I never saw myself as a “stay at home mom” type. My mom worked for most of our childhood and I considered it a badge of honor to have the ability to take care of a household and hold down a career at the same time. I’m going to very shamefully admit that I looked at stay at home moms as…I don’t know…too weak to work at the same time?
After my brief stint as a stay at home mom, however, my oh my how that tune has changed.
Let’s back up a bit, shall we?
I’m a high school English teacher. Last year, our district was making cuts and unfortunately, my position was not to stay. I cried and boohooed, fought, stamped my feet, and finally, after much debate, tried to accept my reality. I had a decision to make: find another teaching position in an overly saturated market or stay home with the baby for the next year. I had many factors to consider. What if my husband deploys? What if I get another job in another school and we are stationed elsewhere? Do I really want to be the new kid AGAIN? Can I leave my baby in daycare? What if I take a year off and then struggle to find employment again? Etc, etc, etc.
Can I just say that I do not think people who are 8 months pregnant should be required to make any kind of life altering decisions. I was too fat and emotional to see things clearly.
On one hand, I’m a teacher, in the same way that I’m a mom, a wife, and a friend. It is part of my genetic make-up.
On the other hand, I’m a MOTHER. Isn’t that supposed to be above all else?
In any case, my husband and I ultimately decided I would stay home. So, May 26th, I packed up my classroom, balled my eyes out while making the rounds and hugging folks, and settled into a year long of stay at home wife/mothering.
The month of June brought temperatures entirely too hot for a pregnant lady to withstand, so I spent the bulk of it on my couch, watching trashy tv and wishing my baby would come so I could meet him. This stay at home thing isn’t too bad, I thought to myself. In fact…I’m really liking it! My husband didn’t really have too many expectations of me in June as my stomach was bigger around than I was tall. I caught up on my reading, I lounged around with the dogs. It was GREAT. I received several calls from various schools requesting an interview, but I always let them roll to voicemail. I was a stay at home mom, now. No time to entertain my career. I wore an indention in the couch and waited. And slowly, but surely, I felt just a tiny little piece of me disappear. I wasn’t 100% ME anymore. I think at the time, I attributed that to being very pregnant and being stuck in a sort of limbo until the baby arrived. Looking back, though, I see that with each missed phone call, I lost myself, bit by bit.
Then the baby arrived. And I have never been so happy in my whole life. He was finally here. All thoughts of returning to work were out of my head with the coming of a 6lb bundle of baby.
The transition back home was easy and we settled into our new lives. The first few weeks, my husband stayed home. We shared baby responsibilities and mostly just spent our days staring at him in awe.
Then A went back to work.
The first week, I LOVED having my baby all to myself for those daytime hours. It was almost like being pregnant again. I didn’t have to share him with anybody.
But, I realized something. This whole stay at home mom thing? Yeah. Turns out they don’t just sit on their butts and goof off on pinterest. They work. There was always a bottle to wash, a butt to wipe, a dog to walk, clothes to wash, floors to vacuum, errands to run…and it was overwhelming. Not because the work was particularly hard, but because I was not mentally stimulated by any of it. I realized that stay at home moms have this amazing gift to hold down the fort while finding creative outlets to nourish their own minds and souls. And y’all, I couldn’t do it. I tried, but I couldn’t. I loved taking care of my baby, but all of the other stuff that came with staying at home was not rewarding, nor enriching for me in the slightest.
I grappled with my inner demons. Does wanting to go to work make me less of a mother? I love my baby more than anything on this planet, but I don’t know if I can stay home with him and maintain my sanity. Shouldn’t I be head over heels at the prospect of watching my sweet pea grow this first year? Many women are. Why am I not one of them? What is wrong with me?
It was a brutal introduction to mom guilt.
And just when all of these unvoiced fears and disappointments threatened to take me over, I received a call from my principal, offering me a job…and amazing job. I panicked. I cried. (Seriously, I never cried before I got pregnant, but now…don’t drop your hat around me, I will soon be hysterical!) Do I want this job? 24 hours ago I was resigned to staying at home. Do I really want that stress again? Being a teacher is a 24 hour commitment, and I already have a 24 hour commitment. Can I get daycare at this short notice? School was already in session. Do I even want to put my baby at daycare so young?
But then, while analyzing the situation within an inch of its life, I realized something. My little spark had come back. Sure, I was all dewy with baby love and mommy happiness, but my little brand of feisty was gone…and yet…was this it, this little glowing ember? My principal made a few calls and I made a few calls and within 24 hours we had secured Raylan a spot in daycare. He starts next week.
I’m so sad I can’t be with my baby. But I am so happy to be going back to work.
This has made me realize that it takes all kinds of people in the world to make it go round. And just because I can’t fit myself into a certain mold, doesn’t mean I am less than. Being a stay at home mom just wasn’t my mold.
I am a mom, first and foremost. But I am also an educator. I birthed one baby, but I teach a hundred more. My ability to educate is very important to me, as is my ability to mother. And I think I can have both.
For the stay at home moms out there, you’re amazing. I didn’t have the mental fortitude or emotional strength to do it and I am SO freaking impressed by those who do.
For the working moms out there, you’re amazing. I hope that our guilt is assuaged by the knowledge that even if we aren’t there all the time, we are doing our personal best for our babies.
Here’s hoping we all manage to keep our wits about us as we navigate this crazy thing called life, no matter where you fall in the mommy line-up.
And here’s to another school year!