Coming into the end of the last week of my winter vacation (being in education has its perks), I had a pang of guilt this morning as I sent my 19-month old, Stella, off to day care. That quickly ended as I settled into the peace and quiet of my home, closed the blinds, and kicked up my feet. The foreign silence allowed something strange to occur…I started thinking.
I have always been all about work. What am I going to do? Where will teaching take me? Even though I had a full-time job as a 7th grade teacher, I jumped at the chance to teach at the university I graduated from. I loved what I did even though it meant working over 12 hours a day more than one or two days a week.
When Stella was born in May 2010, there was a part of me that figured things would change. I always knew I wouldn’t be one of those women who decided to become a stay-at-home mom after having children. I had worked way too hard to establish myself as a career woman to do that. Yet, somewhere in my mind (probably from the lack of sleep), I thought that perhaps I could have it all.
So I tried. After seven months of staying home with Stella, and continuing my part-time teaching job at the university, I went back to working full-time at the school district as well. This meant being gone, sometimes 12 hours a day. At the end of the day, I found myself missing my daughter, my husband, and being overwhelmed with all the new mom tasks that I now had to squeeze in after a full day of work.
With only a few days left of my two-week vacation, I take some deep breaths, preparing myself to go back to work. In a couple of weeks, the university semester will start and I will be back to working three, 12-hour days on top of it. After enjoying my daughter and being reminded how important it is for us to spend time together, I wonder what I am thinking. I also wonder how I’ve managed to be a mom and continue to work two jobs.
Am I a good mom? Have I chosen to put my career before my family? Is it fair? I am staring at furniture that needs to be dusted, laundry that needs to be put away, and an empty refrigerator. These tasks can all be easily accomplished since I have the day off, but they admittedly don’t get done during the normal work week. I try to save the weekends for Stella and my husband. When can I care for my household? When can I take care of myself?
Revelations always happen when you have too much time on your hands. Maybe that’s why I throw myself into work and am overly scheduled and booked. I often tell myself that I work so much because I put my family first and want to be sure we have our needs met, but I realize now this is strangely contradictory. Only having an average of 3-4 hours a day with your child isn’t putting her first, is it? Does the term “working mom” even belong together?
I know every woman has their own definition of what a good mother is. Whether it’s someone who stays at home, cooks, bakes, or helps bring home the bacon is up to each one. I guess I just need to find mine and then adjust my life to it, no matter what has to give in order to do it.
Kelley Tenny is a Long Beach, CA resident, wife, and mother to daughter, Stella. By day, she is an educator for both Long Beach Unified School District and California State University, Long Beach. By night she does her best to juggle the joys of motherhood, the duties of being the lady of the house, and fervent attempts to have a little fun. You can follow her on Facebook or Twitter (@ktenny).