I work from home and still need childcare. No, it doesn't make me a bad mom.

Sarah Michelle Sherman and her son
The author and her son.Courtesy of Sarah Michelle Sherman
  • After having my child, I decided to leave my office job and freelance from home.

  • I still send my son to day care while I work from home.

  • It's what works for us, and I shouldn't feel bad about it because it allows me to be myself.

It started when I was pregnant. Rude, unprovoked comments and unsolicited advice came as soon as I started to show and got worse as my pregnancy went on. It baffled me why people — strangers — felt they had a right to make statements about my body and my unborn child. Now, as the mother of a 18-month-old, I still have to shrug off invasive comments.

Shortly after my son was born, I decided not to return to my office job and pursue freelance copywriting. I had to overcome a few hurdles along the way, but I'm finally at a place where I truly enjoy the work I'm doing, which is something I don't think I've ever said before. And it goes beyond the work itself. It's about feeling seen, heard, and valued.

I work from home, which comes with a ton of perks. But I can't simultaneously do my job and care for my son.

After telling someone I work from home, I often hear, "Oh, how great. It must be so nice to be able to work from home and save all that money on childcare."

When I correct them, letting them know I still send my son to an in-home day care, they usually say something as simple as, "Oh, I see." Their tone and body language often say much more. It's usually a twitch of the neck or an eyebrow raise — something that serves as an indication of their disapproval (or their lack of understanding).

I used to feel bad after conversations like these

I tend to worry about what others think of me. It's one of my greatest weaknesses. So when these conversations started coming up, I was often left wondering whether I was doing something wrong. Questions I didn't know the answers to played repeatedly in my mind: Am I a bad mother because I want to work? Am I a bad mother because I can't take care of my baby and work at the same time? Am I a bad mother because I have passions outside being a mother? Am I a bad mother?

As I tried to answer these difficult questions, I thought about my son and what I wanted for him. I want all the things parents want for their children, but I also want him to know that for me to be my best self, I must continue to work. I must continue to contribute to something that goes beyond those who know me. I must continue to chase after the things that make me feel seen, heard, and valued.

It's my guess that for the rest of my life, I'll continue to ask myself some variation of, "Am I a bad mother?" But I hope that as time goes on, I'll become more confident in my role and be surer of the choices I'm making.

This is what works for us

I have made some progress. I no longer feel insecure about telling people I work from home and have someone care for my son — because I know that I'm doing what's best for him, my husband, and myself. And that's what I'm choosing to focus on.

So now when those conversations come up, and I'm asked about my work and family, I try to remind myself that everyone will always have a different way of doing things and a reason their way is better. But mostly, I try to leave — not physically, but I mentally check out.

I get lost in the opening song to "Bluey" or the smell of milk on my son's breath. I imagine his laugh, his front teeth, and the way he smashes blocks. I feel the weight of his head on my shoulder as we dance around the living room until he falls asleep. And I replay the sound of his voice saying, Mama.

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