Challenges of a Mom Working Outside the Home: Gaps in Attention

At the start there is so much wonder in this new little human being that literally grew into being as our body nurtured his or hers.  For nine months two are one and constantly together, we are aware either in awe, love, terror, or various other emotions that this little person depends on us entirely.  And then from the moment of birth this little person starts working to separate from us and carve out their own space in the world.


Anxiety becomes a constant companion as a mother, but it was expected and we each make peace with the understanding that our child will develop as he or she deems necessary, with our guidance.  We expect, at least in a misty someday sort of way, that our child will have experiences that won’t include us as they reach school age.  We know realistically that there will be moments, short spans of time, when we will be distracted by bits and pieces of life’s complexities even with the baby near at hand.


But somehow it doesn’t come into consideration that we will separate from the child by going off to work, by earning a living.  Until that first missed milestone, shared with a caregiver – yikes.  It is natural for the child to separate from us, but how do we reconcile separation because of our own activities?  This is touchy territory for each mother personally and under the watchful public eye.


My mom was a stay-at-home mom who saw parenting as one of the most important undertakings she would take on.  But she was infused with a curiosity about life in general that corralled her into many activities throughout my childhood that excluded my siblings and me.  It became a family joke to describe the lengths that one of us would go to in trying to win her attention before her response was more than, ‘hmm in a minute’.


I started out as a stay-at-home mom myself and found it frustratingly difficult to fulfill the self-vow to always immediately give my child my full attention when asked.  They sometimes had such bad timing, just as I was resolving a problem with a provider on the phone, or trying to finish dinner, or, or, or.  And then when I started to work outside the house, whew, my attention was stretched almost to the point of shattering so many times.  I did take on a more benign neglect perspective at times, for sanity’s sake.


My relationship with my mom developed into a complex, deep appreciation for each other as people in addition to mother-daughter.  Perhaps I would not have such perseverance had I been able to easily capture her attention in my developing years.  Asking my now young adult children what sticks out from their childhood, moments of parental inattention don’t come up.


I consider myself terribly lucky as a parent.  I loved staying at home, when I did go to work I was able to find a job that didn’t take me away too much longer than the school day and at first didn’t remove me mentally.  Now I am working on moving my relationship with my sons onto a similar plane as my adult relationship with my mother.  And thankful that I only started working long hours and putting too much mental energy into my job after they were already pretty well launched.  I try to focus on that when my mind turns to certain painful moments where I was absent in some way in their lives.


Parenting and working, they are both about figuring out the right amount and the right kind of attention to pay at the right time.  If we could divine that, it’s all so easy.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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Filed under Personal Growth, Work Life

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