Tag Archives: career women

The Stay-at-Home Work-at-Home Mom Dilemma

1 Mar

My husband likes to say he married me with the intention that I would make the money.  Shortly after we announced our engagement I made the decision to attend graduate school, and the images of having a steady job went out the window.  Being that I was driven in college, he figured I’d be a working wife, and someday a working mom, which pretty much is what happened.  Until which point I had two children.  Up at 5:00, out the door by 6:00 to get to work by 7:00 to leave at 4:00 to get the kids at 5:00, and heaven forbid if some was sick.  That was a major problem.  By the time my children were 2 and 4 I was exhausted and literally falling asleep standing up.  One day I said, “I want to quit” and I did.  We had no idea at that point how we would financially handle the loss of my income but I hoped we would figure it out as went along.

Being a stay at mom was no easy job though.  The allure of enjoying my house, baking, taking the kids for walks on sunny days quickly became two-year-old tantrums, constant messes being created, meltdowns in Target, and dinner sitting cold on the table when my husband was late from work.  I’d find myself talking his ear off as I craved the an adult conversation.  Barney, as it turns out, can only hold your attention so long.  The days were long, and somehow looking back, I remember then with nostalgia.  I know that in those moments there were times when I basically wanted to jump of a bridge some days.  “Please”, I’d tell my husband at the end of the day, “make him stop talking”.  My little one talks incessantly. “Mommy, mommy, mommy”, all day long.  I’ve since been told the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.  I’m not sure that’s really a compliment, but likely true.  Our children reflect us in many ways, and sometimes it’s like looking through the mirror and seeing yourself first thing in the morning.  You jump back in shock, that can’t possibly be me.  But it is.

I hold the many years I stayed home with my children very dear to my heart, something I personally wouldn’t change; however, when I initially quit I knew there would come a time when I’d go back to work, if for nothing else than financial reasons.  After all, my husband aims to retire at 75 at this rate.  I remind him he doesn’t like to be bored so why retire.  He’s not really buying it.  So when the time came last year for me to pursue a career, I jumped on it.  I think I surprised some people, but it’s something that I’d been thinking on for some time, and once I make a decision, I just do it.

The return to the work force has been a difficult one.  Not because I don’t enjoy it, but because I now sit on the stay-at-home, work-at-home mom fence.  It’s kind of feels like barbed wire some days.  Having been home for so long, my kids have expectations of me.  To carpool, sit and do homework with them, volunteer at school, play games, and fix dinner.  With the introduction of working, things balance differently.  However, not having childcare before or after school, or breaks for that matter (note to self, one week till spring break) means many of the parenting duties still rest on my shoulders.  Fortunately, my husband is a big help in this, but it’s forced me to truly examine and digest societies interpretations, and because I care deeply what about what people think (knowing that please refrain from sending me any hate mail if you don’t like my blogs), this matters to me.

The bottom line, I really do feel like women are expected to be super people.  There are a million amazing dads I know, trust me, but there is the feeling among working moms, myself now included in that mix, that despite the fact that we are legitimately trying to work, whether it be for financial reasons or personal reasons, we are still expected to take care of things at home.  People notice when I am not around.  I don’t think people do as much with my husband.  The welfare of everyone  feels like it rest on my shoulders, so I frantically fly around the house getting things done so that everyone is happy, and when I pass off some of those duties, I feel judged at times.  Part of me thinks, all things considered, why exactly am I trying to work at all?  Obviously money is a factor in that, because it does cost to live and my family has a unique way of running up medical bills…I have three specialists on my speed dial, need I say more!  More importantly though, I want to be an example. I want my children to see a mother who doesn’t give up on her dreams.  Who works hard at finding her passion.  I want my husband to have a wife that feels fulfilled.  I want him eventually to be able to take a step back after building his career and let me build mine.  That’s was always the deal, after all.  I want more, it’s time now.  Maybe things will change eventually and I’ll decide to take more time off, or maybe God willing if I can ever pull in enough money my husband will have that opportunity. Who knows?

For now though, my decision has been a stark reminder that women wear many hats.  In this day and age, we work, and we parent, and we often do it at the same time.  My husband came home the other night to find me carefully examining the screen doors.  He looked down, “wow, how did all that build-up get in there, no wonder nothing opens and shuts lately”.  I looked at him with a smile, and gently said, “Remember all those stay-at-home mom days?  Remember when I said if I try to work something will have to give”. To which he replied “yes”.  “Well, this is what I used to do all day…clean door frames, scrub finger prints marks off the walls, soak dirty clothing, clean garbage disposal, power wash the house, vacuum up crumbs, dust the patio furniture, organize the refrigerator, and the list goes on”.   Our house is a bit of a wreck lately, but we are getting by.

You can’t be everything to everyone all the time, but you can be someone important to some people some of the time, remember that you know what is best for you and your family.   The best moms are those who work hard day in and day out to achieve some sort of balance.  That’s the goal.  Balance provides perspective, it’s the leveling force in life.  When things are out of alignment you struggle.  With that, I’m off to start the day. Two hours of work done and it’s still dark out, off to get the kids up for school and the day begins.  Right now, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Want some fun reading on the decisions smart women make about whether to stop working after children, check out Meg Wolitzer’s novel The Ten Year Nap, and excellent read!

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