Many women who take time off from their careers to have and raise children find themselves at a crossroads when facing the possibility of re-entering the workforce. Do they want to return to careers they left behind or pursue new fields and opportunities altogether? How would they explain gaps in their experience and what kind of compensation and role could they expect to secure? And of course, that guilt, sadness, and uncertainty over the decision to return to work – how do we get over that? Writer and editor Kimberly Goebel shares her experiences raising two children, her regimen for self-care, and navigating the various career transitions in her life.
By Kimberly Goebel
I am a mom of two children – my son is 12 and my daughter is 10 and they are the best things I have ever done and I can’t imagine my life without them.
Having said that – none of this is easy. My husband and I do not have a tremendous amount of money, nor do we have family that live locally to help us with the kids, so until my daughter went to Kindergarten, I was a stay at home mom. And I LOVED it! We went to museums, farms, zoos, botanical gardens, but before I knew it, I wasn’t needed from 8:00 in the morning until 3:00 in the afternoon. What could I do? I had been a teacher and an editor, but I couldn’t leave the house before my children to go to a job like my husband did each morning, and where would they go when school was over if I was working? None of my options would pay enough to cover childcare before or after school plus commuting and expenses. So I went to work in a local bookstore, I took on freelance editing jobs, and I taught myself QuickBooks so that I could work in an office one day a week. None of these jobs went beyond 3:00 so that I could get home before the school bus. Some of the work I enjoyed, some I did just so that we could afford to stay in our little town that we love. All of these years later, I am still working multiple jobs (though they have changed due to Covid 19) and since my kids need me even less most days, I am pursuing a Master’s Degree – this time in Library Science.
It is very hard to go back to work after staying home with children. I was not the same person in so many ways – and that is fine. In fact, its great! But no one outside of my family and friends gave me encouragement. I hear so many friends go through the same thing. Despite what should happen, there is little understanding or respect for having stayed home for 5-10 years as many moms do to raise their children and support – YES SUPPORT – their partners or spouses. The discrimination is real, and the prejudice is prevalent.
I was raised that no one is better than anyone else and that is the way I have raised my children. The custodian and the principal of the school should be respected and treated equally. There is no difference as we are all doing our best to contribute to society and make a better life for our babies and ourselves. For me, staying home when my kids were little made me happy, but that isn’t for everyone. We have to each do what is best for our children and for us – if that means taking an hour out to go to the gym, watch a TV show, play a game, take a walk, then that is what we need to do. The moms that stay home may feel guilty that they aren’t contributing financially to their family, and the moms who go to work may feel guilty that they aren’t with their children. I want ALL moms to feel strong and sure that what they do is right for them and their families, and if it isn’t, do their best to change when able and necessary.
I am a better mom when I exercise daily and when I see or talk to my friends. Many of us struggle with that kind of thing, as if we don’t have a right to take care of our own needs but should only focus on our family. It is not selfish if you take a longer shower than you need or go out for a coffee with a friend. Your children will still know how much you love them if you go on a business trip or a girl’s vacation. We cannot suspend our lives, relationships, and goals, and expect to create humans who value those same things. We cannot create well-rounded thoughtful humans if we sacrifice our personalities and interests for someone else. I agonized over going back to school, mostly because of finances. We will have to pay for two kids in college in the not so distant future, but when it occurred to me that I could better my existence, and in turn theirs, it was an easy decision to make.
Go with your gut, whether it is about what you believe is best for your children or yourself. Be the best mom you can be based on your own philosophies and intuition – not the celebrity online, or the woman next to you at the gym. Some days will feel like failures and other monumental successes. Read the books, ask your friends and family for their opinions, and then do what is right – for you. That’s what I am doing…every single day.