To the mom who never planned to stay at home…I see you.
To the mom who wanted to be a mom, but wanted her career too…I see you.
To the mom who wakes up, changes diapers, brushes hair into pigtails, but wonders how long until nap time…I see you.
My husband and I dated for four years. Then we had a one year engagement so we had lots of time to talk about the future. One evening, as we were cautiously discussing the idea of marriage and kids, he said, “Well, I’d like my wife to stay home with the kids, at least for a while, because that’s what my mom did.” I nearly spit out my drink. I was working full-time and in school full-time pursuing my master’s degree and had no intentions of staying home with kids.
Sure, I wanted kids. Probably. I worked with teenagers every day, but little ones seemed a bit sweeter.
But did I want to stay home?
My mom stayed home with my sister and I for several years until my parents’ divorce forced her back into the workplace. She went from being a stay at home mom to a licensed insurance agent who owned a small business. As a twenty-something who was hustling day and night, I admired that story. I just always figured I would do some sort of combination of childcare or work from home or maybe part-time work when baby time came.
When we had our first child, I had transitioned to an ideal job for our family. I was working mostly from home except on the weekends and occasional evenings. My hours were flexible and less than full-time. That worked great for us because we were able to use my husband’s health insurance. We had a sitter once a week so that I could have meetings, run errands, or sometimes just enjoy the luxury of lunch alone at Panera.
To the mom who loves her kids, but also wants a break…I see you.
To the mom who feels fulfilled at work, but guilty being away…I see you.
To the mom who feels like she lost herself …I see you.
Not long after I found out I was pregnant with baby #2, we learned my husband’s job was moving him three hours west. We were unpacking our new house as I was entering my third trimester. My job prospects were dismal, especially considering I’d have to take maternity leave not long after orientation. Plus I’d have to find daycare for a three year old and a newborn, which seemed like my paycheck would just barely cover.
So we made the decision…
I would be a stay at home mom.
I kept telling myself it was temporary. That I’d go back to work soon. I picked up some volunteer time creating social media graphics for a non-profit. I started blogging a bit on the side. But if I was honest, the SAHM life felt…suffocating. And I felt like I was the only one struggling to breathe. (And like most things, the pandemic of 2020 made it all worse)
Then, the test turned positive, it seemed, before I was finished peeing on it. Baby #3 (let’s call her the “bonus” baby) would arrive in a few months. My hopes of returning to work were gone.
To the mom who feels like she’s drowning in diapers…I see you.
To the mom who wonders if she doesn’t love her kids enough…I see you.
To the mom who feels like she doesn’t have any dreams left…I see you.
I felt like I was drowning. And sometimes, I still do.
I still have a preschooler, a toddler, and a baby due in a matter of days. I still don’t have a paycheck, business card, or a title other than “Stay At Home Mom”. I wish I could tell you I had some sort of magical transformation or life-changing epiphany and now I love my SAHM life.
What I can tell you is this…
I remember feeling stuck at work too.
I remember struggling under a deadline, tired of a project, wearied by a coworker, bullied by a boss. I haven’t forgotten how it felt to think “if I can just get to this next project” or “if I can just make it to next month,” life will be good again.
The reality is, whether I go back to work or not, whether I have obedient preschoolers or rude teenagers, whether my career path looks like a rocket to the moon or a toddler scribble…the challenge is finding contentment in every circumstance. Motherhood in the age of social media requires us to remember that the grass really isn’t greener on the other side. My friends that work outside the home tell me how exhausted they are and how they worry about missing big moments in their children’s lives.
I also try to remind myself that for however many projects completed, events coordinated, or curriculum taught during my working years, my greatest life’s work will be raising these three girls to change the world for good.