Every mother has to deal with the question, “Should I get a job/keep my job, or do the kids need me at home?” Even if she knows what’s best for her family, there are always know-it-alls eager to tout their way as the way:
“How can you abandon your babies to a day-care system? That’s how kids grow up to be delinquents and drug addicts!”
“You’re letting your husband bring home all the income in this day and age? He’ll treat you like property. What example does that set for your daughter?”
Fathers get it too:
“You work too many hours. You’re neglecting your family.”
“I can’t believe you’d turn down a promotion to spend more time at home. How do you expect your family to survive on your current salary?”
The first rule of being a good worker and a good parent is to not let outside judgments bully you into feeling guilty. (A life coach or spiritual counselor can help you work out legitimate uncertainties.) Beyond that, here’s what you can do to nurture a healthy family life when you work full-time outside your home:
Granted, you have final say on when your children are old enough to stay home alone, or on what day care center to use. But often the children themselves are better judges of the situation than you think. Hear them out on their own preferences and reasons. Their friend’s house across the street from the school, which you’d never have thought of, may be the best place to spend their afternoons!
If children object to your working at all, find out why. Most likely it’s simple fear of change, which can be alleviated by planning special times together and emphasizing the privileges of growing up. And if there’s a real problem with a child-care arrangement, best to find out early and do something about it.
If you’ve always done everything—from cooking dinner every night to picking up other people’s toys—your family will take that arrangement for granted, and may not even suspect how hard it is on a working parent. Call a family meeting to decide who can do what around the house (including putting away their own things instead of tossing them on the floor) and what needn’t be done at all. If you still can’t keep up, consider budgeting for professional cleaning services.
Let your kids know they can come to you at any time with any problem. Never let those “somethings” which “come up” at work (nor relaxing after work) be more important than keeping a promise. And remember, the number of hours you’re at home ultimately matters less than how present you are during those hours: the “too busy to listen” problem—complete with the unpleasant situations kids get into without easy access to parental advice—afflicts stay-at-home parents as well.
Yes, you can have your full-time job and a fulfilling family life too. The secret is using the highest standards (which do not include “highest standard of living”) to guide your decisions on both ends.