JUL 4, 2012 | COMMUNITY
I used to believe guilt was every mother's burden.
Then I started doing something that called that into question on a daily basis. I did something that's become more the norm than the exception for mothers in America — working outside the home.
A month ago, I went back to work after five years of being a stay-at-home mom.
Originally, our plan was for me to stay home until both boys were in school. In fact, when I wrote my column last month, I had no idea this was coming. I only knew that the shoestring we were living on was starting to strangle us.
I started looking into daycare options, just in case something turned up. I made some phone calls, said some prayers for a positive change and prepared my boys for the possibility.
Then I got the call that the job I'd wanted for years was available.
I applied to be a reporter at this paper, after 12 years away. And in a whirlwind process, I got my desk back in the newsroom.
While I was thrilled to get the job, I would be lying if I didn't acknowledge the deep sense of loss I feel for my identity as a stay-at-home mom — ironically, an identity it took me years to adjust to.
That being said, I'm good with my choice. It's what's best for my family. We now have a neat little thing called health insurance, among other necessities.
Initially, while looking into daycare I felt like I was putting the boys in a basket and sending them down the river. But even that worked out for Moses, so I realized they were going to be fine as long as I found the right place.
And I did. I consider the providers partners in parenting and am grateful for them.
That being said, after five years of being attached at the hip, it's disconcerting to find a sticky note reminding me to pick up the dry-cleaning — and the boys.
There are some shallower changes as well.
For example, instead of making do with my "pony-tail as pen holder" hairstyle, I've learned to use a curling iron. That caused our first job-related injury when Sam burned his arm on this new foreign object when it appeared in our only bathroom.
And some new phrases have crept into my vocabulary.
After immersing myself in weeks of county budget talks, I told Sam I would put a dollar into his "squirt gun fund." He looked at me oddly and laughed. "Mama! Don't you mean piggy bank?"
A social life and exercise are two things I'm having a hard time working into this new gig.
I began to set my gym clothes and shoes by the door the night before my first day.
Every night, as I set my alarm for 5 a.m., I announce I'm planning to go jogging in the morning. But it hasn't happened yet.
We now use "jogging" as a euphemism for "I have no intention of doing that." As in, "I'll read that while you're jogging."
The most stressful thing so far is staying up at night with boys who seem to be coming down with something and wondering, with two new jobs between us, which of us is going to call in sick. I used to be able to shrug off long nights with sick kids as part of the package, but now I'm sweating at the first sign of snot.
So while this transition isn't easy, it's awesome. I believe the attitude with which we do anything is how we do everything. How can I teach my boys to embrace opportunities and have a healthy sense of adventure if I don't demonstrate what that looks like?
Yes, change can be hard. But it's one of life's few constants. Our attitudes determine our conditions, so I'm careful to keep mine positive.
I don't miss my boys during the day in an active, aching way. My job doesn't really allow for that sort of ruminating. Plus, I truly love being a reporter. It's just that I wish I could have both at the same time.
When Sam says, "I'm happy because I'm at daycare, but I'm not happy I can't see you; I feel that way at the same time," it sums up exactly how I feel about this whole reporter mama thing.
You're welcome, future daughter-in-law. It's looking like my little dudes are going to be capable of holding simultaneous emotions and expressing them.
So about that guilt business?
I'm starting to think it's a choice. And I'm not having any part of it.
Nathalie Hardy invites your feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org or at her website, www.nathaliesnotes.com .