As some of you know, I just got a full-time job and, starting next Wednesday, I’ll be officially handing in my resignation as a stay-at-home mom.
It’s definitely a bittersweet change, but I’m convinced it’s ultimately going to be a positive thing for our family.
Today, I wanted to talk about some of the reasons I’m making this change. Not because I want to make any kind of commentary about which is “better”—being a SAHM or a working mom—but because I thought you might be interested in hearing what went into the decision.
(Just promise me you’ll keep in mind that I’m talking only about our family, our experiences, and what we think will work best for us, mmmk?)
When I first decided to become a SAHM, it was a no-brainer. I wasn’t happy at my job and couldn’t fathom leaving my new baby with someone else to go and suffer at my desk all day. (Had I had a job I loved, things might have been very different.)
I was blessed to be able to stay home with Mason for 18 months. It was a luxury to be able to spend so much time with him as a baby, when he wouldn’t get much out of a daycare situation anyway, and of course it was so convenient for breastfeeding. I was also glad I could be home to focus on navigating through those difficult months when we first learned about his multiple severe food allergies.
Plus—let’s be honest—it was nice to be able to wear yoga pants all the time. (Not to mention avoid the hassle of winter commuting, run errands during the day, do laundry whenever the mood struck, start dinner at 4 PM, blog during naptime…)
But there were also some drawbacks, of course. There were many days—especially last winter—when I felt trapped in the house. I was desperate for adult interaction, but lazy about seeking it out (turns out, the challenges of scheduling around naptime are surprisingly debilitating—not that that’s a great excuse). The highlight of my days was the minute Brent walked in the door, and I had someone to talk to again. Every afternoon was just a big countdown to 5 PM.
And then there’s the financial strain. Living on a single income when you’re used to a double (and have purchased a house based on a double) isn’t easy. Doable, in many cases—including ours—but hard. Also, my not contributing to our bottom line was tough on my self esteem and stressful on our marriage.
In the beginning, I felt like it was all worth it. For me, the benefits of staying at home hugely outweighed the sacrifices. For babies, there’s just no one like Mom.
But once Mason entered toddlerhood, I wasn’t so sure that I was doing him a favor anymore. I felt guilty that he wasn’t getting a ton of interaction with other kids his age. I worried that I wasn’t “teaching” him enough, and felt guilty that I wasn’t super motivated to do all the fun, educational Pinterest activities it seemed like all the other stay-at-home-moms were doing. When he started missing developmental milestones, I couldn’t help blaming myself. He struggled with travel and sleeping away from home, and I associated that with the fact that he hadn’t been exposed to many environments other than his own home. Plus, I started to worry that he was as bored as I was, locked in the same house with the same toys all day everyday.
All these things made daycare start to sound not only doable, but possibly even beneficial.
(P.S. I know that all of that guilt will be replaced with other guilt when Mason’s in daycare. Life as a mom, right?)
So, here are some of the things I’m hoping we might gain from this change…
–More interaction with other kids his age and more opportunities to work on social skills. For example, he’s never really had to share before.
–More opportunities for learning and a greater variety of day-to-day experiences. For one thing, daycares aren’t afraid to make messes I’d be super reluctant to bother with at home. And they have more possibilities with group activities.
–More encouragement to communicate. Mason’s not really talking, but I wonder how much of that is because he doesn’t have to at home. I anticipate his needs immediately, to a fault. At daycare, they won’t necessarily know what he wants all the time, so he’s going to have to start expressing himself.
–Peer pressure to try new foods. I’ve heard from several different people that their kids are super open to foods at daycare that they won’t touch at home.
–Caretakers who are 100% focused on interacting with/stimulating the kids. Mason won’t be getting dragged around on boring errands or taken on the same super long, silent walks all the time. (They were awesome when he was a baby, but now that he’s an impatient toddler, not so much.)
–New toys, a new outdoor space, new activities.
–The usual suspects: adult interaction. Use of my education and skills. Being a part of something outside of my home life. Self esteem and accomplishment. (I wish I could say I didn’t feel embarrassed telling people I was a SAHM after they asked what I did for a living, but I always did, at least a little.)
–An escape from the house during the long winter months. (Although I know there will be plenty of times I’ll be longing for the days of yoga pants and staying in. A bridge I’ll have to cross…)
–Time with Mason that’s even more special. I know it’s a cliché thing for working parents to say, but it really is true. I know I’m not treasuring every second with Mason the same way I would if I wasn’t with him every second of the day.
–More variety and lower likelihood of going stir crazy. There are only so many times I can watch Mase run up and down the driveway and read the same books to him over and over and over before I start having those “is this my life?” moments.
–Focusing on my strengths. I’ve learned some things about myself as a mom over the past 18 months. I know that there are ways to make stay-at-home life less repetitive and lonely—play groups, library/children’s museum activities, etc.—but for whatever reason, organizing kid-related activities to fill the days just doesn’t excite or fulfill me the way I thought it would.
–This is a super selfish reason, but it will be nice to have another caretaker to compare notes with. I’ve found the single most stressful thing about parenting to be all the decision-making. Everything is up to you, and you have no idea if you’re making the right choices. Having another person in the caretaking mix will hopefully take a teensy bit of the pressure off me.
–Less discomfort about spending money. Brent has been pretty good about this, but I could never really handle the guilt I’d feel about purchases (even with necessary ones like food, I’d stress myself out wondering if I missed a good coupon or chastising myself for picking up extras like cookies or snacks).
For our family:
–Less financial stress/more financial freedom. Obviously, we’ll now be paying hefty daycare bills too, so we’re not talking about sudden financial bliss. But it will definitely give us some breathing room we haven’t had for the past 18 months.
–More equal division of home/child responsibilities. We struggled with some of the typical stay-at-home mom vs. working dad stuff. When he got home, I wanted a break, but so did he. I felt like I should carry the load of most of the household duties, but was resentful about it. Now, I’m sure we’ll still be vying for “breaks” and trudging through chores, but at least we’ll both be coming from the exact same place.
In all honesty, part of the reason I wanted to write out this list was so that I’d be able to look back on all these things when I’m struggling through the first few weeks of transition. I know it’s going to be hard, and I’m probably going to question the crap out of the whole thing. But if I can just make it through to the other side, I don’t think I’ll regret it.
When it comes to the daycare thing, it’s helping me a lot to think about it as school rather than daycare. He’s going there to learn, play, and gain social skills, which is what school’s all about. We’re just sending him a little earlier.
Here’s to new beginnings! (Prayers welcome!)
Can anyone else out there speak to the SAHM to working mom transition?