People keep asking me how things are going, with me being back to work now.
Apparently I keep giving the wrong answer.
I tell them I enjoy it. That having a routine is good for me. That it’ll be great to have a full paycheque again.
People accept that part. Then they say “Oh, but it must be soooo hard to leave your baby every morning.
And I tell them that no, it’s not.
This is where the problem begins.
The thing is, I am leaving my son with a perfectly competent parent, one who loves him every bit as much as I do. Someone who is probably better suited to parenting than I am, given our respective levels of patience, tolerance, and such. I am leaving them in order to go to an office where (usually) nobody is screaming, covered in poop, biting the dog, refusing to nap, or whatever. I am going to a job that I am pretty good at, one that I know how to do; I am rarely at a total loss for how to approach a situation. I get a lot of respect at work, and people look up to me and ask for advice. I am something of a mentor for some of the newer staff members. My opinion is valued. My work is challenging, and my days are varied and often quite interesting. I enjoy my colleagues. Hell, I even get to eat lunch, with both hands free, using utensils, while it is still hot.
What I’m getting at is that there are a lot of advantages to being at work. Advantages beyond the paycheque. Things like personal fulfillment, challenging tasks, respect, power, and freedom. Apparently moms aren’t supposed to want or enjoy these things, however.
You see, people seem to think it’s okay for me to be a mom and have a job, as long as I don’t enjoy it. Folks understand the necessity of an income, I guess. But if I say I am happy to be back to work, they cock their head and ask “but don’t you miss your baby while you’re gone?” (No, not particularly.) Or they want to tell me about how, for their first two weeks back to work, they cried in the car all the way to the office (I didn’t. I listen to my favorite music, very loud, and drive too fast). People keep asking pointed questions, apparently searching for some sort of mommy guilt that I just don’t possess.
Then they judge me.
They talk about how hard it was for their wife to go back to work. Or how terrible they feel dropping their kids off at the sitter’s. They talk about how another lady we used to work with is taking five years off to open a daycare so she can stay home with her kids. While I am happy that she is able to start a business and stay home with her kids if that’s what she wants to do, I don’t understand how my failure to consign myself and my family to a severely reduced income and a pink-collar-ghetto “career” makes me a worse mom, somehow. How enjoying my job and all the advantages it confers (including not having to change diapers for 8 solid hours) makes me less of a loving parent. I would like very much to know why Mom being challenged, powerful, fulfilled, and well-paid is so bad for my kid.
I would like to know how many fathers are asked these questions when they go back to work.