My Dark and Terrible Secret

Before I get too far, I want to thank Deb. She has kept my secret and has given me the courage to do this.

What I dislike most about parenting is that instead of the tremendous opportunity to bond, share ideas and comfort each other, we, more often than not use this great common ground, to compete. Throw in a way of thinking that is not mainstream (in our case Montessori) and you are almost assuredly going to find yourself in front of the preverbal firing squad at some point in time. I am sad to say that it has happened to me many many times since the beginnings of Quentin.

It is because of this that I have only once revealed my secret to the cyber world.

Monday to Friday from 8:30am to 3:30pm (and 2x a week till 5:30, and 1 Saturday a month) I work outside the home. Oh, and Quentin goes to daycare. And….here is the hardest part…. I love it.

It’s also the most emotionally taxing, stressful thing I’ve done in a long time.

Ok, since the tears are already starting I might as well start from the beginning. I had to take the majority of my pregnancy off and so I returned to work 8 weeks after Quentin was born. Actually it was right around the time he was supposed to be born. My husband stayed home with him for the first year and then he returned to his job after his paternity leave was finished. Quentin started daycare in the July after his first birthday in April. Now when I say worked I mean worked, because in those days it also included breast feeding early, pumping before I left, during work (not awesome) and breast feeding soon after I hit the door.

It was and continues to be an extremely emotional subject for us, made ever worse by that firing squad I referred to. “That’s ok, not everyone has maternal instincts.” Was one I distinctly remember. It is also made ever more stressful for us because even though we have many Montessori schools around us none of them have an Infant Toddler Community. Many days we spend time “reintroducing” one or more Montessori concepts (independence, grace and courtesy) to Quentin that have been so easily stripped from him while he is away from us.

So, I suppose I could try to explain why I enjoy working outside the home, but I don’t think it really matters. Instead, what is important for me is to affirm that I love my children deeply and that the love of a child has no bearing on whether a parent works outside the home. Many fathers work outside the home. Do they love their children less? I also feel so incredibly blessed to know so many amazing women (many of whom are fellow Montessorians) who I gather ideas and advice from. Those ideas help me shape and organize our days so they (despite the potential for chaos) remain for the most part peaceful.

Working days and school (I’m doing my Montessori 3-6 teaching degree) nights is hard. It also makes me remember not to take for granted the times we are all together, and ensures we all work together to make the house run smoothly.

Families come in all different shapes and sizes and they all have their secrets. My hope is that we focus on empathy, understanding and support with each other and that this will eventually lead to more “skeletons” being released from closets.


23 Replies to “My Dark and Terrible Secret”

  1. Hello, I am a French mum trying to do Montessori at home with my toddler too. I recently started working again (in France it is NOT working that is criticized) and I was desperate not to be able to do some Montessori any more, for lack of time. Your post juts gives me hope!! So thanks a lot!!

  2. This shouldn’t be a dark and terrible secret! My son starts daycare tomorrow, three times a week, and I don’t even have a job lined up yet (but if I plan on going back to work, I need the time to focus). I’m nervous, but I’m excited, but then I’m nervous again, wondering what people will think of sending him to daycare. I’m so glad to hear that you work outside of your home but still have a wonderful, Montessori-inspired routine at home and a thriving little boy!

    1. Thank you Kristen. Good luck with your daycare start. Our decision for us to both work outside the home was not an easy one, and there are many days when I long to be at home full time, but I am happy and my family is happy, and that for me is enough.

  3. Hi Beth! Found you via IG. It’s hard and I empathize and commend you for making it work. We are all so hard on each other!

    My husband and I are both doing our PhDs and working part time and it’s been hard trying to figure out what to do with our 15 month old. I think it’s the hardest cos they are still so little! They seem so independent at this age I forget how little they are.

    How are you liking the namc program? I’ve been told nothing can substitute for real observation in the Montessori and so online programs don’t work. I don’t intend to teach– I just want to learn how to parent the Montessori way (as opposed to just getting activities). Would love to hear your feedback on the program. Thanks!

    1. Thanks for traveling over from IG. Yes work, school and little ones is definitely challenging but it is made all the more worse when we judge each other.
      I am really enjoying the NAMC programme. I feel it is challenging and thorough. However, I completely agree with you that texts can really not compare to observing in a real life classroom. That is why I have set up an independent practicum after my schooling ends. I’m not necessarily sure I want to be a teacher either, but I feel that any opportunity to gain more knowledge is a good thing and it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.

  4. There is nothing negative about doing the best we can for our child, for ourselves, for our family, from the place where we are.

    My husband works full time, I work from home part-time and I’m in school (online courses) as well. Like your family, we do Montessori as a way of living, not as a series of activities that require full day parental supervision. Because our community is also without a toddler program, our son goes to a non-Montessori home daycare for a few half-days a week and it is everything but Montessori — wonderful environment, attentive and energetic caregiver, healthy meals. He loves to go there and I shrug off the guilt.

    We’re all doing our best, and living our (real) lives, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    1. Thank you Meghan. Yes, your words are so true about how Montessori as a way of living is more than activities. I suppose it’s just the comments made by those that have no idea that are the most hurtful, and I need to just let those go.

  5. I have to say Beth this post was hard to read. Not because of the content but because of the feelings you have expressed. As others have mentioned there is no need for this to be a dark secret. Working parents are by far the norm in my community. It sounds like you are stretched with work and study and that is a completely understandable. It feels like to me that we (as mothers) feel like we are not doing enough no matter what we do, we cannot win. We have to be at peace with our decisions. Also stay away from competitive parents (I know this isn’t always easy), I’ve had friends that I no longer see because the competition was just too much . You don’t need people like that in your life.

  6. Thank you K. Your kindness and wisdom has been so appreciated. I struggled to shrug off the comments of somehow being unqualified in the world of Montessori because I don’t devote my entire day to it and our home. But a wise Auntie recently assured me that I devote my entire heart to it, and that that was much more important.

  7. This isn’t a dark and terrible secret at all 🙂 You are fulfilling the definition of mother: Doing everything you can to love and care for your family in the best way you can. There are so many wonderful benefits for each hour a child spends either with a parent or with a skilled caregiver. Best of luck with work, and school, and all the exciting transitions these will bring for you and your family in the coming months and years!

  8. What a beautiful piece. Brave, confident, and revealing. Thanks for speaking your truth. I am a mother and a 3 to 6 Montessori teacher interested in sharing, supporting, and promoting Montessori. Lovely to come across your writing!

  9. Hey Beth, random and unrelated question: is the bead set that Quentin uses “Melissa & Doug’s Primary Lacing Beads” and do you recommend it?


    1. Hi Meghan yes they are. We really like them but the lacing has only come around 22 months. He has stacked them like blocks, sorted them by colour and just used them sensorially. I used packing tape to stick a BBQ skewer to the end of the shoe lace it came with to help him aim it through the hole of the bead. They are definitely a material with a long shelf life and I would recommend them.

  10. Nice post, but just curious. You never said why you do it. Work and school I mean. I like your site and ideas.

  11. Hi Beth, I’ve thought a lot about this post since I first read it, particularly your phrase about reintroducing concepts. I, too, am a working mama, but unfortunately, there’s not a good Montessori school near me. We’ve chosen a bilingual school instead, which has been great. But, especially now that my daughter is into her 2s, I’m struggling to keep up Montessori at home. It’s hard to support my daughter in putting up her dishes after breakfast, for example, when we have to leave the house at a certain time, and although I try and encourage her to participate (even prepping all materials in advance, etc), she doesn’t seem to have the concentration left at the end of the day to help me make dinner.

    If you get the chance, I’d love to hear more about how you are “reintroducing” and keeping up Montessori activities around work/daycare. Especially practical life activities.

    Thanks for keeping us inspired – your blog and instagram are terrific!

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