DISCLAIMER: I know by venturing into the topic of "Stay at Home Mom" (SAHM) vs "Working Mom" I am treading on dangerous ground. Please know that my thoughts in this post are simply MY musings on MY situation with MY family. It is not a judgement on anyone else. Every woman and family must do what works best for them. And we can each only know what is best for ourselves, not for anyone else.
I consider the SAHM/Working Mom balance that I have for myself at this time to be "the best of both worlds" in many ways. And yet, I have on occasion been given opportunities that make me wonder if my balance should shift in some way.
First of all, for those that don't know, I spend 4 days a week getting paid to watch my two adorable nieces while their parents are at work. This means that M-Th I go to my brother and sister-in-law's house and spend the day with Ryan, Julia (22 months), and Caitlin (5 years). I play with the little ones, pick Caitlin up from school (with the two little ones in tow), serve lunches, put them down for nap, go to the park, read books, do crafts, eat snacks, play more, etc, etc, etc. It is a mostly busy, at times boring, but generally great day. On Fridays I work a full day as a Clinical Social Worker for a pediatric Hospice. I provide therapy to kids who are dying and those with life-limiting illness and their families. I also do a lot of work for the Hospice from home on the evenings (writing notes, program development, etc), and on occasion go to see a family in our in patient unit or at home on a weekend. I get paid by the hour, which is actually REALLY GREAT because it means I can clock every minute I spend doing work. Which is a HUGE shift from when I was a full-time Social Worker at a large pediatric medical center. When working full time I would often leave at 6:00, come home, and then have to write notes from home. I got paid for 40 hours a week, whether I worked 40 or 60.
Before I had children I always said I planned to be a "mostly stay at home Mom." Though, financially, I knew I would have to make at least a little money. My current situation is in many ways perfect. I get to continue working in my profession of choice, doing something about which I am extremly passionate, while also getting to spend the majority of my time with my son. Not to mention, I am getting to play an integral role in my nieces lives, and that is an honor and a privilege. Most days, I am very fufilled, and wouldn't trade my set up for anything.
But then, I have a day like yesterday. I was invited to facilitate a parent panel at the first ever Psychosocial Symposium on Childhood Cancer on Capitol Hill. It was hosted by the Mattie Miracle Foundation (check out their website and read about an amazing little boy: mattiemiracle.com). I met the inspiring parents who started this foundation when they were panelists on another panel I facilitated at another national conference. I was honored that they invited me to participate in this very meaningful day.
After making sure all three kids were settled in with my Mom and Dad who would be watching them for the day I headed off to DC. I took the Metro (as the Capitol is nearly impossible to access by car). It was a beautiful day, and as I walked up to the Capitol building, with cherry blossoms lining my walk, I was, to say the least, impressed. I can harp on politicians, and get frustrated with the state of our Government, but there is something inspiring about that gleaming white building with the huge dome. I thought, "Wow! This would indeed be a cool place to work every day!" Before my presentation I sat through various other presentations by researchers, including a woman with a PhD in Social Work, who inspired me beyond belief. Dr. Lori Weiner does amazing clinical work with children with HIV/AIDS and Cancer as a clinician working at NIH. As her talk finished I thought, "I want to do what she does." After my panel presentation I spoke with parents who had less than ideal Hospice experiences with their children and I thought, "I want to REALLY make a difference in this area; Not just one family at a time, but on a National scale."
It was a fulfilling, thought provoking day. I left energized and excited. As I rode the Metro back home I thought, "I could do this type of thing more than one day a week. I wonder if I should look into working more days a week sometime sooner than I had planned." But then I got home, and Ryan was waiting outside with my parents, waiving excitedly, and jumping up and down. Those thoughts immediately left my head. I knew in that moment that with him is where I am supposed to be the majority of the time.
But, I'd be lying if I didn't admit that at night, laying in bed as I fell asleep, those same "Hmmm....I wonder...." thoughts crept back in. And then, another thought came to mind, "I wonder, is any parent ever certain they've found the illusive 'perfect balance?'" I doubt it. But for now, I am content to know that I have come pretty close.