“Stay at home mom.” There is so much stigma surrounding the title. At least, there was for
me. Let me start out by staying I have the highest and utmost respect for other stay at home moms (aka SAHM’s). You have sacrificed much, possibly, and it is often not considered a career or valid occupation from the outside looking in. Words such as “lazy,” “uneducated,” or “over-protective” may come to mind. Why is that?
Case in point – when bumping into other moms at a store or at the clinic, we end up talking about our lives, and the topic of what we “do” seems to come up more often than not. Many of them have almost embarrassingly admitted to being at home full or part time with their kids. Why is that? Confession: I have done the same. Why? It’s not like it’s something that you should be embarrassed about. No, you don’t necessarily need a college degree to do that, but since when does that determine your importance and reputation? If you chose not or simply could not go to college or technical school and stay home as a result of the high cost of daycare, does that make you less of a person? Of course not. Again, before we get our panties in a knot, I need to again emphasize that I think that being a stay at home mom is a perfectly valid occupation, and it’s one that I think is way under-appreciated.
Conversely, I think that sometimes it is over-glorified as well, where SAHM’s are portrayed as martyrs for their families. Giving up a career, some amount of autonomy, and a more predictable schedule among other things, are sometimes used to portray SAHM’s as victims. I would venture to guess, though, that if you asked those moms about what they are “giving up,” they wouldn’t call it that. They would instead candidly say that their role is a privilege, and although it’s hard at times, they love what they do.
Frankly, I respect those who choose and can really say that they lovestaying at home with their kids and that it’s what they’ve always wanted to do. I sometimes I wish I could be more like that. And then I remember that I’ve been made differently…
Those of you who know me know that my natural tendency is to be a workaholic, especially when my work is enjoyable. Recently I was talking with a close friend about how I plan and am productive during my “free” time. For instance, watching a movie I see as a perfect opportunity to multi-task – catch up on writing, or at least some Pinterest-ing. In fact, during my pregnancy, I had 3 months off work all to myself. Though I thought that I’d be bored, I kept myself occupied with various DIY projects, reading, visiting with my girlfriends, yoga/exercising, and cooking. For the first time, I got to dictate my days and my schedule. I guess if I wouldn’t have done those things, I most likely would have been bored. I stayed busy though, and actually couldn’t complete everything that I wanted to. I can’t completely help it, it’s in my nature to be busy.
All that is to say when I finally had Joel, the adjustment of just taking care of a baby was an adjustment for me, to say the least. No longer could I “get a lot done,” or what I deemed as productive. Between clothes and diaper changes, feedings, and rocking Joel, I felt like I was always occupied, but that I really never accomplished anything. At least, not really (to me). Though taking caring of a baby’s needs, loving him, and helping him develop is such an important task, this being my whole job/occupation is an idea that does not come naturally to me.
I struggled tremendously with the idea of staying home. Due to my bachelor’s degree in art history and my various work experiences, I did not have focus of vocation. I always knew that I could go to school for either another bachelor’s or a master’s degree eventually, but I was thinking of doing that before we had kids. So, when the wonderful surprise who is Joel came into our lives, I knew that we had some important decisions to make. Would I work outside the home, or work at home as a mother? It’s funny, even, when you talk with people about what they do, they ask, what do you do? Do you work or stay at home? As if that’s not considered work. Since when does taking care of a child not entail work?? It’s one of the most intensive jobs that I know! Like many jobs, it takes a toll on your whole person, which includes your emotions. Never have I felt like I worked so hard as compared to being a mom! Except this work comes without a lot of reward in the beginning. For repayment for all of your long hours, the return on your investment is a lack of sleep, some crying, poopy diapers (oh so much poop!), and of course smiles and laughs once babies begin those. To me, it’s not worse or better than a “traditional” job, it’s just all about perspective. I consider it a privilege to stay home with my son, but that doesn’t mean that I have to like every second of it. I would rather have worked on establishing my career before having kids so that I could do more than general administrative work, which although respectable, is something that I’ve already done a lot of. I want to do more, but for what I really want to do, I need more education. Someday soon, I will be able to do that, but in the meantime I have to be patient.
Anyway, I digress. Given my qualifications and experiences, then, finding a job situation with some flexibility in hours that would pay enough to justify daycare had proven itself a challenge. I looked at hundreds upon hundreds of jobs, and applied to plenty of them. Some of them perhaps would have feasibly worked with our situation, but long commutes proved to be a challenge as well as the cost of daycare. Add to that, the fact that our little Joel would not take a bottle, sippy cup, etc, so I certainly needed to stay with him. I decided that for the immediate future that I needed to find another solution, something else that would occupy my time while still mostly being at home with Joel. However, I still desperately wanted to do more than be at home by myself with Joel every day, without anything else that stimulates my mind and attention. I know that caring for your children at home looks different for each parent, so I needed to find a healthy balance for our family, and just for me as a person.
We as parents are pressured to parent our children a certain way, whether that would be staying home with them, or working and taking them to daycare. What about those who don’t have a choice? What about the single parent who works two jobs and takes care of her kids? Or what about the dad who chooses to stay home because he’d rather do that while his wife works outside the home? Each and every situation is different. The conclusion that I have come to is: there is no right way. There is the way that works with for your family, your career (in/outside the home), and with yourself. If your kids are loved and thriving, who could argue that there is one way to do this thing called parenting? If you are a driven person who needs to practice medicine or work as a software developer all day and that gives you the balance you need to be a better parent to your kids, well then why would you be home? Conversely, if you’re sitting in your corner office with at a successful firm, but you truly desire to spend more time with your kids, spend more time with them if you can. Now, I realize that most people do not have the luxury to choose. Be it finances or a lack of support in terms of childcare, many families have parents who must have both working to make ends meet. I guess my point is whether you have a choice or not, if you stay home or not, if you truly love your kids, you are doing what is best for them. They will still know you love them!
That said, I decided to make some small changes in my life to help me be a more balanced individual. Along with having a healthy diet and making time to exercise (both of which I find important for my physical andmental well-being), I also decided to embark on a work-from-home situation with a sales job that allows me to work as much (or as little) as I like in an industry that interests me. This gives me the flexibility to work in the evenings, during nap time, or when I have some help from my husband with our LO. In addition, I recently began a part-time nanny position and I’m able to take Joel along! It’s really a fortunate situation. I look at it like a play-date where I get to play with and care for two amazingly adorable little boys, have a change of scenery, and also some flexibility of hours. And, Joel is much happier when he’s not at the same place every day. I find that he’s less fussy, more occupied because he has a friend to play with, and he also has different toys with which to play. I’m honestly a better mom given these things. I love my son so much, and these things help me succeed in spending my days with him. It’s a win-win situation!!
So, why do I bother doing all of this? This is just my personality. If you haven’t guessed, I’m Type-A. I am an active do-er, checklist person, one who is driven (sometimes to an unhealthy degree), and is definitely somewhat of a perfectionist. I’m one of those people who can look like she has it “all together” on the outside, but really, I’m deeply flawed like anyone else. I have a hard time relaxing sometimes, can overwork myself, or expect things in life to fit into categories that I can control. Well, life isn’t like that. I know that the way I’m wired can be considered both positive and negative. For me, the struggle was to find a way to spend more time with my son, use my ambition, get out of the house more often, and find an outlet/career to challenge me personally. This is just what helps me be a whole, more balanced person.
|I love seeing this cute face everyday!|
I have many friends, though, who are happy spending most of their time playing with their children at home full time. They take delight in working and creating activities for their children and they just enjoy play. This is hard for me. Playing doesn’t come easily, and I really don’t love it; I have to work at it. I personally have to go out a lot with Joel and find things for us to do outside of the house.
|Joel gearing up for our early morning run (aka nap time for Joel!)|
Trips to the library for story hour, walks, shopping, open gyms, and baby swim class are some of our favorite things to do. I know of other parent-friends who work part and full time but then decide that they are going to focus on cooking and feeding their family organic foods, craft with their children, or even keep a clean house. I quickly learned that while some of these are practical for me to try to do, I just cannot do them all well all the time. When talking to other moms on the subject of parenting and working, I received some genuine wisdom:
You can’t do everything well. You have to find out what works for you!
Simple. Truthful. I think I can abide by that….in not being perfect and in not doing everything. I can only do so much and be only me and no one else. This the way that I’ve been made and I should embrace that!
I’m curious: how have you as a parent found balance in your life? Are you working outside or inside the home (and staying at home full time with your kids is still work!)? What are your priorities as a parent?