I always thought I’d want to be a stay at home Mom. This is simply my thoughts & experience. It isn’t intended to lift up or put down any group or type of moms. As careful as I think I was writing this, I’m sure someone will still feel insulted or offended. If you are, please know that was not intended. When I stayed at home with my daughter, I loved having the time to take her for walks, play outside and do things with her, but I always felt something was missing.
My husband never made me feel inferior for not bringing in a paycheck (I was the sole breadwinner early in our marriage, and it was my savings that helped us buy our first house.) Even so, it was odd not to be earning money, particularly since things were tight without my income. I’ve always been very independent and don’t like relying on anyone or asking for help.
When you’re a stay at home mom, there are no performance reviews, no raises or promotions (unless you count baby #2 ha!) Some women’s husbands are loving and affectionate & make sure their wife feels valued & appreciated, but not every man is like that. I didn’t have any adult interaction, though eventually I did have a few playdates where I was able to chat with another mom. (I tried a playgroup – not my thing. That’s another post.) Life as a stay at home mom is not what some people think; I sure wasn’t eating bon-bons and watching soaps. The days can seem never-ending at times.
I live in Maryland, one of the dark red states above where daycare costs more than college tuition, so when my daughter was around two I started to look for jobs that would allow me to work opposite my husband’s schedule. Ideally I wanted something part time also, but no dice. The most promising one fell through when they said I’d have to work for a year before I could request the shift I wanted, and even then, it wasn’t guaranteed. It was even less than I was making when I left my last job, and between daycare, gas, taxes and so forth, I’d be paying to work for that year, in hopes that I could switch to a schedule opposite my husband’s. No thanks.
I started this blog as I switched to cloth diapers. The blog somewhat filled the void for me since it felt useful & productive (I hoped to help other people make the switch), though I of course always felt guilty for spending any time on it. The blog and my associations within the industry and with local (non-cloth) businesses has led to my working from home in earnest. In addition to my affiliate (I earn money when you shop through my affiliate links) & ad income (which is usually enough to pay all the expenses, sometimes with a little left over) I work part time on a consultant basis. I do a little bit of everything, from social media, to product development and testing, affiliate management, retailer outreach & wholesale account management, blogger outreach & more.
Though I’m not rolling in dough, adding my income to what I’m not spending on daycare for 3 kids means I’m earning more than I would be if I were working full time. Not only is this my dream job, where I work with great people (and essentially get to choose who I work with), but I work from home and have my children here. I can get my daughter to school, go to doctor’s appointments, attend school events, and just enjoy a beautiful day with my kids.
Of course, that means I’m up early and working late, squeezing work in when I can (like now when my daughter is at school, my little guy is napping and my middle is playing on the couch beside me – I should be working but I’m writing this.) It means that I’m “that Mom” who is typing a quick email while pushing my kids on the swing at the park. (Though rare, someone always seems to glare at me in the 30 seconds I may do that after being at the park for an hour.) It means that I can’t really take a “day off” without a lot of planning, and it means that I have to balance work with attending to my kids, doing dishes, laundry, vacuuming, grocery shopping, paying the bills and everything else all moms have to do. Plus, my house is wrecked multiple times per day. 😉
Tax time is always a little sad since my piddly income is taxed at my husband’s rate, but it feels good to see those numbers and know that I’ve earned it. I still have a hard time since my income is a fraction of my husband’s, and I feel like I need to do everything perfectly, always. I try to make sure the house is swept & vacuumed, counters are wiped, dishes are done, laundry is put away etc. when my husband comes home, and I often struggle with wrapping work things up while helping my daughter with her homework and trying to get dinner on the table. My husband will occasionally help by taking the kids out for an hour or two, and I always have a mental priority list of things I want to do in that time that I can’t easily do with the kids here. Do I clean the bathrooms first? Mop? Sit down & knock out some work?
I also sometimes feel like the odd man out since I don’t identify 100% with either stay-at-home-moms or working moms, and I’m not sure if anyone takes my job seriously as a “real job” since I don’t have a specific job title or an employer. Sometimes I want to carry a copy of my schedule C to show them “see, it’s a real job!” 😉 Just kidding.
I love my job and feel like it’s the perfect arrangement for me. When my kids are older, I’ll be able to prioritize my time differently so I can work more when they’re at school and less when they’re at home (or late at night!) With a job like mine, I’ll always have to be available and ready to attend to urgent issues, but it fits my personality so well.
I’ve finally been able to shake a little bit of the guilt I felt for so many years that I wasn’t 100% fulfilled with being a stay at home mom. What was wrong with me? There are so many people that would love to be a SAHM. Why wasn’t I thrilled? There are plenty of people just like me who didn’t have expendable income or babysitters or breaks and didn’t feel like something was missing, so why did I feel that way? Instead of feeling guilty and wishing I could be one of those perky, Pinterest crafting, bento lunch making, thrilled to be a stay at home mom moms, I am being happy that I’m happy! Though I certainly wouldn’t mind being a stay at home mom with a part time nanny and a handsome bank account. Just sayin’.
While I think that being “just a mom” (ha, as if) is wonderful, I think it’s OK if mama wants to work, or get a babysitter so she can get a break, or attend a book club, or volunteer, or enjoy her hobby.
Like most of you, I’m pretty tired of the “mommy wars.” I think that some people are better suited for different things and might find one situation easier or harder than another for them. In an ideal world, every mom could choose the situation that suited her best, with no judgement or financial concerns. If she wanted to work part time, she would find the perfect job and affordable, quality childcare. If she wanted an extended maternity leave, she’d get one with no worries about money or losing her job. Every mom would get help and breaks. Wanna live in my dream world with me?