The Decision to Work Inside or Outside the Home
Disclaimer: Before you read any further, I need you to know one thing. I respect and admire you whether you are a working mom, a stay at home mom, or a somewhere-in-between mom. Different situations work best for different moms, babies, and families. Maybe they’re the “right” situation or simply the “right now” situation, but you’re doing what’s best for you and your family and I respect and admire you for that! I just needed you to know that before you read anything else.
I had been a special education teacher for 8 years. While there were many things I enjoyed about my job, I had been slowly burning out since year 5. Due with my first baby in January, I planned to take 12 weeks off and then return on April 3rd for the remainder of the school year. What happened after the summer was still up in the air. Would I return to my job or stay home with my baby, Owen? Since my principal and coworkers had been incredibly supportive throughout my employment, pregnancy, and leave, I felt I owed it to them to let them know my plans as soon as possible.
“You know you can do both, right? It’s not the 1950s.”
“Would your husband let you stay home?”
“Is your husband going to make you stay home?”
“Will you guys be ok, ya know, financially?”
And, my personal favorite, “What will you DO all day?!?!”
This is just a sampling of the things I heard from people when I mentioned the possibility of staying home. Staying home. Being a stay at home mom. SAHM. It almost feels like a dirty word. Like me and the baby will become recluses together under the dining room table. As someone who would win the gold medal if Self Doubt was an Olympic sport, the quotes above were constantly gnawing at me as I struggled to make this major and impactful decision.
No. It’s not the 1950s. I know I can do both. I promise I am not trying to set the feminist movement back 70 years. But isn’t the wonderful thing about the progress that women have made that we can choose to continue our careers while being mothers? I was capable of being a working mother. But at what cost? I felt like I was giving 50% at a job that required 150%. Getting paperwork in just in time. Flying by the seat of my pants with meetings and lesson plans. Postpartum hormones plus flying by the seat of my pants plus a new baby was equaling a lovely little anxiety cocktail. I’d get home after picking up Owen from daycare and just want to snuggle him until we all went to sleep. And I basically did. There was no patience, time, or snuggles remaining for my husband or pets.
Which brings me to the next quotes: “Your husband’s ok with that?!?” and “Is your husband making you do this?” Although people don’t seem to offer this information up voluntarily, having a kid certainly doesn’t make marriage easier. But my husband, Kyle, had been very clear on something since we found out I was pregnant. When it came to me working vs. not working, he just wanted me to be happy and would fully support my decision. He’s awesome. This doesn’t mean it was all sunflowers and unicorns. I worried (and often still do) that Kyle would be working hard to make the money, and I would just be spending it. We certainly had several discussions about the fact that my very worthwhile expensive master’s degree in special education was not going to be “used”. We had many discussions about the irony of it not being “used” while we were still in the process of paying student loans. This is part of why “Will you guys be ok financially?” always made me wince.
Would we be ok financially with one salary? Understanding “grown up” finances is NOT my strong suit. Kyle made me all sorts of charts and graphs comparing our budget with me continuing to work full time, with me working part time, with me picking up some tutoring gigs, or with me not bringing in an income. We are incredibly fortunate, because we would be ok, but we would have to make some changes. No more saying, “I’m too lazy to cook. Let’s just get take out”. No more going to Target to buy trash bags and leaving with $250 worth of clothing, home decor, and random crap from the dollar section. We are very lucky to have parents that have places at the beach, but beyond that we probably wouldn’t be taking any vacations. Was I being selfish in wanting to stay home? It was starting to sink in that this wasn’t just a choice that impacted me. It would impact my husband and child as well. And isn’t a big part of being a mom putting the needs of your family before your own? Eek!
And what WOULD we do all day? I imagined snuggling with Owen as I exposed him to the best shows Bravo! had to offer while we enjoyed wine and cheese…not realistic. I imagined the early days of maternity leave…no sleep, sore nipples, no thanks! I imagined the later days of maternity leave…definitely less sleeplessness and nipple soreness, but the days were numbered and therefore it felt like a vacation. Staying home full time meant taking care of the baby, the pets, and the house and household management as well. It seemed like there would be PLENTY to do. I’d been warned by other stay at home moms about becoming isolated, which scared me. Kyle said, “Well why don’t you get back into the Fit4Mom classes you were doing when you were on leave?” Bingo! Social and physical benefits for me and Owen AND some structure in our day? Sold! And the whole “village” thing was starting to sound really appealing. I may need it even more now than I did when I was on leave. I wouldn’t have the usual social interactions with coworkers and students each day anymore.
There was so much that would change. My hours at work were 8:15 a.m. until 3:45 p.m. At home they would be all of the hours of the day! At work I had sick days and personal days, lunch breaks and planning periods. Haha. BAHAHAHAHA! Moms don’t get those! My boss at my job was a sharp, well-spoken, respected woman who wore pencil skirts and heels. My new “boss” cried whenever he wanted something and pooped himself on the regular.
But he also just started laughing the most wonderful belly laugh. He was learning to sit on his own. He was smiling at other kids. He was starting to enjoy playing with toys. He was experiencing things in the world around him with such wonderment and light in his eyes. And I had the opportunity to have a front row seat. Well, I took that opportunity and haven’t looked back since. I’ve never been more confident about a decision in my life.
** Abbe has been a FIT4MOM LSBWK NoVa member since February 2017.
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