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As a working mom with a full-time job and two young children, I face the challenges of balancing work and family every single day. Sometimes I feel exhausted. Sometimes I doubt myself and my decision to work.
Should I become a stay-at-home mom to take better care of my husband and my children? Should I pick a less demanding and lower-paying job to focus more energy on my family? Or should I put more time and effort into my new job to prove myself and not get fired for being incapable? What if my colleagues think I’m not good enough?
Those are the questions that pop into my head often and just won’t leave. What I often feel is guilt, confusion, frustration, and of course happiness for being able to have both a career and a family.
For those of you who don’t know, I recently made a career change into the tech industry and got a job as a software engineer at a large tech company on the west coast. And I have had a couple of female friends making the following comments:
— “You have everything: a family and a well-paying job.”
— “You guys must be monetarily balling.”
— “You two must make at least XYZ. You can retire early now.”
— “You guys are like a power couple. You both work for big tech companies.”
Often those comments are well-intentioned. But what they don’t know is all the stress, frustration and tension Mr. FAF and I have gone through these past year and a half for me to make this career change.
At times, we thought we wouldn’t be able to make it as a couple. And then we started wondering “Is it all worth it?”.
Is it worth it for me to risk my health and spend less time with my family to purpue something I thought was going nowhere but felt passionate about? Is it worth it for Mr. FAF and I to spend less romantic time together as a couple so that I would have more time studying for the technical interviews?
In the end, I got the job and a six-figure salary, so the answer might be yes. Mr. FAF has been nothing but supportive of my career change. But at times, he was so frustrated he told me it would be ok for me to stay at home and take care of the kids instead of killing myself over coding questions.
And I thought about it too. It would be nice to spend all of my energy on my kids and my family. But one thing I know for sure is that I do want to have a career. It is not just about the money. It’s something that motivates me and makes me happy in life when I know I’m doing a job that I like.
It gives me a sense of purpose outside of the home. Should I give it up to focus 100% on my family? I can do that, but I might just come out from the other end feeling lost and depressed. I just don’t know…
When I told my side of the family I was learning how to code to become a developer, they told me I should just stick with my job then and take care of my kids instead of trying to have a better career or to make more money.
I was told that Mr. FAF makes enough money for the family, so I should focus on housework and our kids instead. I knew they meant well. They wanted me to be a good wife and a good mother.
But part of me was demoralized. If I were a man and made that decision, I’m sure they wouldn’t tell me the same thing. If you are a man and work hard at your job, you are considered a family man. But if you are a women and work hard at your job, you might be considered negligent (aka a bad wife and a bad mom).
Bottom line, if you are a women, you should make sure the kids are well taken care of and the housework is done before you focus on your career. At least, that’s what my family thinks.
I went back to work just two and a half months after having my first and second babies. I remember talking to a female neighbor who was a stay-at-home mom.
She asked me what I was going to do about my second baby when I returned to work. I said I would send her to daycare. My neighbor raised her eyebrows. She looked shocked, “You would let someone else take care of your baby?”.
I couldn’t help but sense the jugement from her tone. Yes, I sent my baby to daycare and let someone else take care of her while I worked to build a career and to lessen the financial burden on my husband.
I made a choice to have both a job and a family. And I didn’t expect to be judged for that decision by other women. And over the years of blogging, I have also had similar comments from some readers, all of whom are women.
Maintaining a work-life balance is hard when you are a working mom. But you also have to deal with all the looks, the questions, and the judgements that come from other women who you think would be supportive of you.
After all, they are also females. Why would they make you feel bad about wanting to have both a career and a family? They know what it’s like to have a baby and to raise a family. Shouldn’t we be supportive of each other instead of trying to put each other down?
I was judged for not quitting my job to take care of my family full time like they do.
Others in the field
Most of my colleagues are males. In fact, I am one of the two females out of a 7-person team. And it’s considered a pretty good gender ratio (2:7) in software engineering.
As a female software engineer and a career changer with no CS background or prior experience, I always feel like that I have to work twice or three times as hard as others in order to catch up on my workload and to progress in my career.
In fact, I am the only one I know on my big team who doesn’t have a CS degree. Sometimes I feel immense pressure to prove myself and to reassure my manager that hiring me wasn’t a mistake.
Of course, I enjoy doing what I do on the job for the most part. But I also feel the need to spend more time working, which can easily translates into less time for the family, which can lead to tension between Mr. FAF and me.
When I’m working, I feel guilty for not taking care of my kids. When I spend time with my family or doing housework, I feel guilty for not putting in more time for my job. Guilt is what I feel most of the time as a working mom.
Challenges during COVID
My son just started kindergarten last week. That means that Mr. FAF and I have to take turns sitting next to him from 9:20 AM to 3 PM on weekdays to make sure he’s not running around and is indeed learning something.
I take the morning shift from 9:20 to 11:30 AM, and Mr. FAF takes over from 12:50 to 3 PM. That alone has caused another source of tension between Mr. FAF and me since we both feel that we should be doing more to help our son, but we are also pulled in multiple other directions, including finishing housework and doing our jobs.
Teaching your own kids is not easy.
That makes us conflicted, confused, frustrated, exhausted, and irritated at each other. We have decided to send our baby to pre-K so that we can focus on our work and our son. That’s also for her to learn something at school and interact with other kids.
We are well aware of the risks, but the alternative of keeping everyone at home and trying to do it all is just too much. We tried to seek help outside of the home, including trying to hire an au-pair and a housework helper. But it’s been impossible due to COVID.
The other day, out of frustration, Mr. FAF told me I should have quit my job a long time ago to focus on the family instead of pursuing a career. I don’t know if he really meant it or if he said that out of anger. But that made me sad.
I felt like my desire to have a career was to be blamed for things that were not going well in our lives. I felt sad because my husband, who had always been supportive of my career, implied that he had made a mistake.
I felt sad because, well, maybe he was right. Maybe I should have quit my job and stayed at home. But I don’t know if that would make everything better or if it would cause more problems between us.
Again, I really don’t know. Sometimes I feel so lost about what I should do to become a better person, a better wife, a better mother, a better daughter, and a better employee. I wonder if I would feel the same if I just quit my job and become a stay-at-home mom instead.
I think no matter what I do, I will always be judged for my decision by others. I know a lot of stay-at-home moms complain about others passing judgements about them not working outside of the home and not bringing in an income.
I also know it can get lonely when you don’t have much interaction with other adults other than your spouse. I think that as moms, we will always have challenges in one way or the other.
As for me, I’m learning to strike a balance between work and family so that I can take better care of both. Having a career without a happy family is not fulfilling. After all, the people who will be next to me when I pass will be my family, not my boss or colleagues.
But having a family without a career would not be fulfilling for me either. I want to keep learning, growing, and being challenged professionally.
And more importantly, I want to make sure that no matter what happens to Mr. FAF or me in the future, we will have the financial means to give our kids the stability they need to grow and progress in their lives.
There are so many things I don’t know. But one thing I know for sure is that I don’t have it all like many people might think. I can only try and hope for the best. I do have my own challenges as a full-time working mom and wife.
And I just hope that we can all be more undertanding instead of passing judgements towards working mothers. It would be much more helpful to land a hand than to giving them the looks and making demoralizing comments.
Being judgemental might make the commenter feel better about themselves temporarily. But it wouldn’t solve their own problems. And it would just make the mothers on the receiving end feel worse about themselves and their decisions to have a career of their own.
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