“Stay at home?”
After our first child was born, my husband wanted me to stay home with our daughter instead of going back to work. I thought he was crazy! I had a great job that I loved and we lucked into the perfect child care situation with a friend who was staying home with her daughter and looking for a couple of friends to be companions for her. Fifteen years and two more kids later, and I couldn’t imagine being back in an office full time.
Whether you are a stay at home mom or dad, I applaud you.
We all have different “seasons” of our lives and my life goals are certainly completely different as I head into my 40’s than they were at 25. However, it took me quite awhile – probably a full two years – to get used to actually being a “stay at home” mom. Somehow, with all of the empowerment and enlightenment of the 21st century, with all of the glass ceilings that have been broken and all of the typical stereotypes shattered, on the flip side we’ve attached a stigma to any woman who wants to take on a more traditional role in her family. Whether this stigma came from outside of myself (which I would argue it did to some extent) or I had it in my mind, it was very hard for me to overcome, mentally. Part of this was also the fact that I stumbled into being that stay at home, full-time mom in a transition period between other activities for me, the addition of a third kiddo in our house, and a new job for my husband, all at once.
When our second child was born, I maintained a fairly successful consulting business and a clothing sales consulting business, worked from home and somehow still traveled with my husband and juggled all the things. With that in mind, I also know that I was a zombie the entire first year of his life. For baby #3, I took a break from consulting, still kept up with the clothing business for awhile and continued to have a busy travel schedule. Then one day, I decided it was all too much and something had to give. So, I gave up my fun, my extra girl time – I decided to pass the torch after nearly seven years of being a consultant for a fashion label I still truly love.
And I had more time for just being a mom. I am the primary parent most of the time. I have to be the one who is there to answer calls from school to pick up sick kids. I try to make it to all of my kids’ various activities, sports events, and be there for the everyday milestones. Truly, being a mom is the best job in the world. I still like to work, and I have found new and creative ways to keep myself busy mentally – outside of the structure and restrictions of a 9-5 (or 8-6, or 7-7) job.
I recently read an article highlighting the fact that many women are choosing alternative work schedules, and taking less pay than their spouses, in order to be the primary parent. I would argue that while we do that, we are truly not giving anything up that we miss. I have no wish to work 80-hour weeks in order to make the salary I think I deserve. I have no illusions about returning to the traditional workforce and making a six-figure salary. I don’t miss that. My husband does work 80-100 hours a week. Every week. We try to get him home for as many major events and kids’ sports activities as we can and we do what we can to make sure he doesn’t miss too many of those important things. But there are busy times of the year for him, and he can’t always be everywhere at once. I need to be there for the kids as much as possible. And while I struggled with the idea of being a stay at home mom, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
I would also argue that the stay at home role doesn’t have to be taken on by the mom – dads are more and more doing it too! And props to them! In the world of parenting, it is a constant juggling act and I truly believe it is a two person job, if at all possible. In a two-parent home and in a balanced partnership, each of us takes on the roles of parenting and we trade off being the everyday decision-maker as life changes. I support my husband now just as he supported me earlier in our careers. At one time, he was the primary parent, working at home when I worked in an office full time. Now, I have to be the one at home.
I have friends who have confided in me that the biggest thing they miss when they take on this role is having their own income. I agree. It’s a big change. Even with a supportive spouse who covers most all of the major bills, there are always things I want to just go out and buy and I don’t want him questioning every purchase. I have friends whose spouses literally watch the bank account throughout the day and question their spending. Mine doesn’t, but I don’t want him getting an early clue about birthday or Father’s Day presents, either. So, I still work and have my own spending money. And I feel better that way.
There are always tradeoffs when we make major life changes. I have been very lucky in my bosses in the past, and I love my boss now (me 😊). I am fairly good at time management and try to give myself goals and milestones to reach. And I’m flexible – some goals become a monthly goal instead of weekly. Or weekly instead of daily. Life happens and I have to roll with it. We all do!
I definitely don’t think that every person is capable of working from home, or working for themselves. We are not all entrepreneurs. But if you have the option of some flexibility in your work and the ability to stay home with your kids in some way, those are going to be days and years that you treasure. Your kids are only young for a short time, and it goes by fast. I say this knowing I still wouldn’t have changed my decision to go back to work after our first child. We were young, I loved my job, and honestly we lived in an expensive city and needed two incomes. I still managed to modify my schedule and be home on Fridays…sometimes working from home and sometimes being off completely. Flexible work schedules are more common than you may think – and it never hurts to ask what your options might be!
Getting back to the topic of the day, I love being home with my children. They are loud, they sometimes play nicely and sometimes they fight. They are busy. And they are most of all, worth it! Whatever I have given up, I don’t miss days driving to an office and sitting in a chair for the sake of being counted as there (very much how I felt in my last office job), even when I could do the actual work from anywhere. My happy medium is to embrace the role of the “Stay at home (working) mom” and be here for my kids, every day. As hard as the transition was, I wouldn’t change it for the world.