"I miss the old mom!" This is what Isabelle was crying the other night. An interesting comment given that in my family we have always joked about "the old mom" and "the new mom" regarding who my mom was before and after going back to work. Now I am the new mom and my daughter is lamenting the old mom.
I am really struggling lately with parenting while working. Conceptually I believe that you can be a good parent and work. While I believe in the value of having a parent at home I have never been one to believe it is the only good way to raise a child. I believe that it is about priorities not about presence. Whether you work or stay home you make sacrifices for your child. When I was at home we sacrificed additional financial help, now that I am working we sacrifice in new ways, less outside activities and involvements in areas outside our home and family. Actually I would say NO involvement in anything outside our home and family.
But I have been thinking about MY "old mom/new mom" mom who now in retirement is exploring her "old mom" ways a little more once again.
When I was little my mom was the quintessential 70's housewife. She sewed our clothes, did crafts all the time, baked delicious frosted sugar cookies for every holiday, got up every morning to make my dad toast and eggs for breakfast before work and had a hot homemade dinner on the table when he returned home every evening. And while my memories of that part of my childhood are limited, they are all happy.
Then, somewhere around late elementary, early jr, high my mom transitioned back to work. And my dad, being a quintessential product of a '50's upbringing (bless his heart), did not step in to help out despite the fact that we had entered the '80's. Which meant that she had to let go of her "old mom" ways and become the "new mom". A woman who did not sew, bake or volunteer to make ornaments for all the kids in the children's program at church. Looking back she struggled with the transition just like I have. Letting go of who you are and what has defined you for so many years and allowing yourself to be re-defined by your new circumstances, circumstances you don't necessarily want to be in, is hard. HARD. And I watched my mom struggle with it for the rest of my childhood.
But I have to admit from my side of it I didn't think my mom working was the end of the world. To be fair, I was older than Isabelle. And my brother, who was closer to her age, struggled with it more than I did. Still once a routine was established it was fine. We grew up and are all wonderful. I know my parents feel like they had nothing to do with it but they were there, they were consistent, they provided, they were safe, they loved us and their example of relying on the Lord in every situation gave us exactly what we needed to become the adults God had planned for us.
Although I am looking forward to a return home of sorts with my new job and a better balance of work and family life, I will still be working. A large part of my day and my energy will still go to things other than my children. And they will still have to sacrifice. But I am finding myself feeling more at peace with my working as I go forward and think about Isabelle growing up in a home with a working mom. I was there establishing a foundation for 6 years, the fun "old mom" years. And going forward as "new mom" my priorities might be new but my commitment to her and the rest of my family will never change.