“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.
|What I wish Joel did more of in the first 6
months (and what I wish I could have done more of too!)|
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 love
staying 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
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 and
mental 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
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?
Labels: balance, sahm, stay at home mom, work