I remember someone asking me about a year ago if I wanted to be a stay at home mom, and I blurted NO! practically before she even finished the question. I remember thinking, “If I was in a therapist’s office right now, they’d be all over that.”
And now, a year later, I’m seriously considering leaving my job to be a stay at home mom. That’s right, a SAHM. Or, as Dooce famously coined, a shit ass ho motherf*#$#@.
So why the 180? Why now? My children are newly 3 and almost 2—didn’t I already miss the boat? Shouldn’t I have done this when I was nursing? Or when my sweet baby boys were curled up infants? Or even last summer when I had a complete nervous breakdown from trying to juggle it all on three consecutive years of no sleep?
Why now, when I’m back on my feet, doing work I’m excited about and proud of, and content with the groove of four-day-a-week childcare we’ve set up?
If only I had a shitty boss
This would be an easier decision to make if I had a job that required 80 hour weeks, frequent travel, a killer commute, crappy coworkers and a wretched boss.
But I own my own company. My office is five minutes away. I never travel, unless it’s a 32-minute long train ride to NYC, I love the people in our office, and, well, I’m the boss. (She’s pretty cool.)
It’s not about escaping something. It’s about having more.
I just can’t shake the feeling that I’m missing out on too much of my children’s early childhoods. Right now, they go to “school” (daycare) three days a week and are home with a fantastic, energetic babysitter the fourth day.
I have dinner with them and tuck them in to bed six nights a week. I’m home on Fridays and dedicate my entire weekend to family time. But it just doesn’t feel like enough.
I think I could do a better job at being a stay at home mom than before. I’m not perfect, but I’m no longer that sleep-deprived, overwhelmed, moments from a nervous breakdown mom I was when I had two back-to-back infants.
As a preschooler and toddler, my children no longer require the kind of constant physical care as infants. They are engaged, interested, and interesting. They understand the concept that if they do x again, they won’t have Buzz Lightyear for an entire week. They are HUNGRY, starving it seems, for information about the world. And I wonder if anyone can give that to them as well as I can.
Also, after three years of being nothing but a daddy’s boy, my just-turned-three-year-old has started proclaiming his love for me. He asks me to sit with him. He asks me to play with him. He asks to go in my “bewwy,” where he puts his head under my shirt, kisses my stomach, and stages his rebirth, at which point he either pops out of my shirt with a huge ta-da (“I’m here!!!”) or pretends I’ve given birth to a roaring monster.
And he asks me to stay home.
While I may have missed the boat by not staying home when they were babies, I don’t want to look back ten years from now and regret not taking this time now, before they get into elementary school and never have this opportunity again.
I don’t want to look back and mourn not having them as close as possible during the years they wanted me the most.
Why is this so terrifying?
I’m going to guess most career moms could relate to the fear I feel at throwing in the towel at work. And I can’t say that I’ll go cold turkey. I’ll pare back to working 3 days a week for awhile, see how that feels for all of us (including our budget) and go from there.
Good or bad, the mentality of still having my hand in the game gives me a life raft to keep all the ego fears that rise up at the thought of being “just” a mom at bay. Because, according to the ego, if I’m “just” a mom, I’m “opting-out.” “Wasting” my hard-earned experience. Getting demoted to the slow track. Joining the yoga pants crowd, becoming a “mommy blogger,” and being the person people turn their back to at cocktail parties.
Who are you kidding, ego? I’m already there!
I have a secret to tell you
When you work part-time, you’re not doing a great job at work, and you’re not doing a great job at home, either. It might seem like the perfect solution, and it very may well be what I end up doing long-term, but I cannot say that during the past three years I’ve felt like a standout student in either category.
You can’t claim either lifestyle fully. You’re not exactly a working mom, and you’re not exactly a stay at home mom, either. On my days off, I go to mom/baby yoga and feel like a chameleon among all the stay at home moms. At work, I am “peers” with the hard-core mommies who travel several times a month and have live-in help.
If I could have the luxury of focusing on either or, my theory goes, imagine what I can accomplish.
And thus begins my romanticizing of the stay at home mother:
“I’ll read up on Montessori and turn the playroom into our own private preschool!”
“Stay at home my a@@. We’ll be out exploring the world—they have so much to see!”
“Dinner dishes will be washed before we even have dinner, and I’ll have hours at night to write!”
“I’ll be so much less stressed that I’ll have time for my husband again!”
“I’ll finish that novel I started in my MFA program!!”
“I’ll make one of those ‘home management notebooks,’ shine my sink every night, and have this place running like well-oiled, stay at home, good ship mommy pop.”
Stay at home moms, feel free to set me straight.
And also: When do you go to the dentist? When do you get your hair done? Should I join the gym just to get a couple hours of gym babysitting? How do you feel at the end of the day? How do you feel overall?
To be continued…
I’ll write more from both sides of the fence later, along with some great resources I’ve found for anyone interested in making a similar change.
But for now, this is where I’m at. All I keep thinking is, “When do I get to start my new (mommy) job??”