I went to work today, for the first time in seven years. I’m now a working mother, or a mother working outside of the home for the first time. I ate lunch today with my colleagues, and only when somebody asked for a napkin did I realize that I’d taken a pile of them, to deal with the inevitable spills that I invariably deal with. But not any more, during the weekdays at least.
And when I went to the bathroom, I did so much enjoy going alone, yet I still forgot I could use the hand dryer with no Pudding and Cubby around.
But those were the only times I noticed a big change. I’ve arranged my hours so that I collect the children at 3. Aside from the fact that I’m wearing make-up and nicer clothes,the kids haven’t noticed a change in routine. As transitions go, this has been effortless. I told you I was prepared.
In fact, working as a mother feels so far like, well, working. It helps that I’m only working 32 hours a week, and it helps that my supervisor is family-friendly. It helps that I’ve already put trust in other people to take care of my kids. But I don’t feel at war, with other mothers or with myself. In fact, my views on the “Having It All” debate are largely unchanged.
I didn’t work for the early years of child-raising because I had the privilege of staying at home. Yes, we made sacrifices. We couldn’t afford to visit my family for three years, and things were tight, but having a parent stay at home was an option for us, at least in the short-term. We were fortunate to have that privilege, I have never felt like I made a sacrifice.
And now, we’re fortunate enough to be in a position when I can return to work, and it can be my choice. That choice is a privilege many women will never know. I don’t feel like I’m making a sacrifice. Maybe because I’ve seen both points of view, I didn’t feel like making a choice between family and work was the right focus…but having the ability to choose really is.
I want my daughter to have these same choices that most of us take for granted. I don’t know how Pudding will progress. Autism is a lifelong disability, or difference, or disorder. Call it what you will, it makes it hard to predict the future. I can’t say if Pudding will be able to work, or if she will have a family. Maybe she’ll want both, or neither, or just one. I only know that we will do everything we can to make sure she has those options, just like the choice was always there for me. And making that choice available? That is the real privilege for this working mother.