No mother is perfectly happy or perfectly balanced. Not the stay-at-home ones, not the full-time-office ones. We’re all crashing around in our bumper cars trying to pick the right path through traffic.
A few years ago I shared that I was a full-time mom with a seatmate on an airplane. “There’s no substitute,” she said. “It’s the best thing you can do for your kids.” She had been a stay-at-home mom.
Last year a Harvard study showed us that kids of working moms are better off in almost every way. That either felt great or terrible.
Either way, we crave the validation that these studies and interactions bring. We need to feel like our path is the one in which the kids will be all right, and that all the challenges and difficulty are worth it.
But what path is the one in which we’re all right, above what’s “best” for the kids? We should feel confident to choose what serves us best, because stable, well-adjusted parents with robust mental health are the greatest gift.
Six years down the road, I’m proud to watch close friends choose paths that are different than mine. The rightness and defensiveness of new parenthood has—mostly—worn off. I filter the motherhood studies, advice, and recommendations through the lens of what’s best for me and my family. I’m grateful to know women who stay at home full-time, who work in an office full-time and have au pairs, who cobble together childcare for freelance work, whose kids go to part-time preschool or full-time day care, who homeschool, or who go back to office work after years away.
No mother has it figured out. Being in balance takes a thousand ongoing adjustments. I’m grateful to have the freedom to fall, and to watch as others create their lives different from my own.