I am judged by working mothers and I am a working mother. Not always, and not at first…but a surprising number of women I’ve encountered, in the 9 months I’ve been a mother, have passed judgement on me being a TRAVELING working mom.
It’s usually starts with a – “Wow, that’s so hard. I could never do that”…or a…“Don’t you miss him while you’re gone?” And it’s usually capped off with “So is this just temporary, right?”
I typically give an awkward smile nod followed by a semi-polite reply. Because what I really want to answer with is – “Yes, of course I miss him, I’m not a sociopath”… and…“It is not temporary, this is my full-time job not a Christmas bake sale”.
I write this to ask you to please stop judging. Trust me, I judge myself enough for the both of us.
My job in television, which I love, can only be done on the road. It requires me to travel 2 to 3 days per week, every week.
I went back to work when my son was 4 months old and everything about being gone is hard. For starters, repeatedly pumping in an airplane bathroom or the back seat of not-so-window-tinted rental car is enough to make anyone question their life choices. Combine that with feelings of panic and emptiness every time I Facetime home, it’s safe to say, being away is not easy.
But at the same time, when I went back to work, I also felt like I reclaimed some of myself. I did not realize, until I got on the plane for my first postpartum trip, how much I missed my independence and how I longed for a task that I could tangibly accomplish.
I was prepared for the heartache of being away from my baby and I was (sort of) prepared for the guilt of missing things, like not seeing my son crawl for the first time. A milestone I witnessed in the Atlanta airport via a video from our nanny. (Apologies to the man sitting next to me at gate B26. I’m operating under the assumption you do not want your handkerchief back.)
But I was not prepared for the women, majority of whom are working women, who not-so-subtly tell me they think it’s wrong for a mother to be away from their child that much.
Is it wrong? Maybe. But I don’t think it’s any more “wrong” than a woman who goes to work Monday through Friday. If I had a normal 9 to 5 job, I would only see my son 2 hours in the morning, 1 hour at night, and 12 hours (not including naps) for 2 days on the weekend. Right now, I see my son all day Monday through Thursday. If you do the math, that means I see him 9 more hours than if I worked locally.
So why judge?
Maybe it makes you feel better passing judgment to hide the insecurities you have as a mother…for which, ironically, I do not judge. I can relate to the desire to feel like a “good mom” compared to others.
I have prided myself in not caring what people think of me. My mother has always said, in situations like this: “If they want to judge you, let them. It’s their problem, not yours”. But obviously, I do care. It keeps me up at night knowing there are women who think I am “abandoning” my child for selfish reasons.
But perhaps what is even more bothersome, is the double standard.
These mothers are astonished I leave our baby alone with my husband for a whole 2 days, every weekend. Again with comments such as “Who watches your son on the weekend?” and “Does your husband have help?”and “Wow, good for your husband, I’m so impressed he can do it all by himself.”
Not to diminish my husband’s role in all this, because, let me tell you, he’s a total rock star. He works full-time, wakes up early to make gourmet baby purées and has never once made me feel bad about being gone.
But in the 4 months I was home with our son, all day, every day (and now the 4 days per week I’m in town), I’ve never heard things like “Wow, I’m so impressed you can handle him all by yourself” or “Do you have help?” or “That must be so hard that your husband leaves you to go to work every day.”
In case we all forgot middle school biology, my husband played a big role in the making of our son. Parenthood is supposed to be 50-50, in our minds at least. So shouldn’t women be equally as concerned for ME not having help when caring for our child alone? Shouldn’t they be just as shocked when my husband leaves town on business?
The hypocrisy is infuriating. And the judging is unnecessary.
Because as I said, I already judge myself. I already feel bad. But not for the reason you think, or the reason you want me to.
The guilt that weighs heavily upon me every time I put my suitcase in my car is not because I feel bad about leaving my husband alone with our son, nor is it because I think a mother should be at home all day, every day with their child.
It’s because I wish I could feel fulfilled by staying at home. I truly envy stay-at-home moms (whom I believe to be the hardest working people of all).
But I don’t.
So for now, this is what works for my family. This is what keeps us all happy. And we are okay with it…even if you aren’t.