AN OPEN LETTER TO THE OVERLY OPINIONATED STAY-AT-HOME MOM THAT DECIDED TO GRACE MY FAMILY WITH HER JUDGMENT WHILE WE WERE ENJOYING DINNER OUT.
Dear Judgmental Stay-At-Home Mom,
You might remember meeting my family a few weeks ago at Five Guys. We were the exhausted looking parents with two super cute little ones. Our conversation started out great! You reminded us that even though being parents to a 1 and 3 year old could be overwhelming, that this is an awesome time of our lives that we will miss when our kids have grown up. Had the conversation stopped there, we would have went on with our day a little happier and a little more mindful about how lucky we truly are.
But you didn't stop there.
You continued by asking if I stayed home with my kids. I explained that I have been fortunate to be able to take an extended parental leave from my job as a special education teacher for the last 16 months. I told you that I have treasured the extra time I have gotten to spend with my little ones while they are so little but that I needed to return in the fall.
You laughed. And then said, "You don't NEED to return. You are choosing to."
Puzzled and feeling like I needed to explain, I told you that we considered me staying home longer but we found that we could not afford it. We have bills to pay and so I need to return.
You shook your head and said, "Nope. Everybody has a choice. You can make sacrifices and stay home like you should."
Cue the GUILT.
I don't remember what I said to you in that moment but I do remember the weight of your words hitting me like a ton of bricks on my way home. Am I choosing a career over my kids? Am I a bad mother for going back to work?
Ever since then, your words creep back into my mind and I have thought about what I should have said to you. Here goes:
Everybody does have a choice. The choice is mine and not yours to judge. There are so many factors that go into making decisions for what is best for a family. You know none of mine. You are assuming what worked best for your family is the only way to do it. That is unfair.
It is unfair that you made me feel like a terrible mother. It is unfair that your words still whisper in my ear when I think about returning in a few weeks.
Parenting is the hardest job in the world. It is the most important job in the world. Whether you stay home with your kids all day or work, you can still be a great mom!
I am a mom. You are a mom. Something I learned since becoming a mom is that there are many
"right ways" to be a good parent. I love my kids as much as you love yours.
I have let your words play in my head enough times. As I get ready to go back to work, I am going to put my focus on the time that I do get to spend with my kids. I will focus on all of the benefits that going back to work has for me and for my family. I am letting you go.
Please, the next time you run into exhausted and frazzled parents, remind them that this is the best time of their life. Remind them to soak up every single moment. Remind them that time is fleeting and that one day they will miss their babies being so little.
And then, go back to eating your dinner.
A Soon To Be Returning To Work Mom