Stay Home or Go Back to Work?
One of the most difficult questions for a new mother to answer is, Do I stay home or go back to work? Many moms don’t have the gift of choice, but for those who do, the decision can feel overwhelming. Its weight is so heavy that many of us make our choice based on others’ expectations instead of our own wants and needs.
What if we could give ourselves permission to make the choice that’s best for us, and ultimately our child? Like an archeological dig, we must explore, excavate, and empower. First, we explore where we think the treasure is, then we excavate. When we bring everything to the surface, we find the gift of empowerment, which allows us to accept our choice with clarity and confidence.
Let’s start digging.
We begin our dig by exploring where our treasure might be. Most of the time, it sits under a massive pile of fear. Common fears include financial insecurity, loss of identity, and failure. To determine what fears lie under the rubble, the first question to ask is, What am I most afraid of? This answer often reveals what we need to examine more closely. If it’s a fear related to finances, it’s important to consider what we value and what sacrifices are worth making to find fulfillment and purpose.
Ask yourself, Am I enough? When we know we are enough, we know we have enough. We stop striving for things we don’t want or need. We stop proving our worth based on having more. When we don’t know our worth, we succumb to pressure and unrealistic expectations. This erupts in fear of failure and disappointing ourselves and others.
Remember that pressures and expectations come from someone else’s fears and insecurities. When we let those outside forces dictate our decision, we lose our identity and end up resentful and unhappy. Preserving our identity is vital to our wellbeing. Reminding ourselves of our innate gifts and who we are outside of our roles will highlight a choice that aligns with our true self. Once we make our choice, more feelings inevitably stir. Excavating them is the next step.
After feeling overwhelmed, scared, and anxious, guilt and shame tend to bubble. These emotions stem from our insecurities, which are often rooted in fear. We might hear an internal voice say, “I’m a bad mom; I should ____.” This is our fear’s way of protecting us from making the wrong choice. Unfortunately, fear never tells us the whole truth. When we acknowledge what is true, we shine a light on who we are and what we can do. Another approach is to consider what advice we’d give our best friend if they were in the same situation. The answer allows us to step aside from our fear, guilt, and shame and gain clarity.
It might also lead to more feelings like anger and sadness. Keep in mind, there will be loss with either choice we make. Giving ourselves permission to grieve allows us to lovingly connect with our true self and find acceptance for our choice. Once we do, we begin to feel empowered.
When empowerment starts to rise to the surface, we can remind ourselves: I can trust myself when I make a choice from my true self. I am worthy of making a choice that is best for me. I know what is best for me is also best for those who unconditionally love and support me. It’s OK if I make a choice that ends up not working; it doesn’t mean I am a failure. It means I made a mistake, and that’s OK. It‘s hard to make a change, and others might be disappointed. I can be empathetic to their feelings while also advocating for myself. My health and wellbeing are important.
When we find ourselves overwhelmed with the question of whether to stay home or go back to work, remember to dig, explore our fears, excavate our feelings, and empower ourselves to make the choice that aligns with our true self. When we do, we feel freedom, relief, and joy—like an archeologist who finds a long-lost treasure: herself.
MOLLIE GEE is a licensed clinical mental health counselor, married mother of two, and owner of The Nest Counseling.