Wednesday, June 13, 2018

A mom’s dilemma: To go back to work or not?


Hello, mamas! Today is the first day of school for us and in many ways, it's both good and bad for me as a working mom. On one hand, I can finally have a few hours during the day when I can have a quiet house and I can get some chores and work done. On the other hand, because I fetch my kids from school and we have to study, study, study, there's more on my plate.

Trying to work while teaching my kids. Not easy!

So sometimes I wonder if I weren't working, would life be easier? And if it were easier, schedule-wise, would I be happier? Would it be better if I had an office job and yayas for the boys? Would it be better if I had yayas??? So many things that niggle at me when I get overwhelmed!

Anyway, this time last year, I was wondering about that office job. Now you know that I didn't go back to the corporate world but I was extremely lucky to get to work at L'Oréal Paris... from home!!! But let me take you back to this time last year, when my dilemma was should I go back to a 9-5 or continue being SAHM/WAHM? I interviewed two friends for this article which came out in Juana.com.ph, and here's what I learned from them last year:

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I’m a mommy who works from home. As a writer and editor, my projects give me a schedule flexible enough to let me spend the first years of motherhood with my three little boys. However, now that my two older boys are in big school, I’ve begun to think of going back to the corporate world. I have bigger expenses now and the bills come in frighteningly regular fashion.

I don’t know what’s frightening me more, however. The bills or leaving my kids. Okay, I’ll be honest. I’m more afraid of going back to the corporate jungle. Having been out of circulation for three years, I wonder if I’m rusty, if the skills I have are still needed in a rapidly changing world, and if I can still ask for the salary I had when I was a boss back in the day. 

Giving up one’s career for your kids is noble but working again so that you can provide for them is just as worthy a sacrifice. I don’t want my motivations to be about sacrifice, however. As a modern mom, I want my reasons to not just include financial obligations but joy, passion, and purpose. Without those three, any career I embark on will be a sad affair. 

So I asked two of my high school friends who experienced what I’m now going through to give me advice. Lou Molina left her job as a product manager in a multinational pharmaceutical company with her first child, went back to work in a educational institution, then left work again when she had her second baby. She is now starting a business. Gelonie Tabia-Yap was an assistant PR manager in a multinational company. She left work when she had her first son then went back. She now has three sons, the youngest a newborn. Here’s what they have to say. 

Reasons for leaving career 
There are really only two reason mothers willingly resign from their jobs: They found a better opportunity or their family needs them. And what can be a more compelling reason to give up one’s career than new babies? 

Gel says, “I was working from 7 a.m. until midnight, and was on call 24/7. We were having our first baby and with that kind of schedule, we felt it would not be healthy to start off a family.” 

Lou also had a demanding career. She says, “I felt then that I cannot give my daughter quality time if I continue working because my husband is also a top advertising executive. We both work really late while I do a lot of out-of-town and even out-of-the country trips.” 

So the two new moms resigned from their jobs to pour their attention on their growing families. I did the same but only when my second baby arrived. I was feeling guilty with my first one because I remember dictating letters and memos while I was in labor and working throughout my maternity leave. I wanted to do better the second time around. 

Lou felt something similar. She had gone back to work as a consultant for an educational institution when her daughter went to school, but when her son was born, she again gave up her career. “I got burned out. I’m a workaholic! I enjoyed my job, but I cannot give quality time and attention to my kids. I may be home some days but I’m still sitting in front of my computer working.” 

Luckily for the three of us, our families could survive on one income so the decision to become a stay-at-home mom came easy. Gel says, “My mindset at that time was I can fail and try again in my career, but I only have one go on my family.”

Work-at-home pro: Working in bed. Work-at-home con: Working in bed!

Reasons for going back to work 
While we enjoyed being homemakers, there was a restlessness we couldn’t shake off. Gel quickly realized that you can take the girl out of her job but you can’t take the career out of the girl! “Over time, I discovered I am not meant for it,” she admits. “My brain has to have something to process that is fed by the corporate world. I was miserable just being at home. I felt I needed more and I could handle more.” 

With three young kids, I had more than I could handle! But, like Gel, I wanted to work so I accepted projects constantly. I became a work-at-home mom. This didn’t work out in the first two years, I’m ashamed to say. I had babies to care for and couldn’t give my all to my work. Deadlines were missed, articles weren’t as good as I liked. So I scaled back on assignments and just focused on family. However, I felt restless. As soon as my youngest turned a year old, I accepted projects again. This time, I was better. I guess that’s why I think I can go back to corporate life again. 

Like me, Lou was also a work-at-home mom. “The first time I left, I think I was not ready because I still wanted to prove more to myself... so I started a business so I can tell myself that I am ‘not just’ a housewife. The terms ‘mompreneur’ and ‘work-at-home mom’ felt so empowering. It’s nice to have the ‘mom’ associated with being an entrepreneur because it gave my new role as housewife a different meaning.” Then Lou took an honest look at why she still continued to work even though she was supposed to have given up work: “I realized I was doing it to make myself look good to my husband and to my peers. So I went back to work and stopped pretending!” 

Why a working mama is a good thing 
While many mothers enjoy being homemakers, many other mommies love having a career. My dilemma is I love both equally! 

After giving up her job for the second time, Lou has found peace with being a housewife. She also realized recently that she can’t get the work at the pay grade she wants so she decided to be a homemaker and start a business instead. “I love staying at home,” she says. “I love my house and our community. I like that I get to attend all the school events without worrying about work.” 

Gel has also found peace with being a career mom. “I’m happy because this is me and who I am. I am built for this. It gives me a sense of achievement, being able to take care of my husband, my sons, our home, and at the same time climb up the corporate ladder.” 

About that notorious mom guilt that working mothers suffer, Gel has this to say: “Motherhood presents a huge burden on women where they become primarily responsible for another human being who needs to develop well in all aspects. But present times have changed this. I believe that motherhood now means taking a wider perspective than just the development of the kids. A woman's role as a wife should come first and she must be there for her husband. Their bond is where the success of the family and the security of their children are anchored on. The family needs finances to allow them to grow so this is one aspect that the couple must address together. So Moms should not feel bad about working. My mindset always has been, even if I am at work, that time I spend there is for my kids—it is for their food, their clothes, and their schooling. Helping my husband gives him also the time to spend with me and our kids. He does not have to be a workaholic. We get to balance our time overall as a family and get the most out of the life that we have!”

Applying to companies last year meant ID photos after a decade! Left is me at 30, right is me at 40.

So do I go back to work or not? Based on what Lou and Gel shared, these are the questions I (and you, if you’re a stay-at-home mom going through the same dilemma) need to answer: 

1. What is my real reason for going back to work? Is it for financial reasons? Is it my ego? Being honest with myself that will help in solving this dilemma! 

2. Will I be okay with leaving my kids to do what I love? There’s no point in chasing after a dream when I’ll feel guilty doing it! 

3. Am I willing to take on new skills, learn new technology, maybe even start an entirely different career yet receive smaller pay? 

4. Will my return to corporate work ultimately be for the good of my family? Will it help me be a better wife and mommy? 

How about you? Have you experienced this same yearning to go back to the workforce and yet feel the pull to stay home? How did you solve your predicament?

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