For anyone who isn’t reading about Marissa Mayer, she recently became the new CEO of Yahoo and had a baby, all in the same few months. Her decision to come back to work and not allow “working from home” by Yahoo employees has caused a lot of debate over the right balance and women’s choices in returning to work.
I’ve had a lot of struggles coming late to the parenting game. By the time I became a mother, I was well on the way to a promising technology career, just said “I Do” to my best friend and we had both talked about, but not decided on, children in our future. I was planning a wedding, we had bought and started renovating our first home and life was finally feeling a bit closer to complete.
And then came Grace. As any mother is likely to tell you, the addition of a tiny baby filled me with more capacity for love and strange emotions than I thought possible while simultaneously draining me of every ounce of energy I had and giving me reserves of strength I feared I would never possess. Becoming a mother immediately made me want to apologise to my mother for everything I had ever done and cry about the innumerable possibilities that would face our baby girl in her life.
A few months later, being at home with Grace started to feel a bit restrictive. I loved our time together, but the inability to get things “done” and cross them off my daily list started frustrating me, so I thought I should go back to work and thankfully, I could do this from home. I started out one day a week, then two, then I wanted to get out of the house, so I looked at childcare options. We live in a country area, so getting one day, then two days childcare each week was no problem and while I wrestled feelings of motherly guilt every day I dropped her off, I knew she was safe, well fed, well loved and stimulated because of the particular childcare centre we had chosen.
There were judgements made of me when I went back to work, both within and external to the family, but I started to feel like I was more… me. The things that frustrated me at home (a feeling of never ticking things off a list and of not “contributing” in a fiscal sense) started to quiet. But I couldn’t get the balance right. Working part time is a strange thing – you always get saddled with a full time load and you never quite feel like you are seen as a full partner to the business, but since I was still the primary parent, I never quite felt like I was doing that job well either.
When I returned to work full time, we put Grace in childcare four days per week and her grandparents looked after her on the fifth day. My days are long, especially when I do the childcare drop off and pick up and my husband is away, but I feel like I have myself back again. I can contribute to my chosen field, I have ensured that Grace has the best and most stimulating care I can give her and she has the ability to socialise with children her own age and developmental time frame. She has room leaders not only dedicated to her care, but trained in providing a framework within which she learns and grows. She has generational contact with the grandparents and our weekends are magical because they are so special.
But most of all, I feel now that I am providing her with a strong, confident and solid female role model. I don’t put myself last in our family, I have time to myself when I need it and we are all getting the daily stimulation we need. I won’t lie and say it’s easy, it’s a constant logistical battle, but one that I’m slowly realising works for us.
What we have done is not for everyone, and I think that the general argument about a woman’s return to the workforce needs to appreciate a number of different viewpoints, mostly valuing any choice a woman makes that allows her to be a person that makes her confident and feel worthy.
I understand, but don’t agree with not allowing telecommuting – for my mind, it offers women options, while allowing them to bridge the responsibilities of home with those of the office. Taking away options and choice means limiting a woman’s potential once they have children.