*Guest post by my amazing sister, Lynn Nolen.
As far back as I can remember, I knew I wanted to be a teacher when I grew up. I wanted to “touch the future.” I had a plan. Marrying my high school sweetheart was a huge part of that plan. After graduation, I went straight to college and earned my degree in elementary education. Straight out of college, I was hired as a 5th grade teacher. While I knew that I would return to school one day to further my education, I realized that it would have to wait. I needed a job.
I loved being a teacher. Even on my “summer vacations,” I found jobs at summer camps or summer school to continue working with children. My husband and I both worked during the day. We spent our evenings and weekends enjoying life as a young married couple. Five years later, we decided that we wanted to start a family. I knew lots of women with children who worked. I could handle it, right?????
During my college years, I also worked at a local church childcare center. I never realized the amount of trust and responsibility that those parents place in me until the day that I had to hand over my own son to our church’s childcare worker at the young age of 9 months. That first day, I cried all the way to school. My day could not end quick enough as I was a nervous wreck. That afternoon when I returned to pick him up, he was happy and appeared to be well cared for. I enjoyed reading about his day on his “daily report,” but felt the pang of guilt of not being the one to experience it. Each day got a little easier as we fell into a routine and I learned to trust his caregivers more and more. My education in young childhood development taught me that my son’s ability to bond with his caregivers reflected a healthy emotional development. Still, I couldn’t shake the guilt of being a “working mom.”
I often had a debate with myself about how my job was important and made a difference in the lives of other children. It was a good job and I was good at it. That was important, right? Then the guilt would say, “Why aren’t you home raising your own kids.” This argument continued for several years. At work, I tried my best to be a good teacher. At home, I tried my best to be a good wife and mother. It had its challenges, but routines were our friend. Still, I couldn’t shake the nagging guilt.
When my second son was three years old, I decided strive towards my initial goal and to return to graduate school to further my education. With my husband’s encouragement, I enrolled. As the guilt grew louder, I told myself that I just wanted a better job, which would be “good for the family.” This wasn’t just about me. It was very tough to manage work, family, and school. Looking back, I don’t know how I made it through four years. Thanks to the support of my amazing husband and his mother, I graduated with my specialist degree in school psychology. I pushed myself to excel in every class, on every assignment. I felt like my 4.0 GPA would help to prove how hard I was working for my family. I wanted my sacrifice (of family time and sleep) to count for something.
It wasn’t until my last year of graduate school, during my year long internship that I finally realized something….I liked being a working mom. I liked my job. Growing myself professionally was something that I enjoyed. And….it was ok. It was ok for me to like work, to like learning new things, like helping other children. I was allowed to like my job and still feel like I was there for my family. Being a working mom didn’t make me a bad mom. I wasn’t choosing my job over my family. I didn’t need to feel guilty. My love and devotion to my family was not being questioned. My husband and children knew that I loved them and they came first in my life. I just enjoyed working too. I should feel lucky to have a job that brings such fulfillment and makes a difference in the lives of others.
My kids, who are now 16 and 13, are doing just fine. I’ve been there to help with the hard math problems, do science projects, and cheer from the sidelines at baseball, soccer games, karate belt testing. I am that mom that embarrassingly waves at my kids on the stage as I videotape their music concerts. Being a “working mom” has not made me less of a mother. I am just the mom my boys needed and I am okay with that.
So, to all of you working moms out there…you go girl! I could sit here and list all of the benefits that being a working mom bring to your families, but I don’t think I need to do that. You already know.
I am so happy to be able to share my sister's story of motherhood. I sincerely believe that every story looks different and we have no business judging another's journey. I love my sis and despite the fact that our motherhood stories are vastly different, I am extremely proud of her. She has managed to juggle the very difficult life of being a successful professional and a loving mother. Her kids are absolutely awesome! Thanks for reading her story. Please share this so other women can receive a bit of encouragement.