Working Mom

Why work matters… Natalie Magee, working mom, writes in her weekly “Baby & Beyond – What No One Else Will Tell You” column about why she works 2 jobs. And why after having her first child, she went back to work. It’s not just about the finances. Work is important. It engages us, gives us a sense of purpose, and reminds us of who we are, outside of our family obligations. Work matters. We also need to respect and honor everyone’s choices, whether it be staying at home to raise children or being a working mom or dad, or opting out of the whole discussion and remaining child-free. We’d love to hear from you, working moms, stay-at-home moms, and women and men everywhere who have either decided to work outside the home, have chosen to stay home with the family, or have gone an entirely different route. Share your story with all of us! Thanks, Tania

Every Friday I teach a spin kettlebell fusion class at a studio space in Denver. I’ve been teaching this class for about three years now. And I enjoy the high intensity of spinning, combined with pushing students to their limits in the bootcamp style class that follows in the second half hour. After having my baby last year, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to return to teaching the class. The noon time slot had been ideal, but was it really worth it to pay someone to babysit just so I could maybe make $5 – after paying a sitter? I had built the class up, and it was popular, and I loved the students. And I couldn’t stand the thought of letting the class go to another teacher. What to do?

So I had a talk with a friend quit her job to stay at home with her boys, but also taught yoga and spin part time. She asked me, “well, does teaching the class make you feel human? Does it make YOU feel like… well, just YOU? At the very least, you will get time for yourself and get your workout in.” She had a point, and I had my answer.

I had to feel human again after having a baby.

Working mom Natalie in her flight attendant uniform with baby Charlotte

Deciding whether or not to return to work after having Charlotte was a big issue for me. Before I even had a baby one of the reasons I felt I couldn’t have one is the thought of returning to work. How could I have a job AND take care of a baby? As a flight attendant my schedule varies month to month and week to week. To quit would mean losing my health insurance, paid vacation time and holidays, and the extra income, so when it came down to dollars and cents it really didn’t make sense. I decided to start bidding stand-ups, which is when, during the week, I basically leave late at night and work the last flight into a city and the first flight home. I get to be stay-at-home mom during the day and working mom all night. Monday morning, Thursday night, Friday afternoon, and Saturday morning I teach yoga or spin, so my only real day off most weeks is a Sunday. The schedule is exhausting yet rewarding, both financially and mentally.

Between my three jobs, the hardest one is staying at home with Charlotte.

As your best friend, the one who tells you what no one else will, I can honestly say that you have to do something that makes you feel human. Something besides raising another human being. Having done both for the past 7 months, I can honestly say if I had to be at home with Charlotte full time I would probably have gone crazy by now. When you stay at home with a small child everything you do goes unnoticed. You clean the house (this is my therapy, anyway), you keep the toddler from drinking bleach or eating the potted plants, and if you are lucky you take a five minute shower, then you feed the child, put them down for naps, and maybe, in-between all of this, you have some downtime. Day in and day out your life is focused on one thing, which is your child. There is no pay, and no one recognizes any of the hard work you did.

My mother stayed at home for years with all four of us children until my parents got a divorce, and she went back to school and got her nursing degree. Once she started working again I am sure it was hard, and she made sacrifices, but if you look at the photos of her when she was a stay at home mom versus working mom the difference is astounding. She honestly looks ten years younger in the photos where she is older and balancing work and children, rather than just being around her children all day. We learned to appreciate our mother more as well. When she started to work sometimes she wasn’t there in the mornings to make our lunch, so we learned how to do it ourselves. How hard is putting peanut butter on bread, really? But, it tastes better when someone else does it for you, right? We went from having our mother pick out our clothes in the morning to picking them out ourselves and learning to wake up on time, or we’d be late to school. Weekends became more sacred because this was family time, instead of just an extension on having mom home all week. Make no mistake, I enjoyed having my mom home, but after she started working she became a more interesting person because she was experiencing more life outside of the home.

Knowing now what’s it’s like to do both – be a mom and have a job, I can honestly say I am a big advocate for women having something that is uniquely theirs. Perhaps it isn’t a typical nine to five job, but I firmly believe you have to have a life outside of your children, your family, and even your husband. When I teach yoga or fly the friendly skies, I have the opportunity to make connections with other human beings which can – and does! – lead to other, greater opportunities.

The decision to go back to work wasn’t one I entered into lightly, and at times it seems I’m spending more money than I am making. What I remind myself is that being away makes me appreciate the time I do have with my daughter. Since I am not around her all day we have both learned to thrive apart, and when we are reunited our bond is stronger than it was before.

I have many friends who are stay at home moms, and I certainly respect that decision. And I know sometimes staying at home is looked down upon just as much as working is. Sometimes, it’s hard for a woman, a mother, to make a choice that’s not judged and criticized. I am not advocating one person’s decision to work over another’s choice to stay home with kids. What I will say, as your best friend, is that you need to protect your sanity and have a passion that lies outside of just your children. A vocation or an avocation, something that belongs to you and engages you. It is easy when we have babies to forget the person that we were before and forget what made us uniquely us. Whether your passion is teaching fitness, volunteering at the humane society, blogging or graphic design, it’s important to remember what you excel at and continue to challenge and push yourself personally and professionally.

I know even now when I go visit my mom at work, and I see all the lives she’s touched, and how she’s making a difference, and the friends she’s made, it makes me proud of her. I want Charlotte to have a strong female role model in her life. I think as mothers it’s our duty to have our children, daughters especially, do the same that my mother did for me. Give me someone to admire and respect. Work, whether up in the sky or in the yoga studio, is where I have made some of my best friends. And I treasure the moments I get to have a coffee date after class and chat uninterrupted or commiserate over happy hour at a hotel on an overnight flight. I want Charlotte to see me as someone who isn’t missing moments of her life but as someone who is working to build a better future for both of us.

So if you’ve been thinking about expanding your life outside your home I say, go for it, and if you’re already doing that I say, don’t feel guilty. After all, your children will grow up and one day have lives of their own, so don’t lose what makes you the special YOU in the meantime.

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