I have been a "working mom" - in my case, a mother who simultaneously pursued a full-time career outside the home - for over twenty years. I became a mom, and a working mom, at a relatively young age. The Internet didn't exist when I started, and my son was out of college when Work It, Mom! came on the scene.
There are a number of reasons why I followed this path. Just to name a few:
- While not strictly necessary for my family's financial support, we would have struggled on only one income. On the other hand, I had a solid career and earning history behind me when my marriage broke up after eighteen years, because I had worked steadily. (Sometimes your life goes in directions you didn't plan.)
- I was raised with the idea that a college education was supposed to be preparation for a career, and couldn't imagine not following through on that.
- My first husband's mother had also been a working mom, so he considered it normal and, to some extent, expected. From that perspective, he was encouraging of my working; in fact, he didn't quite understand it when I went through my occasional periods of wanting to take a break from it.
- I didn't feel that I had the personal resources - or, to be honest, the desire - to focus full-time attention on my child as a youngster, and I felt that after a few years, he wouldn't need me full-time anyway. My job as a parent was to prepare us both for the eventual day when he wouldn't need me all that much, period.
My sister has followed a different path. She was the "single career girl" through her twenties, married in her early thirties, and became a stay-at-home mom at 35, when her first child was born. With two active boys, ages eight and four, she remains a SAHM, and it's a full-time occupation for her; she and her children are involved in so many activities that I think she's busier than I am. She may look for employment again - perhaps part-time, perhaps from home - in another year or two when her kids are both in school all day.
My stepchildren's mother's experience was different still. When she had her first child in her mid-twenties, she and their father agreed that she would be home with the kids, and that he would be the financial support for them all. That marriage ended after twelve years, and her SAHM days ended then too - unemployment wasn't an option. When her ex-husband married me, he became part of a dual-earning, double-juggling couple for the first time.
There's no one "right" way to live a life, and what works at one stage of it might not at another time. Being around others whose choices resemble our own can feel comfortable and validating, and that can reinforce a belief that we're "right" in what we're doing. And as long as we feel that we're doing what we really want to do - or doing what we have to do, because we're responsible people - then that is "right," and with luck, it's making our lives happy. It might not be right for someone else, though, and it's important to understand that.