It wasn't so long ago, that I was a working woman. I started working full time right after college and all throughout my first two pregnancies. I've worked in management for a Fortune 500 company, in finance as an account manager, and in early childhood education as a preschool assistant teacher. I've dabbled in quite a bit and needless to say, my resume reflects the rich diversity of my experiences. And then came the diagnoses and the delays, the behavioral concerns and the developmental challenges. Therapy was diagnosed by the hours, and suddenly my working outlook looked bleak. How on earth, with two small children and a husband serving as an Active Duty soldier manage a full-time gig while getting the kids to their needed services and finish my Master's degree? We were stationed in the middle of the Pacific and didn't have the family support that most in this circumstance are blessed to receive. Most of my friends were mothers to young children as well, so they weren't always readily available to be a consistent caregiver so that I could continue my career. And with that, I decided to stay home full-time, focus on finishing my MBA, and get my kids to and from therapy all on my own. I couldn't really count on my husband to be there all the time, as any military spouse will tell you.
The transition to being a stay-at-home mom was not an easy one. I thought it would be. What's so difficult about staying at home with your kids? I had all these ideas about what I could do and all the adventures we'd have together. I looked forward to meeting more moms around the neighborhood, making play dates so that our littles could play together while we casually talked about the craziness of our lives. This was not the case. I quickly realized that I had somewhat lost my identity as a stay at home mom. I had come from a background wherein I worked full-time, my parents and theirs before them had careers. I had a college degree and was working on my Masters. I started to watch others who had gone to school with me fulfill goals of attaining gainful employment, buy homes, get married. It was hard. I suddenly didn't know who I was, and I grew weary of constantly being at the beck and call of little voices 24/7. I learned very quickly that there was no lunch break, there was no 15 minute break, there were no potty breaks. There was no sick leave or paid time off. I couldn't call out for any reason, and there was no pay! For all the cooking, and cleaning, and care taking, and driving, and tutoring, and scheduling, and advocating... for all of it, there was no pay. Being a stay at home mom just wasn't for me. And it still isn't.
So who is the stay at home mom or wife? Allow me to clear up some misconceptions.
- We didn't choose this life. But the life chose us. For whatever reason, we have made the decision to stay at home with our children. Maybe it's financial, or maybe it's because of a need our child(ren) has(have). Maybe we married into the military and because of the consistent traveling, finding meaningful work has proved to be a difficult task. Or maybe our spouse is old-fashioned, preferring to be the only breadwinner of the family. Just know, it's not always the life it has been glorified to be.
- Or maybe we did. Some of us relish in the opportunity to stay home with our children. Kids grow up so fast and it's amazing to be there for every single part of it. Being a mother is something that has been so fulfilling and rewarding, and we couldn't imagine our lives without our little ones close by. We are more traditional maybe, or perhaps, we've chosen to home school our children. Whatever the case, being the parent at home is a blessing we cherish each day.
- We are not lazy people with no skills. As a stay at home mom, we do everything there is to do to keep the home afloat. We often parent on our own as our spouse works during the day. There is no sick leave, there are no breaks. It's just us with the kids, every. single. day. Our days often start before the sun is up and most nights, we are the last ones to lay our heads on our pillows, not to mention the nights wherein we are up multiple times a night. We're responsible for making the family meals, getting the kids to and from school and other extracurricular activities, making and keeping appointments, cleaning and organizing the home, and ensuring the laundry is somewhat manageable. We are busy women; there are people who have to hire other people to do the things we do on a daily basis, for free. Think about that the next time you wonder what we do all day.
- We are educated! Not all of us are young women who married their high school sweetheart right out of high school and started popping out babies right away. Many of us have advanced degrees with years of professional experience. And although it has been a blessing to be able to stay at home, we miss the days where we used to get up with somewhere to be. We missed getting dressed up for the day. We miss the sense of completion and purpose that working used to give us. Our children give us meaning and purpose too, but we know all too well that there is something else out there, that women are meant for more than just bearing and taking care of our young.
- We get so lonely. It can be hard to stay at home all day with children, some of whom might not even be talking yet. It can get lonely, especially when there are limited opportunities for social interaction based on where we live. We feel isolated from others who might have jobs, or even other moms. Feelings of inadequacy, frustration, or depression are common problems, especially as we struggle to find a balance between being a human woman, and being a mother. The two should not always co-exist and that can be difficult when you are around your children 24/7.
- We are more than just moms. Our identities have not faded away because we gave birth. We had our name before the babies, and we'll have our names after. We have drive and ambition, goals and mad skills. While it might not be a typical resume bullet point, we've acquired a lot in our time at home that would rival any management or executive position. We've done it all, and don't get anywhere near the credit we deserve. We are the unsung heroes, the heartbeat of our families lives. And regardless of what methods we use, or what we believe in, we have, are, and will always, be just enough for our kids.
So there you have it. Stay at home moms will always be judged; more often by ourselves than by others. But whether this station is more permanent or simply a waiting room until our lifestyle changes, staying at home full-time is an important decision, one that is not ever made lightly and will no doubt mold our own perception of what motherhood is and can be.