Occasionally I hear on talk shows or amongst friends that age-old banter about what is best for young children; a stay-at-home mother or a full-time working mother. I have been on both sides of this argument, and the pros and cons of each have merit.
Without a doubt, leaving our three-year old son Mason to head to work is not always easy. There are days when Mason’s not sick, but maybe just not feeling emotionally up to preschool. When we have those days—which we all do—I struggle with wanting to call in sick and stay home with him, snuggle with him, revel in a play-day with no stresses. Just “Mommy and Mason” time. But I don’t. I get him ready for school and myself ready for work and we head out the door. I feel there is great value in teaching our children that we all have choices, and with those choices comes responsibility. I can choose to stay home with him, but he will miss out on valuable education and socialization, and I, in turn, will miss out on not only the accomplishments I achieve at work, but also providing a higher quality of life for our family.
I recently learned a valuable lesson about our perceptions of a stay-at-home mother vs. a working mother. I rose early, knowing it was going to be a full day that would require precision scheduling. Unfortunately, Mason’s preschool was closed for two presidential Monday holidays in a row; when this sort of scheduling conflict occurs, my husband Dave and I each take a Monday off. It was my turn to take Monday off, but I just had to be at work. Besides holding a full-time outside sales job, I also have a nearly full-time real estate career. That Monday, I had to be at my sales job plus had a full schedule of house showings for two separate families.
I reviewed my day closely and realized that I could schedule office time in the morning from home. I asked my dear friend and Mason’s godmother Dahlynn to meet us at the local mall at noon sharp; Mason would get to have a special afternoon out with his “Auntie.” While he was with Dahlynn, I could make three scheduled sales calls. Timing was everything.
Like clockwork, Dahlynn met us at the mall. I whipped through my on-site sales calls across town and then returned to the mall for a quick lunch with Mason and his auntie, who had bought him a yellow helium balloon and a teddy bear for Valentine’s Day. With kisses goodbye to his auntie, Mason and I then stopped at the real estate office to pick up my listings and lock box key and then headed home to freshen up. We used the potty, combed our hair and were out the door again in a matter of minutes.
The two of us showed several houses to my first set of clients. I was amazed to hear my three-year-old son showing the clients the size of the bedroom closets. After the showings to the first family, the plan was to race Mason home to have dinner with Dave, who would be home from work by then, and then I would leave again to meet the second family to show more houses.
On the trip home, I reviewed the day thus far. Guilt slowly started to creep into my mind; was this all too much for him? A busy morning at home, dropping him at the mall, carting him to the real estate office and then to the showings—did he understand all of this running and going, going, going, or did he think his working mom was crazy?
We pulled into the driveway at the same time Dave was getting home from work. Before I could say a word or even begin to express my concerns about feeling guilty, Mason yelled to his dad from his car seat, “Daddy, Daddy! Mommy took me to play with Aunt Dahlynn and look what she bought for me for Balentines day, a bear, Daddy, a teddy bear, with a balloon, we played and looked at toys and then Mommy came to have lunch with us and then we went to see houses and I helped Mommy at work with the houses, Daddy, it was the best, fun day ever!” He said all of this in one big, long, breath like only a three year old can do.
My guilt of being a busy working mom with two full-time jobs instantly subsided. I realized that regardless of my hectic schedule, Mason was truly happy. His running dialog to his father taught me that he likes being a part of my day-to-day life, whether it’s a very busy work day, a lazy Saturday, a good day, or even a bad day. But most importantly, Mason taught me that any day is a great day, as long as we can be together.