I never imagined I would become a Stay at Home Mom (SAHM), nor did I let myself envision being one until a little before a month before it actually happened. In fact, those close to me know that I even questioned how others around me could “just stay home?” “Don’t they want to help their husbands provide? What about all those years of education? Children need the socialization!” Those are all things I have regrettably said or thought about the idea of being a SAHM. How is it then that this came to be? A choice. A choice to keep the status quo versus trying something else–in my case stay home to care for our children. The status quo was quite the appealing option. I had what had once been my dream job working from home four days a week. I was making a living wage in the Bay Area while still having the ability to save for retirement and our family’s future. I supposedly “had it all”–a great job with some flexibility while maximizing time with my children.
“…it came down to happiness, freedom and faith.”
Then why did I leave it all behind in favor of no job and no security? This is a difficult question to answer, but so far I feel it came down to happiness, freedom and faith. Happiness for myself and my family, the freedom to structure my life and that of my family the way we envisioned and faith that everything would be okay and that God would provide. I was no longer happy in what was once my dream job and as a result, I was unable to enjoy the time when I was actually with my family. In addition, family time was fleeting and resent was building. My husband who is an entrepreneur and small business owner ended up shouldering the brunt of the childcare along with the majority of the drop-offs and pick-ups when we did have childcare. Even with an amazing daycare provider along with my parents in town, the time it took to pack, load up and drop off two children daily took quite a bit of time. At least 30 minutes per a trip. Multiple that times twice a day, five days/week and that’s five hours/week ((30 min x 2x/day) x 5 days/week) = 5 hours/week). This may seem insignificant, but when you are running a business those hours add up. Not to mention the days we did not have childcare or when we were scheduled to, but then something happened and suddenly we were left scrambling. Given my job did not afford flexible time off or flexible hours, once again it was my husband taking this on. This resulted in him having to make up the time elsewhere which usually meant late into the night, early mornings and on weekends. I found myself feeling as though I was working full-time and being a mom without any support every bedtime and every weekend. Of course I was grateful to be able to be with my children during this time, however, the drain from the work week was making it to feel like quite the burden and less of a joy. Something had to give…
“I was concerned if I could really hack it as a SAHM…”
During these days I would often think to myself–this is what being a SAHM would be like right? Surely if I didn’t already have a 40+ hour work week under my belt it wouldn’t feel so hard would it? I was concerned if I could really hack it as a SAHM to be completely honest. From the time I had already spent alone all day with two children I had a sense of just how hard it could be. During my second maternity leave we increased the number of days per a week our oldest was in daycare simply because it was “too hard” to take care of more than one child most days of the week (long-time SAHMs have permission to eye-roll here…even I have a little trouble writing that statement). So what had changed? I can’t be entirely sure, but I do know that six months after going back to work, my daughter turned three and began part-time preschool. I took the morning off to be able to drop her off and pick her up. She would then spend the rest of the day at my mom’s. Suddenly while dropping her off I felt a wave of sadness that I would not be the one to take her to preschool or pick her up on a routine basis. I would of course try, after all I worked from home. Surely I could still drop her off and pick her up right? Well, anyone who has worked from home with an inflexible job where you are expected to be available at a moment’s notices understands that is not always feasible. Also, when you are pushing those boundaries you are under a constant state of stress wondering if someone is looking for you. I tried, but it was not something I could do routinely and whenever I did, it resulted in me longing for the freedom to be the one who could take her and pick her up from preschool every time. There was also the day I found myself needing a mental health day and I called in sick. I soon found myself along with the kids spontaneously at a new park we had always driven by on our way home from daycare. Only difference was today we were stopping! I thought to myself, “Wow this is amazing—a park with only one other mom and her toddler. What fun!” I even had some nice chit-chat with the mom, but once we realized that we could probably never see each other again we failed to exchange our info. I was just there on a fluke after all. She worked part-time and this was her day-to-day. (Paige’s mom, if you are reading this hit me up! :)). I soon realized that the freedom of being able to make your own schedule as a SAHM was becoming quite appealing. I could go to the park whenever I wanted, attend meetups and playdates I always saw posted but could never escape work to go to. I could go to the zoo on a weekday when it wouldn’t be so busy. The options could be endless I thought.
However, there was one small catch that did not allow my mind to even think that being a SAHM would be the life for me–my job in addition to contributing significantly to our annual income also carried the healthcare for our entire family. I would never consider going without healthcare for myself or my family. Then my husband surprised me. It was a Friday night and I had just put the kids down for bed at a reasonable hour. We found ourselves in the garage (aka mancave) enjoying an adult beverage. He said, “I’ve been thinking about it and I think we can afford for you to stay home.” My heart leapt out of my chest and I said, “Really!?!”. I think that by this time I had been subconsciously thinking a lot about the happiness and freedom I could have without being trapped in the 40 hour work week and then feeling like a single mom nights and weekends. “What about our healthcare?” I remember asking. My husband said he would take care of it. That night I researched being a SAHM endlessly. I found lots of great articles here and here about how it could actually save your family money. This mom also had a really practical set of guidelines that I had thought about, but seeing her ask the tough questions was helpful. We had already done the math for our family that very night, but seeing how others had made it work truly validated the decision for me. It was all I could do to not shout from the rooftops “I’m going to be a SAHM!”.
Fast forward a month since I left my job and I’m the happiest I have been in a long time. Of course there have been some trade-offs. The dream house in our favorite neighborhood is off the table for now. I have been dreaming of a bigger house for a long time now…in fact I had just gotten my husband to agree we needed to move when he dropped the offer I could not refuse (quit my job!). The middle of the night shopping sprees that I can’t remember are no longer occurring (okay maybe just once…) and spending without thought is not the norm. Not that I have ever been frivolous in my spending–far from it, but now I find myself being very careful even when it comes to which yogurt to buy and where.
“…it had been my dream job all along…”
Despite not being able to buy my favorite yogurt, what I have gained cannot be undersold. The Sunday blues are gone. The resentment towards my partner for not spending “enough time” as a family or as a couple is fading. My husband still works A LOT, but my attitude on the matter has completely shifted. After all, he is the sole provider now and that is his job. The home and the children are my job. Please know he still does a lot with the children, I am truly blessed in that regard. Also, I do some work helping out with his businesses, but our roles have more definition now and I find comfort in that. When I was still working, I had more resentment because when I was doing bedtime by myself again I would often think, “Well I work all day too… when do I get a break!?”. It was really starting to wear on us as a couple. Now, even though I have been with the kids all day and bedtime solo is still hard, I know that my partner appreciates what I am doing and I feel confident in my job and that this is what I get to do now. Notice the shift? I actually enjoy putting my children to bed! I feel like I have been hit by a train when the day is done, but I’m loving it (most days ;)). I realize by coming to the SAHM job a little late in the game–to a one year old and a 3 year old–I have a newfound appreciation for what I am gaining. I see my children in a new way. I appreciate the little things more like watching my son perfect his pincher grasp at lunch and noticing the look of delight on his face when he is eating. Sounds simple, but I wasn’t looking at him with that kind of appreciation before. Or seeing how my daughter very artfully lines up all of her dolls and feeds them, changes them and then puts them to bed. I had enjoyed her doing this in passing, but now I notice more of the nuances of her skills and look at her in awe. I have known that yes, raising children truly is the hardest job there is, but I have since learned that it has been my dream job all along, I just didn’t know it yet. I’m grateful I have the opportunity to take this job now!