Stay at Home or go to Work? The struggle.

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!

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14 thoughts on “Stay at Home or go to Work? The struggle.

  1. Totally with you on this- happy you went for the job and have your feist back 😉 the hardest thing for me so far was not feeling like me…it didn’t feel right to try and do anything that was not me. Ugh, and I know what you mean about all the house stuff being overwhelming…I’ve had sooo much time to do chore type things and our house is a wreck…all I do is clean and it’s never done. I’m going back to work in 2 weeks- it’ll be interesting to see how I end up feeling. I thought I wanted to be a SAHM, but I’m not entirely sure now. I respect ALL moms at this point as well- nothing is easy!!!!
    Happy Teaching!

    • Thank you! Raylan starts daycare this Monday and I’m so stinking sad. But, we’ll just rip this band aid off, and go from there. I’m ready to go back to work. Who is watching Elliot when you head back?

      • I found a “nanny” who will watch him from her house, it was the most “affordable” option for us and we really felt good about her..she has a son who is 3 days older than Elliot so if he stays with her for the long run it’ll be as if he’s growing up with a twin 🙂 we’ll see how things go- money wise nothing works- working plus child care and staying home, we come up short…trusting God will make a way. Is day care expensive in your neck of the woods? Were you in the South?

      • AHHHHHHHHHHHH, that’s awesome. I really like his daycare at the moment, but if we ever decide to try something else, it would have to be a nanny, I think. The wait lists around here are INSANE. But, his daycare was much more affordable than I thought it was going to be! At least the one he is at now. It was a $50 holding fee and it’s $105/week.

        I am absolutely with you on trusting God. That’s all we can do. Financially speaking, two incomes makes for a much more comfortable existence (it seems like there is a new bill everyday). As each day passes, I feel better about my decision, so I know I made the right choice.

        We’re stationed in Shreveport, Louisiana!

      • $105 a week is awesome! The cheapest here is around $50/day. So we are looking at $200 for 4 days and my mom watching him one day. My husband just had an interview for a new job so if that all pans out we’ll kinda be able to afford it. 😉

  2. Thanks for such an honest post, I loved reading it. I’m struggling with the exact same thing right now – I thought I wanted to try out the SAHM thing, and even though I am loving it right now, I keep getting the nagging feeling in my gut that this just isn’t me. Have much soul searching to do but love that we’re all going thru the same things together!

    • That’s exactly how I felt! I loved taking care of my buddy, but I kept feeling like staying at home wasn’t quite what I was supposed to be doing.

      It really does make me feel a billion times better knowing that others feel the same way! I love love love my blogging family ❤ Y'all are the best!

  3. I think this is something that all women who have had careers before having a baby grapple with

    I did my 4 year Commerce degree plus a 2 year postgraduate degree and was in the middle of my Masters when I fell pregnant.

    I’ve been working in Finance for over 10 years and I thought I would want to be back at work quick fast but its been 10 weeks with bub now and it was really tough to begin with but I’m loving it now and I can’t even think about going back to work even though I know eventually I will but its funny how bub has changed my mind from focusing on my career only to now focusing on my new little family

    Each mum whatever decision is made, does what is best for their situation and as said, I respect both working mum as well as SAHM

    • I am so glad you are able to stay home with your baby and that you are enjoying it so much! I think I was kind of the opposite. When I decided to stay home, I thought I would love it. I was so disappointed in myself when I realized that I needed a little more. I felt like I had failed as a mother. But…I’m realizing now that my success as a mother depends on me doing what’s best and right for my family, and I really feel that I am doing that!

      I hope when I return to work that I will be able to find the appropriate balance between all the facets of my life. 🙂 I think that’s all any of us can do!

  4. This is probably the best ‘article’ I’ve read concerning the battle to stay at home or to go to work. I mostly plan to be a stay at home mom once my baby is born, although my husband I need a small, additional income. So I teach piano part-time from home (about two days a week), and my mom or husband will watch the baby during those hours. So I guess I get the best of both worlds, as my work-load will be light (but will still give me a feel of having a small career). That being said, I love how honest you were and how you didn’t judge either type of mom. I hate it when I hear stay at home moms bashing working moms as much as I hate it when working women put down women who stay home with their babies. I think that in the end, we have to do what is best for us and our families. (Family should always come first, but that doesn’t mean a women still can’t work). Many women can’t afford to stay home… Or they do need to get out for awhile. In the end, no mom should be judged by her career or lack of a career. 🙂 Great post!

    • Thank you so much! I’m really happy that you read my little blog 🙂 It makes me feel like all these words mean something! They aren’t just going out into the internet to die or do whatever it is that unread words do.

      I love your plan for after the baby gets here! I applied to online schools in the hopes that I could do something similar – work from home and watch the baby – but I guess it wasn’t in the cards for me. I’m thankful for the opportunity I was given, though! Hopefully our babies will know that we worked hard for them and loved them more everyday!

      P.S. I’m rabid with jealousy that you play the piano so well. I dallied here and there, but I’m definitely no where near good enough to give lessons. Will you teach your little one?

      • I know exactly what you mean! 🙂 The ‘funny’ thing is that I went to college for journalism, but graduated just as the recession hit. So the newspapers in my neck of the woods were laying off journalists, rather than hiring them. I ended up with a job that was completely different than what I wanted to do… which encouraged me to blog, so that I was at least writing every day. The crazy thing is that blogging taught me two things! I learned that I’d much rather use a creative, writing voice than a to-the-fact journalistic one. And I also learned that you don’t have to get paid in order to make a difference with your writing. 🙂 Every day, bloggers inspire me, make me laugh, encourage me, and challenge me. So trust me, your words are not being sent out there to die. Even if your blog or my blog touches just one person, then what we wrote was worth it!!! 🙂

        And, yes, I definitely hope to teach my son piano someday, BUT I’m not sure if he will commit to it… or if he will just get the basic training. 😉 I really believe that piano is the instrument to learn first, even if it’s just for a year or two. But after that time, some kids will decide they love it and others will want to try an instrument they are passionate about (like guitar, drums, or trumpet). So I’ll definitely teach my little one the basics, but then I’ll probably let him chose his instrument after a bit. 🙂

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