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Is The Grass Greener On The Other Side?

Kara Eberle

Smart Mama

Would I be a better mother if I didn’t work?

It’s a question I ponder at least a hundred times a day, while I’m at work.

I wonder if my daughter would be happier and healthier if I spent all day with her.

Then again, I wonder if she would be able to count in Spanish, recite dozens of nursery rhymes or cut in a straight line if she had stayed home with me, instead of going to day care.

The back and forth in my brain has been almost constant lately — because I’m having another baby.

***

We learned just before Father’s Day that I was pregnant with Eberle No. 2.

Although it was a welcome surprise, this pregnancy has brought up lots of not-so-fond memories from Mara’s infancy.

I went back to work when she was 8 weeks old, working 3 to midnight Tuesday through Saturday.

The first few months were horrible.

I had nursed her, almost exclusively, when I was on maternity leave. The first time she took a bottle from my husband didn’t go well. She wanted me at bedtime. She cried and cried. And so did I.

I don’t even want to think about pumping in the office bathroom each night. The choice to breastfeed after returning to work wasn’t an easy one, but I wanted to do it for my baby.

When I would get home around 1 a.m., Mara was almost always crying. I think she could hear my Jeep pulling into the driveway. Most nights, I would nurse her back to sleep and get to bed around 3 a.m. She would wake up three hours later, ready and raring to go.

My husband, Mark, worked days at the time, so I would be alone, sleep deprived, taking care of our baby until he got home. Then, at 3 p.m. each day, Mark would walk through the door, and I would head to work.

It’s how we survived until Mara was almost 2, when I got a day-shift position, my husband got a second-shift job, and we enrolled her in day care.

While day care has been wonderful in many ways, it hasn’t been a cure-all.

With conflicting work schedules, it’s harder than you’d think to figure out how to pick up a child before 6 every day.

Plus, it’s expensive. It’s like adding a new-car payment to your monthly budget. A really nice new car.

***

With another baby on the way, I want to make sure I don’t repeat any mistakes I made the first time around. I want to make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible.

So the question repeats in my head:

Would I be a better mother if I didn’t work?

I wonder what it would be like to make a real dinner for my family during the week, or how it would feel to have clean laundry, folded and put away.

I wonder what it would be like to dust and vacuum on a regular basis, instead of naming the spiders that take up residence in the corners of our stairs.

I do household chores on the weekend or after Mara goes to bed, but it never seems to be enough. And my husband helps out a lot, but there are some things I just like to do myself.

I know that being a stay-at-home mom wouldn’t solve all my problems, and that I would probably miss going to work every day.

Plus, the Eberle Family Budget is based on two incomes, not one. So it’s essential that I remain gainfully employed (until we win the lottery, that is). But, even though I don’t really have a choice, I still worry if I’m doing the right thing.

I just wish I could find the right balance with my work and my family, so that I don’t feel like I’m constantly slighting one, the other or both.

Thankfully, I have a good place to start: a great job that I enjoy at a company filled with supportive co-workers. I also have a wonderful family, and a new baby to be excited about.

***

As for the question that runs through my head, I don’t know the answer. And it doesn’t matter.

I think it’s pretty normal to have questions. (If it’s not, don’t tell me.)

For now, I will work to find a better balance between my family and my work.

And, I’ll focus on all the awesome aspects of being a mom, rather than dwelling on the memories that make me cringe.

Kara Eberle is editor of Smart, and her second baby is due Feb. 24. Read more Smart Mama columns here.

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