Stay-at-home mom or career woman? I started writing this text while Sofia was still a baby, and somehow the right time to revise, finish, and publish it never came. That is, until a few days ago when I talked to a friend who became a mom three months ago.

While she was telling me about her adorable little daughter’s adventures, we touched on the topic of whether and when she would start working again: “I know she’s still little, but I’m not the type who can stay at home. That’s just not me… I know my heart will break leaving her with a nanny… But…”

My friend hasn’t decisively decided yet whether she’ll take on a new job, which she could start as soon as tomorrow, or if she’ll stay with the baby for a while. And I completely understand her.

Splitting one’s identity in half, when “I” becomes “I/me” and “I/mom,” is a realistic division that all women who decide to become parents eventually face. The problem is that for many, this division remains permanent, while others choose to ease it and manage to silence one of those two “I”s, at least to a degree where it doesn’t burden them on a daily basis.

Often, this splitting of identity boils down to a “simple” choice—permanently staying at home with the child or pursuing one’s goals, often closely tied to the desire for a successful career in any field, but outside the home.

But is the choice easy?

And is it possible to make a choice without regretting it at any moment?

Absolutely not!

We all like to form our own opinions and habits, especially those we consider important for maintaining our sovereign identity, and we think that if we change something, we won’t be ourselves anymore.

When I was younger, I believed that nothing and no one in this world would stand in the way of my ambitions. I even scorned stories of women who didn’t finish college or permanently left their jobs to stay at home with their child.

The moment you become aware that you’re going to be a mother, and even more so when you become one by bringing the most wonderful being into the world, your life changes. Then you realize that your ego was too big and that you aren’t the most important person in the world, which on the other hand doesn’t mean you’re not important at all.

When I had Sofia and grew up enough to realize that one shouldn’t judge others just because they don’t fit into our templates of how life should be lived, I understood.

Stay at home mom? I’m a mom, but I’m also Mima!

Of course, I also struggled with the decision—continue my studies and pursue a career or stay at home to ensure my child has a present mother. Sometimes, even today, I find myself doing that. I often feel that by choosing one option, the other must suffer to the extent that it will be completely neglected. But it’s not like that.

When Sofia was very small, and while I was still a semi-active student, I spent a lot of time at home, and most of the household chores fell on my shoulders. Honestly, I often actively considered the idea of being a full-time mom, even thinking it would fulfill me to the point that I wouldn’t need anything else.

It was then that I realized that the job of a woman who is “just” a homemaker and takes care of her family is by no means easy. On the contrary! Since then, I understand, believe, and support every woman whose personal choice is to stay at home.

In fact, I believe these women should be given work experience and some kind of government allowance because their job is no less important by any standards than the job of any woman who leaves the house in the morning and works all day.

However, I realized that I’m not the stay-at-home type, and as the years go by, I realize that I’m far from it.

Like my friend and many women in the world, I love my daughter and my family the most, but I also love myself enough to not reduce the meaning of my existence to just my family and household chores.

I love to write, to read, and to expand my knowledge in the field of media studies. That’s also me, and I don’t want to lose that part of myself because it, almost as much as my family, brings me happiness and fulfillment. The only difference is that it’s something that’s uniquely mine!

Career woman? If you work, will you neglect your child?!

I strongly disagree with this!

As a child, I was bothered by the fact that my mom had to go to work every day, and I couldn’t wait for her to come back. But that’s a child’s job—to want to be with their parents all the time.

Now that I’ve become a mother myself, I know not only that it wasn’t easy for her to be without me around 24/7, but I also admire her for following her dreams and achieving her ambition.

But let’s be realistic, neither did my mom spend too little time with me, nor do I spend too little time with Sofka. Especially considering the fact that we actively dedicate ourselves to each other.

For me, it’s much better to have a successful and smiling mother, the kind of mother you want to become one day, than to have a mother who blames you her whole life for not being able to be this or that because of you.

So, my dear Ivana, I understand you and support you. You should go back to work, and by doing so, you won’t become a bad mother or a non-mother. You’ll become a woman who is satisfied with herself because she’s doing what she loves above all. And by being happy, you’ll be much better for your family.

Of course, it will be difficult for you, and it will be difficult for the baby without you, but over time, the guilt will diminish, and you have to learn to live with it and feel pride instead of guilt because you’re setting an example for your daughter of the kind of woman you want her to be one day.

This isn’t about condemning one type of woman or another. This is about understanding and supporting both, and also the third, whatever their decision may be.

We are incredibly lucky to be able to live on the successes of many women before us who fought for us to have this choice today and to say—I’m the type who likes to work, or I prefer to take care of my family.

Once, just 50 years ago, that choice didn’t even exist. Women stayed at home, and that was their job and their purpose.

We can choose, so why wouldn’t we?