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If you had asked me when we discovered that I was pregnant what advantages I expected to experience when going back to work after Little Man was born, I would have probably told you, “none.” To be fair, that wouldn’t have even been honest at the time, even though it was my mindset. There was definitely a financial advantage to going back to work, sure, but with the cost of daycare it wasn’t a huge advantage. What I’ve discovered since returning to my office job, though, is that there are some advantages – ones I didn’t expect. And of course, there are some unexpected disadvantages as well.Embed from Getty Images
Ever since I can remember, I have always wanted to be a mom. And a stay-at-home mom (SAHM), at that. I have, especially in my more recent years, been incredibly impressed by those men and women I know who are doing a job they love – that they feel like they were made to do. I never had that – not until I had my son. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a good worker and I enjoy my job, but it’s not my passion. So returning to work after several months of “just” being a mom made my heart ache. Returning to a job that I like, but don’t love after a taste of a job that I love (and now have to pay someone to do it for me) really wrecked my heart. But even though I would move mountains to be able to be with my kid, here are some of the unexpected (for me) advantages and disadvantages to going back to an office job.
Advantages of Going Back to Your Job:
Here I’m not going to hit on the things that are obvious, such as having an extra income, or having access to other adults to associate with throughout the day, or even the fact that daycare has expanded the number of people who love my son well on a daily basis and make him feel safe and secure. Instead, these are 3 things that I didn’t expect to be blessed with when going back to work.
1. Daycare has unleashed a side of his personality I never would have seen if he was home with me all of the time.
Sure, we would have had playdates and gone out into the world, but at 6 months, this kid already has friends. When we drop him off at daycare and he immediately wants to watch the other kids – forget mom and dad – there are kids to watch! This has been fascinating to me because Hubbaloo and I are both introverts, but Little Man is definitely extroverted. According to his daycare provider he has, at times, been so adamant about being with the other kids that he would refuse to sleep in the nap room away from the action and would instead fall asleep on the playroom floor – in the middle of the action.
2. Daycare has accelerated his desire to learn new skills.
Now, I have no scientific evidence that this is the case, but since going to daycare, Little Man seems more determined to learn new skills. For example, he was barely rolling over when we placed him into daycare. Within a few days he had stopped trying to rollover during tummy time and was instead rocking back and forth—clearly trying to move forward. There is a kid in his daycare who is a few months ahead of him who is a crawling machine. It seemed to me that Little Man had been watching this kid get around and was deciding that he wanted to do that too! Prior to entering daycare he had not quiet gotten that desire.
3. Daycare has provided him with a cultural experience that we can’t provide on a daily basis.
Little Man attends a daycare where he is in the minority. At home with Mom and Dad, we speak English and we know no other languages. In daycare he sees different skin tones and hears languages aside from just English. I love that. And its something that I could not guarantee him on a daily basis if he were home with me. Sure, in public and with our friends he would get that kind of exposure to people who look and sound different than Mom and Dad, but not in the way he has it now. Which is a huge blessing to us and part of why we love where we live.
Disadvantages of Returning to Work:
Again, I’m not going to hit on the obvious ones here either. I’m not going to point out that the clear disadvantage is being around my kid less, or potentially missing major milestones, or having to try to navigate pumping in the workplace. Instead, these are things that I never would have expected when returning to work.
1. Work feels normal.
This one crushed me. I may have even cried at my desk the first time I realized that I was working, and it felt like nothing had changed. Like I hadn’t just spent several months with this amazing, life changing person. The work was the same work I remembered from before Little Man and there are points (at least for me) when I’m in work-mode and I forget that my life has a whole different dynamic than it did 6 months ago, or even 2 years ago. I’m not focusing on being begrudgingly at work and away from my son, I’m just working. And as someone who has wanted (and still wants) nothing more than to be with my kid more, I felt like I was betraying that dream – like somehow it meant I might not be cut out to be a SAHM by feeling normal. In retrospect, that isn’t the case, but it can feel that way.
2. I hold my tongue a lot less.
I suppose this can be seen as an advantage or disadvantage – but it really depends on what you’re saying. Normally I’m a very reserved person. I come into work, put my head down, do my job, and go home. I don’t cause waves and I don’t address problems. Coming back to work after maternity leave, though, I don’t have that restraint as much. If I see a problem that is impacting my ability to do my job efficiently, I’ve walked into my boss’ office to express that. Even if it meant not so tactfully pointing out the fact that the issue stems with management. But hey, I still have a job. I just need to make sure that those conversations are productive, when I have them.
3. We have two incomes.
This seems like it’s in the wrong category – but the disadvantage for us with this has been that we don’t seem to feel the same need to penny pinch and hoard our cash like we would if I was a SAHM. We don’t have a ton of money with our two incomes, but we’ve been able to live fairly comfortably when Hubbaloo and I have both been employed full time. Enough so that, if we really wanted to purchase something we generally could without concern. But now that we have a kid and that kid is in daycare, we really need to be more mindful of those extra “fun” expenses – which we (read: Sarah) sometimes forget. It can be difficult to get into a new routine where your funds aren’t as free as they were 6 months ago when you still have the same money coming in that you had before the baby. During periods of underemployment we have been much more tight with the frivolous purchases, so its been a difficult readjustment to figure out how to budget wisely.
What were some of the unexpected advantages or disadvantages you discovered when either deciding to stay home or returning to work?