My baby is a couple of months old, and I am trying to decide whether to go back to work. I actually really want to return to work, but I also worry that she needs me and that I am not providing her with the best that she can have. Do you think mothers should stay home with their babies?
Alice in Wondering-land
The decision as to whether to be a stay-at-home mom or a working mom has, I think, little to do with an ideal situation, a “best-case scenario”, optimal conditions, good parenting, or any of those standards. The decision, ultimately, has to do with the big “R”: RESENTMENT.
Babies need affection, patience and love. To give them love, parents have to keep the love-killers at bay. One of the very worst love-killers is RESENTMENT.
Now let’s get real. There is no way that RESENTMENT — once you even just enter the illustrious gates of Parenthood — can ever completely disappear. There’s simply too much laundry, picking up, carting around, being at someone’s complete beck and call and tolerating crankiness for that.
All moms can get cranky themselves and occasionally walk around muttering “why do I have to do everything?” I don’t know of any mom who hasn’t occasionally “lost it” a hurried moment because somebody forgot their shoes.
But challenging moments aside, a mom who is not suffering from too much resentment basically believes she has great kids, and can enjoy listening and commenting on their conversation. She is evenly gracious in light of their demands, and usually patient or forgiving when they’re cranky. She is firm, not frantic when they won’t co-operate. All normal resentment and crankiness aside, this is the picture of the mom you want to be. What will help you be this kind of mom?
The Mom who is filled with RESENTMENT, doesn’t look like happy, most of the time. When her kids are un-cooperative or misbehaved, she lectures them ad nauseam. When they want to interact, she appears emotionally withdrawn. She corrects them all the time, impatiently. Unwittingly, she tells them to go away, or hisses at them. Why is she like this? She’s trying desperately to control her resentment.
When you resent your life, and not just because you’ve had too long a day, or because your hormones are raging or because there is a sudden, short-term crisis, your ability to be a good mom is severely hampered. It’s just not good. For anybody; not for your baby, not for your spouse, and mostly, not for you.
So don’t stay home out of guilt or shame or an ideal that doesn’t describe or understand you. Be honest with yourself. When mothers don’t deal realistically with their resentment, children suffer.
For many mothers, coming home from work to a great baby-sitter, a happy baby, and a heart full of hugs reduces resentment. For others, resentment is reduced when they can stay with their babies, at home. Even when mothers make the right decisions for themselves, they learn that the conflict as to whether they should work or not is never fully eradicated – like resentment itself. Accept that just as your baby is just learning about life, so are you. Search for the best possible scenario and remember that no decision is ever etched in stone.
Claudia Luiz, Ed.M., Cert. Psya., LMHC #6053, is a psychoanalyst in private practice with offices in Brookline and Westwood, MA. She works with children, adults, couples and groups. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at (617) 947-4838 or via her website at www.claudialuiz.com.