The moment a woman becomes a mother, it changes her entire life, for the better in many cases, but it also brings a whole new meaning to the word sacrifice. Many women choose to give up their careers to stay home with their children (which I commend them for, being a stay at home mother is a full time job in and of itself!), and other women choose to continue working (which I also commend, because this too, is exhausting)! Being a mother myself, I have been on both sides of the fence. I spent four years as a working mom, and have spent a total of seven months as a stay at home mom; and boy have I learned A LOT from this experience. I have two children, a girl who is almost five and a boy who is almost two.
I worked full-time throughout both of my pregnancies, and took two months of maternity leave each time I had given birth. I went back to work after maternity leave, the first time extremely saddened, because I didn’t want to leave my first baby behind, and the second time ready to get back to work for some adult interaction. For me, it wasn’t a choice to go back to work, but more of a necessity. My husband worked full time, as did I, and I felt that two incomes were something needed in order to maintain and support a family during this day and age without ‘just making it by’. I had also never given any thought to how much exactly it took to raise a child. I didn’t think that I would need to give up my job ‘just to be a mom’. The thought never crossed my mind. At the end of my military contract, I made the difficult decision of taking a breather from work and focusing on my children. After all, the first few years are the sweetest, best years of a child’s life, and that is time that you can never get back. I completely loved my job, but I was gone quite a bit and spent a lot of hours at work. Sometimes I felt as though I only got to see my children in the morning for a couple hours and then at night for a couple hours before having to put them to bed. I was sad, and I envied the stay at home mother, wishing that I could wake up and be with my precious babies every waking hour of the day. I wanted to do crafts and projects with them, play with them, cuddle with them, and watch them grow. Be there to kiss their boo-boos all the time, and see them experience their very firsts in life. The grass always appears to be greener from the other side of the fence. I had come to realize that it was time to place my career on the back burner for a while, because financially we were in the position where I could spend most of my time with our kids.
Fast forward to being a stay at home mother. The days aren’t all butterflies, rainbows, arts and crafts, or games. The days seem to last forever, yet never seem to have enough time in them to get everything done that needs to be. There is constant chaos. Constantly someone doing something they aren’t supposed to be doing, constantly someone getting into things that they shouldn’t, or constant arguing between siblings over toys, food, etc., and the constant making of messes, everything is constant and never stops. Child rearing is hard folks, it’s not as easy as it looks. This is a true fact. Everything is about scheduling and timing, and getting out the door just to go the grocery store for some milk becomes a mission and a half. But as us moms/dads know, you can only schedule so much when it comes to children, because at the end of the day, things happen on their time. Our schedule essentially revolves around their schedule. Our lives, especially as stay at home moms, revolve around their lives. There are so many amazing things about being a stay at home mother that I love, BUT good God, I didn’t expect it to be so hard. Adult interaction is RARE. You find yourself feeling and being completely alone in what you do, especially if you don’t have friends who are stay at home mothers. It’s not about sitting on your ass all day eating ‘bon bons’ as I have heard some people say. It’s a THANKLESS, 24/7 on call job that requires all of your attention and time all of the time, unless the kids are asleep. What I have learned from going from a working mother, to a stay at home mother is this: being a stay at home mother isn’t a position to envy. It is grueling work, and those who look down on it, clearly have never done it themselves and have not a clue of how much patience, time and energy goes into it! What’s even more frustrating is the number of people/friends I have in my life who thought and still probably think that I don’t do anything all day. I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked “When are you going to get a ‘real job’ again?” “When are you going to come back to the ‘real world’ and work?” “What have you been up to? Why don’t you have a job yet?” The thoughts I have going through my mind at that point is: “If only you knew what I do all day… do you really think it’s that easy?” Then I have to remember that at one time, I too, didn’t understand the work that truly went into raising children on a full-time basis.
As a working mother, I felt exhausted all time, I felt even though I worked and then had the weekends off, or would get ‘off’ work, I was never really ‘off’ because I still had to clock into job number two, my employers being my children. Having a long day at work and then having to come home to household chores and children who required a ton of attention, drained me. I felt like there was never enough time to get anything done at home because I spent the majority of my time at work. To top it off, I missed my babies throughout the day, and felt like they didn’t get the time that they deserved and needed from me. I’m sure my working moms can relate to what I’m writing. It’s a struggle to balance it all, and sometimes one or the other suffers, work, or your children but usually it has to be the child(ren) because you must provide financially for your family. I get it, I have been there.
However, after being a stay at home mother, I felt not only exhausted, but like the walking dead. I felt not only that I never had a day off, but literally never had a moment to myself to think. I couldn’t just take a lunch break, or a break to just think, or talk with other adults. I couldn’t use the bathroom alone most of the time without being called upon, or walked in on. I didn’t miss my kids anymore, and was thankful for every moment spent with them, however, I missed myself. I missed those moments of peace which only exist now when little eyes are closed. I missed those mornings of getting up super early and exhausted, while rushing around to get myself and two kids ready and out the door on time to drop them off before grabbing my coffee and heading to work. I miss the exhale of sitting at my desk for that brief moment before the work day started. Having moments to myself. Does that make me a bad and selfish person? Bad, maybe not. Selfish, yes, maybe a little. But just because I am a mother now, it shouldn’t mean that I can’t have selfish thoughts.
Let me say that this post isn’t about me complaining about my new life as a stay at home mother, but it’s a post about how even the most dedicated working mom can be humbled by such an experience. I love that I have been given the opportunity to be with my children for these precious moments… because it truly was something I had longed for for a very long time, and I know that many women who are single mothers wish that they could do the same, but can’t because they must work to support their children. The point of this post is to give my perspective on a ‘hot topic’ that I have often seen debated by a lot of mothers. My whole point is this. Neither job is easy, being a stay at home mother, or being a working mother. Working mothers must sacrifice time with your precious little ones that you can never get back, stay at home mothers sacrifice their dreams, goals and careers to raise their children. Both roles are hard within their own right. As mothers and as women we should respect each others roles. Not put one or the other down.
What I have learned through this experience is that, I, myself, prefer being a working mother. I’m sure I will get flak for it, but it’s me being honest. While I have been so blessed to have this time to be with my children, I still desire to pursue a career. I will cherish everyday with them and take full advantage of being able to get to stay at home, but I patiently await the day I can place some of my focus back onto my goals, to also provide more financial stability for my children. We all have our preferences, some of us prefer to be at home, and some choose to work. I commend all mothers who are loving and taking care of their children, regardless if they stay at home or don’t. Because at the end of the day, motherhood is what we all have in common, and motherhood, while extremely amazing and rewarding is hard. I think we can all agree on that. 🙂