“I wish I could see you interact with your kids. I think that would be a hoot!” says my young, childless friend.
“Oh, it’s not as funny as I always make it sound. But I do have great kids.” I reply.
Because this young, twenty-seven-year-old is a coworker, she remains unaware of my writing. I do, however, tell her some of the same stories that are contained in my writing. I’m always pleased that she seems to think they are as funny as some of my readers do. If she ever stumbles across DivineCaroline, there will be no question in her mind that I am that Kristi Stevens.
“We’re thinking about having a baby next year,” she confides.
“Really?” I say, smiling. “Even after everything I’ve told you?”
She laughs and much to my surprise says, “I think I want to be you when I grow up.”
Whoa … hold on a second … I’m not sure I would wish that on anyone, much less someone I like as much as this girl.
“How so?” I say.
“I mean how you have great kids, a great job, and seem to work it all out without missing a beat.”
Ahhh … she thinks I have it all together … little does she know …
So, I ask THE question. You know THE question. THE question all mothers, but most fathers, never have to answer. I say, “Are you planning to keep working after you have a baby?”
She tilts her head and says, “Yes. I want to work. Am I already a bad mom?”
And there it is. Mommy guilt. My friend is not even pregnant, hasn’t changed a diaper, or burped a baby. However, she is experiencing Mommy guilt.
I say, “Well, I don’t know. Is your husband planning on working after you have a baby?”
She laughs and says, “Yeah, if we want to eat.”
I say, “Is he already a bad daddy?”
She’s caught off guard by my question, but immediately sees my point.
The truth is that I have no way of knowing ahead of time if my friend will be a good Mommy or not. The truth is the answer to this question depends not on whether she chooses to stay home or to work. The truth is there are really excellent stay-at-home moms and really sucky ones. I’ve been both on the same day. The truth is there are really bad working moms and really great ones. I’ve been both on the same day. The truth is that each Mommy has to figure out what works best for her and her particular baby. The truth is that I cannot answer this question for my friend. She must answer it for herself.
I welcome my friend to the wonderfully ambiguous world of motherhood. A world where neither black or white exists. A world where there is no such thing as one size fits all. A world without a road map, compass, or instruction manual. Oh sure, practical advice is everywhere. But, I’m not talking about the technical aspects of childcare. I’m talking about being a Mommy. That comes from within and cannot be obtained from a book. I know. I’ve tried. And failed. And tried again.
In the end, I tell my friend what I wish someone had told me when I was her age. If you can, plan your finances around one income. Find the best available childcare you can afford. Plan to return to work if that’s what you want. However, allow yourself a Plan B. It’s okay to change your mind. And what you decide when your baby is six weeks old is not what you have to do when your baby is six months old or six years old. Babies are always changing. Mommy’s change, too. If what you’re doing isn’t working, do something else. Keep at it. When you find what works, stick with it until it isn’t working anymore. And most importantly, if you mess it up today, you get another crack at it tomorrow. The important thing is that you keep showing up. Mommy’s never quit.