie who treats her, or like the teachers who teach her. I tell her that they have kids at home too, and it really helps her understand why I need to go to office.

  11. You sais same !!!!!! I started working when my son was 1year n since 4 years I have being busy with work!!!! I m on break for few months now since I think we both r enjoying this phase the most even that when he would be younger ,,,,,, now it makes sense to play with them n these memories will be vital in their minds even when they grows up ,,,,,, I want him to have me with his memories !!!!!!!

  12. Here’s what I feel (or felt some time back). Even today I am not unaffected by the decisions that I made.

    KavitaR.
    http://kavitachate.blogspot.in/2012/08/my-guilt-being-working-mom.html

  13. Hi
    You seem to have read my mind.i had quit my job long time back evrn before pregnancy but then eventuallly it was alll for gud..i couldnt manage the stress ….one way am happy….being a mother of two lovely gals…but i want to b a working mom….and show my daughters that gals need to b independent…..i am scared to leave my kids wth someone else as i feel they might not b able to tell me anytng as they r tooo small….onlu whn thdy xould tell me i would puy them n some dsycare….
    Hope am doing right now….justice with them

    Regards
    Priya

    • Hi Priya .. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I totally relate to you. I never wanted to leave the kids with a domestic help either. I was lucky that my parents-in-law live closeby, and they were able to help me out. I am indebted to my Mom-in-law who moved from her full-time job to part-time, just to support me.
      Kudos to you for your courage to quit at the right time, and I wish you All the Best – hopefully you will be able to start working soon, when the kids start daycare/play school.

    • Thankyou so much for your comforting words, am always looking for opportunities where in I don’t have to leave my kids alone , because I feel that am not courageous for the same , anyways good things comes to those who wait . 🙂

  14. Hi all.. I was working, but its going to be 2 years now and I quit my job for my Twin girls..I had enough complications during my pregnancy and after the girls came , I never thought of going back to work.now they are 1.3 yrs and I am already contemplating the thought of when to go back to work.
    I do not have support from either set of my parents (in laws too) as they are old..
    I need to hire a help if I need to get out and start earning and saving for my girls.
    I would love to hear from all of you if am thinking wrong…do help

    • Hi Betsy .. I think you are making the right choice. In fact, after writing this post, and going through all the comments, I felt as if I could articulate my own thoughts better. I feel that as a woman, and even as a mother, it is very important for you (and me) to do your own thing – that enriches you, makes you better as a mother and a human being.
      I realized that eventually I was not quitting for my daughter – I was quitting to make my life easier. You need to work, and you need to spend time with your daughter – quality time and quantity time, as and when you can manage it.
      Its not going to be easy – there will be days when you will want to give up – but it will be worth it. I also realized that there are times and occasions (like your pregnancy), when it is impossible to carry on. But if it is possible – you should do it. It does not mean that you will ignore the kid at the cost of career, they will always have a lot of attention, and a lot of priority.
      I am sorry for the long and late reply – hope it helps you make up your mind!

  15. If finances are not an issue, I vote that you should quit. I have an 70+ year old aunt who was Judge in her time. Today she scorns women’s organizations that emphasize independence and she wishes she had stayed home. Stay at home, the quality of life you and your family will gain cannot be quantified ( assuming you don’t care for petty social markers). And yes, you will need to do menial tasks more, and get less help from husband, but if both of you want the same intellectual stimulation, then the mind of the family will not be balanced with it’s heart, body and soul. Staying at home, you can find your intellectual stimulation in other ways. Having been at work and juggling home, you know how valuable your time is and was – you should be able to get out of social commitments if you want to. just my 2 cents..

    • Hi P. Thanks for your comment .. I agree with most of what you say, yet I have finally decided not to quit my job. That is not for any other reason, but for the basic core fact that I believe women should work and be independent. Have always believed that. That is what I would want for my daughter as well. Now I am getting emotional and exhausted and trying to think I am being a good Mom by quitting my job. But that is not true. For some women, it is true because of the type of working hours they put in, or the lack of support they get, but it is definitely not true for me.

  16. Dear friends,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and your stories. It makes me feel humbled, yet happy that I managed to articulate my fears. Little did I expect that they will find so many reverberations amongst my fellow Women on the web.

    So I have decided to stay put in my job – for now, and hopefully for the long term. As someone so succinctly put, each woman has to take her own decision based on her priorities, and her situation.

    I am sorry for not replying sooner – that is a challenge I still have to win.
    Thanks again for all the love,
    Abha

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