Being A Working Mom Wasn’t What I’d Pictured
by Nadene van der Linden
I’m a career driven mama. I studied and worked hard to earn my professional title. I then worked even harder to become a successful psychologist.
Having kids happened along the way. I loved my babies, but staying at home every day for a year after each birth made me feel like I was missing out and stagnating in this career I worked so hard to achieve. As my kids grew, I took on more work over time. The elementary years saw me working during school hours 5 days a week in my clinic.
I imagined that when my kids were teens, I would work full-time. They would be bigger, stronger and less needy. I saw myself working into the evening more often, or maybe every day.
How wrong I was.
Instead, I find I need to work less hours. But it’s not the personal conflict I thought it would be, and I feel differently than when they were infants. Surprisingly, I’m ok with it.
Balancing Work And Kids: Why Teens Needed Their Mother
My kids need my presence emotionally more than ever.
Teens and tweens need to talk things through more than before. They have more words than ever to express their feelings. As their social worlds and academic pressures increase, their need for my presence increases. I want to be that sounding board while they still want me to listen.
My kids are social butterflies.
As they grow up, they love spending time with their friends. I want to nurture that. I want to help them create strong connections, maybe even some that will last a lifetime. My responsibility is helping them take part in shared experiences with friends. Working less means I can help them do this: I can drive them to and pick them up from outings, meals at friends home and school project collaborations.
My kids thrive in extracurricular pursuits.
As my kids get older, they do more extra-curricular activities. They’re not over-scheduled but having a couple of sports and meetings a week and a game on the weekend means a lot of driving and supporting. These activities give my kids a sense of mastery outside of a school environment. They make connections with different people. I want all of that for them and that means working less so I can help make that happen.
Self-care is important.
Most days I’m so very tired from the demands of balancing my work and my family’s needs. The baby and toddler years are exhausting but this stage is busy on a different level. I’m ok with working less to care for myself and keep my energy and sanity intact. After all, if I don’t take care of me, I won’t have anything to give to my kids when they need me.
I can see a time where they won’t need me much at all.
In the early years when I was battling to return to work, it felt like this period of motherhood and the intensive demands that come with it would never end. But now I can see that the demands will lessen, they will need me less in all ways. There will again be plenty of time to work.
I feel confident that I’m good at my job, and I’ve worked enough to stay good at it.
I’m an experienced psychologist and not much phases me at work. On the flipside, I don’t always know what I’m doing in this motherhood job. I need space and time to do find my way as I parent my kids into the teen years.
I’ve realized that more money is not all it’s cracked up to be.
Working means you exchange time for money. You can always make more money, but there’s never enough time.
There are so many surprises on this motherhood journey, and this is certainly one of them.
Nadene van der Linden is a clinical psychologist in private practice. She is the author of the much loved Tales from the Parenting Trenches: a clinical psychologist vs motherhood available on Amazon.