Mariya had her baby boy, Ari, a month early (surprise!) the day after I had Henrietta, so our babies are friends. Mariaya is from Ukraine, and I am as elegantly European as she is only in my dreams. Her story is lovely. I particularly like what she says about having "little bits of it 'all.'"
I had been married for about a year when I decided to go off birth control. My decision wasn't motivated by a burning desire to become a mother and care for a child. I was 27 (an over-ripe age for motherhood in the Mormon world) and my aging parents and my husband were ready for a little one - it was just time. In fact, as a teenager I never remember dreaming about getting married or having a baby. All I ever wanted is to find true love and share all its fruits with my companion.
Travel, meeting new people, social and community events, learning - those have been my passions, passions I enjoyed independently. I still had plans to do more school and move down a different career path. The thought of being limited in doing those things scared me. I knew I would love being a mother, or rather I should say, I believed I would love being a mother. That knowledge was based solely on faith and listening to the wisdom of others.
I thought: "Although I don't feel it yet, I know I will once I hold my child in my arms." And it was so. Once I had Ari, I wanted to give him time and love. I know he was my priority and I truly loved taking care of him. He makes me deeply happy, like no exotic adventure would. However, I am still the same person I was before giving birth. I want to travel, experience beautiful things like concerts and performances, write inspiring things, be engaged in my community and institutions I care about through "work." And I don't think I'm willing to give that up regardless of how many children I have or how demanding they are. The level of engagement with things I love might not be the same, but I don’t believe that anything, even your children, should prevent you from things you enjoy working on. It might be naive, but I still believe I can have it all. Or at least little bits of “all.”
Ari is three months now and I do have a part-time job. It diversifies my days and gives me a chance to contribute to a purpose I believe in. It opens another dimension in my identity, which makes me feel like “I am many things (or at least two).” And, I think because of it I am a happier mother. The drawback of working from home, however, is that you don't get to interact and connect with colleagues, which I would really enjoy.
Basically, I am a strong believer that a woman should have a vision for herself as a mother and a wife, but also as an individual. We are individuals and social beings first, and then everything else. And if a woman has that vision, she needs to do everything she can to bring it to life.
And I think this vision as an individual varies greatly for everyone. Some may see themselves fulfilled in an office job, some in the kitchen, some in the classroom, others at home on the couch reading. You don't necessarily have to work in an office, have a boss (although being accountable to someone really helps), or even get paid, but you have to work. And, by work, I mean do something that is hard, that pushes you to overcome yourself, to focus, to set goals, and do it even when the desire isn’t there. It is work to develop your talents and to not quit what you've been doing before motherhood.
I admire those mothers who are diligent about their independent work at home. They carve out specific time to do their "work." But as we all know, it's tough. This is why many mothers long for a structure, which a job in an office provides. Personally, I see my professional development outside of an office (for the most part), but aside from my desired craft, I might have to go back to full-time work for financial reasons. That’s where I believe that grandmothers, daycares, kindergartens come into play.
So I guess my point is that all mothers should "work" but the definition of this concept can be and should be different for everyone. For certain careers it's necessary to work in an office, and more creative types can find a way to work at home. But regardless of how many children we have, I think we almost have a responsibility to follow our dreams and develop our talents, whether they coincide with our profession or not. And we have to do this not only for ourselves, but for our children who one day might say: "I can do this, because my mother could."