Why Full-Time Mothers Matter: Part I

I’m embarking today on a series of posts on why children need full-time mothers based on the research and writing of psychologists, medical professionals, and journalists. These posts are designed to speak to women like me–women who thrive on the life of the mind and who want to understand why it is necessary for them to put aside career aspirations for a time to raise their children.

This research is very intimate to me as I had to convince myself that this kind of labor mattered. I started this project six weeks after I gave birth to my first child. Although I always intended to stay home with children if I had them, I announced to my husband between sobs one night that I would be going back to work.

This announcement was the result of a number of factors. My daughter had a very difficult first six weeks and I was out-of-my-mind exhausted. I had not bonded with her yet and I also realized that my life as I formerly knew it (as an aspiring intellectual, lawyer, and public figure) was over. I was a mom with no time for books or events and very little money (we were surviving on student loans) caring for baby whose needs never ended.

Have you seen the movie Sliding Doors? The film follows a young woman (Gwyneth Paltrow) in the two directions her life could take depending on whether she caught a train home at midday or not. Her two “lives” play out side-by-side. In one reality, she makes the train and comes home to find her boyfriend cheating on her and her life unravels. In the second reality, she misses her train and does not discover her boyfriend. In the end, kicking the bad boyfriend out and hitting rock bottom leads her in a better career direction and to a truly good man while the alternative reality of initial blissful ignorance spirals down as she works multiple jobs to support her lazy, two-timing boyfriend.

Sitting in my cramped apartment with a newborn, I thought I must have gone through the wrong door. My life was horrible. I kept thinking about the alternative reality. Had I not had this baby, I would be working for a law firm, networking, and building my career. I missed the affirming words from superiors, and the camaraderie of a mission shared with colleagues. I missed my Ann Taylor suits and the box of high heels in my closet was already gathering dust. I missed attending conferences and conversing with other smart, well-read people. And, if I’m going to be totally honest, I also missed hefty paychecks and financial comfort.

I wanted to go back. But I couldn’t. I had a baby. The way forward had to take her into account.

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6 Responses to Why Full-Time Mothers Matter: Part I

  1. Emily says:

    Looking forward to the rest of this series!

  2. Clark Coleman says:

    God bless full-time mothers. One of my greatest joys is being married to one. But “joy” is a deep and long-term concept. In the short run, a woman can get praise at the office for doing a good job. In the long run, she can get the joy that comes from seeing her children grow and realizing what she has contributed to them. In seeking to persuade women to be full-time mothers, we are asking them to choose the long term over the short term. That is an inherently uphill battle, given the weaknesses of human nature. (Wit ness the political unpopularity of proposing an austerity program to gain long-term financial and economic benefits!) Because it is an uphill battle to persuade, we need a supportive community to encourage the right choice. I hope this blog will be part of that community.

  3. Colene says:

    Startling honest. Thank you.

  4. Sara (kosik) Sentena says:

    Thank you, THANK YOU!!! For sharing this! I very much look forward to reading the rest, especially -and forgive me for saying so- for reading about your struggles because they give me hope that my own fears and doubts are not alone.

  5. Meg Monihan says:

    I am REALLY looking forward to this series. I think as a full time mom it’s incredibly difficult to find outlets where we can be real and honest about the immense challenges and discuss it openly. I’m so glad you’re doing this. Thank you 🙂

  6. A.D. says:

    This was pretty much spot on, exactly how I felt. I also wondered why I’d bothered to acquire all these student loans, and that all the work I had done to earn my degrees were for nothing. And, as my degree was in the medical field, I felt it even more acutely when I’d go to all the pediatrician visits. I still struggle with it over 5 years later. I continue to submit my continuing education and maintain my certification. I tell myself it’s just in case something happens I would have a way to financially support my family. Honestly though, a lot of it is because I’m not ready to completely let go of my previous life. Looking forward to the rest of this series!

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