Priorities. Priorities rule my life; the priority of my child over money, of time with my child over work. My world revolves around how I prioritize each day. I grew up with a very career-oriented drive. I knew I wanted to go to college. I knew I wanted, a minimum, of a bachelor’s degree. I wanted to take care of myself. I did all of that– moved out young, worked hard, graduated with honors, and got hired in full-time at a new company. I quickly worked through three positions into a spot that I felt comfortable in. While I often hated the work, I loved my coworkers (or most of them.) I loathed the nearly hour commute to and from every day on a major highway, but learned to accept it. I worked there for just over 3.5 years.

I had convinced myself that I would put Lucas in a good, reputable child care and stay full-time at my job. How could I not? Student loans are crippling, especially with a mortgage and all of the other day-to-day bills.

As my pregnancy progressed, I continually became more and more apprehensive. Being gone 50 hours a week M-F, plus owning a photography business? Would my child even know us? I thought I had a choice to make, but the choice had already been made (I’m kidding myself if I act like it was even a question.) My gut knew that I’d be going part-time and that we’d make it work. By NO means am I discrediting child care… most of the workers are fantastic, I’m sure. My mom picked up child care for the 3 days a week I’d be working. I would work 25 hours and still run my business, giving me 3-4 days with Lucas. We cut out budget. Lowered our payments on our student loans and mortgage. We did what we had to do to be able to make the decision work. (I know that for some families, the budget couldn’t be cut anymore than it already is. To you parents that don’t have the option: I’m sorry that our system doesn’t work more in favor of new parents. It’s a sad reality, and hopefully something that will change in the future.)

Going part time I still grappled with feeling like I gave up my career. Right before taking my part-time position, I was offered a full time DREAM job as a media specialist. I took a few days to decide, but knew in my heart that it wasn’t what I wanted.

But here’s my point: Our country has such double standards for parents. If women step down to go part time they are treated pretty harshly. I left my job two weeks after my maternity leave. I didn’t plan it out that way, it’s just how it happened. (If we’re being honest here, I started looking for a new job about 2 weeks after starting there. I just hadn’t accepted anything.) And even though I felt like I was a great worker, and constantly was commended on my work there, my boss couldn’t even say “bye, good luck” when I left. I just had a baby. I’m leaving the only thing I’ve known for the last 3.5 years for a whole new world. You can’t even say bye? We won’t even start on the fact that men get no paternity leave half of the time. Come on America… let’s get it together. By the time my maternity leave was over my postpartum hormones hadn’t even settled down yet (like, crying in the aisles of Target, not sure how I’d live with out my own mom postpartum hormones.)

So how about: let’s accept women (and men) for the choices they make. Staying home full time? Great. Working full time? Good for you. A mix of both? Sounds good. Sad that you can’t have the choice? I empathize.

Being a parent is hard. Being a first time parent is REALLY hard. Let’s not add the extra stress.