The idea of whether to stay at home to raise our kids (sacrificing our careers and much of our sense of identity outside of being "Mom") or to return to work after maternity leave (suffering crippling guilt as we place our wee precious babies in the care of someone else) is a very difficult one to make.
These decisions - and the factors affecting those decisions - are different for everyone. Maybe your return to work is dictated by financial need: maybe you're the primary breadwinner, or the only income, or the household budget simply can't afford to be squeezed any further. Maybe, though you love your child more than life and cherish your family dinners and bedtime snuggles and weekend outings, the notion of being at home with your kids all day every day makes you want to gouge your eyes out with a blunt instrument.
I am forever questioning and second-guessing whether I've made the right decision, whether I'm doing the right thing for my kids and for me. And I have questioned and second-guessed myself no matter which decision I've made - when I was a stay-at-home mom by choice, a work-at-home mom by necessity, a work-outside-the-home mom for a time by necessity and for a time by choice, and now as a work-at-home mom by choice. I've felt guilty for putting them in childcare and I've also wondered if they're missing out by not being with other kids all day. I've felt like I'm missing their childhood while I'm at the office and I've also wondered if I might be a better mom if I had that few hours' break from them each day.
I don't know if there's a "right" decision - but for me, the most important thing is the time I spend with my boys during these few short years of their childhood, and there's no compensation for my working outside the home and having my kids in daycare that could ever outweigh that.
If I'd returned to work after maternity leave I'd never have understood so instantly my boys' babyspeak the way only someone who's with them twenty-four hours a day can. I'd have missed all those cozy daytime snuggles on the couch and teeter-tottery meandering walks to the park hand-in-hand. I'd have missed all our field trips and mom-and-tot groups and fun little outings. I'd have missed our walks to and from school together when we have some of our very best talks and my boys tell me all about their day, their dreams, what's going on in their heads and their worlds. I'd have missed all those after-school hours of homework and board games and bike riding and hanging out before dinner.
If I'd returned to work after maternity leave that's a couple of thousand hours a year I'd be missing with my kids. With only a few years to teach them and learn from them and make memories together until they're all grown up and off to live their own lives, it's simply too much to sacrifice for me.
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