Like many women today, I grew up with a working mom. Though my mom stayed home with me during my preschool years, my parents divorced when I was 5 and she had to enter the ranks of working, single moms. I grew up thinking that the idea of a stay-at-home-mom was a relic of yesteryear. Nobody did that anymore. Women are strong and self-sufficient and take care of themselves and their families. The media and pop culture burned the image of the woman who could “have it all” into my brain. The career, the family, the picket fence, and all the trappings…the new American dream.
It wasn’t until I had my daughter and returned to work that I started to realize that maybe this idea was crap. Whose brilliant idea was this anyway, that women should have it all? Don’t get me wrong, I think that women should be able to have whatever they want, so long as they are willing to put forth the effort to earn and maintain it. But all of the things…all at the same time?! Can I see a show of hands of working moms who are not stretched to their outermost limits?
I felt guilty, guilty, guilty all the time. Guilty about being away from my daughter, guilty that I couldn’t concentrate at work, guilty when I couldn’t contribute as much to the housework as my husband, who was staying at home at that time. I felt like I was spread too thin and I couldn’t give enough energy and focus to any one thing. I still feel that way most of the time. On the surface, it seems like I “have it all”, but most of the time I feel like I feel like I’m only barely keeping my head above water.
So, when does the camel’s back break? When does “having it all” turn into just existing, going through the motions, and not really enjoying any of it? When Michael started a new job in September the weight of it all really came down on me. He had to be out of town for 2 months for training and I was left to drag a crying child to daycare, work all day, drag a crying child home again and then the house work started. Dinner, bath, books, bed. Then wake up and do it all over again. and again. Weekends didn’t even provide a break because I would spend them cleaning, cooking, and preparing for the week ahead. I know, many of you do this every day, with multiple children, extracurricular activities, etc. Whether you do it out of necessity or choice, you struggle just as I do.
At the risk of sounding a little dramatic, I have to say that being in this situation really made me think about the meaning of it all. I started wondering what was the point of stressing myself out, stressing Evelyn out, so that I could work to afford to send her away to have someone else take care of her all day. I prayed so long for this child and I wanted to be with her all the time. Before she was born, I never even considered being a stay at home mom. It was never a possibility that crossed my mind. We would never afford it. I wouldn’t feel like an equal partner if I couldn’t contribute financially to our family. But when Michael unexpectedly became a stay at home parent when Evelyn was only 2 months old, I started to think about it being me instead. I wanted what he had.
I began to plan it in my mind. I had no idea if it would ever happen, but but I daydreamed about it. We talked about it and hoped that when Michael finished his Master’s studies, he would find a job that would allow me to stay at home. Since this was something I had never considered before, we had not planned for it, but we started to take little steps to make it happen. We used our tax return to pay off my car. We switched our phone service. We ditched cable. We factored in the hundreds we will save on child care, gas, and wear and tear on my car. At first, I wanted to wait until we had another baby. I figured I would go on maternity leave and not return to work. But, after almost a year of trying to conceive and two chemical pregnancies, it occurred to me that I could wait for another baby that might never arrive, and miss this time with Evelyn….or I could just pick a date and go for it.
So, I am happy/terrified to announce that I resigned my position at work and will be a full-time, stay at home mom, starting in July. I have no illusions about the fact that it is going to be hard, but I feel it’s what’s right for this season of my life, for my child, and for my family. I’ve had time to be young and crazy, travel, get an education, work, build connections in my community, and now it’s time for something new. I think it’s nearly impossible to have everything all at once and really be able to appreciate it, but maybe, over a lifetime, we really can have it all.