how to stay at home

by humanmama on May 8, 2014

This is a good one from a while ago, and by a while ago I mean I have now been a “Stay-at-home” and, at the most, have worked outside of the home only part-time for almost eight years. That is terrifying, and wonderful, to me (both–at the same time). I never thought I’d be a working mom, but then when it came down to it, I never thought I’d be a stay-at-home mom for so long, either. It turns out you just keep doing what works, and tweak it as you see fit. How are ya’ll doing with the work/parenting thing? Tweaking? (Different from Twerking, you know). We’re all in this together–remember that.

Happy May!

~hm

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I get a lot of feedback a couple of days ago when I wrote about how when I feel angry, or stifled, or tired and overwhelmed, it is really my body telling me one thing:

Go BACK to WORK.

So, I thought I’d put it out there to get your thoughts and feelings about working outside vs. inside the home. I have been home for …let’s see, about 6-and-a-half years. I was going to stay home with my kids, really I was, but then as I got more and more pregnant I found I just couldn’t tell them, my bosses, I won’t be back. Instead I thought about two incomes, and how tired I was, and daycare, and going back to work. But I worked in research, and grants money was running out, so when layoffs came it was the perfect opportunity to just stay at home. I went back to work for three days between maternity leave and unemployment.

What I didn’t realize was that even though my entire life I had been thinking “When I have kids I will be a stay-at-home mom, of course,” when the going got tough, this toughie realized that I was not fulfilled staying at home.

Gulp. There, I said it. And here’s an even bigger shocker. Maybe you think that since I have stayed off for so long, I have learned to love staying at home. But I haven’t. It’s mind-numbing, It’s hard as hell. There are a ton of perks, don’t get me wrong, like not having to take off work if the kids are sick, or knowing most every detail about their lives. And loving them up close each day! But it almost seems (and after these six years I do feel like I’m kind of an expert so I’m gonna just put it out there), it almost seems like it might not be healthy for moms to stay at home.

Cue hailstorm of anger and judgement. Nah, not from you readers. You are the best. But there are haters out there who are gonna hate, and that’s okay. It is so, so hard to trust when you have children that anything you are doing is right thing, sowork” vs. “home” is just yet another arena filled with parental guilt. Actually, let me reword that. It seems like its not healthy for me to stay home. At least, not exclusively. I have had a few part-time jobs here and there, and it greatly eases the load on my psyche, just letting dad put the kids to bed a couple of nights a week here and there. Giving my resume a workout. Earning some money. And last but not least, spending time with people who actually listen to me. And not just when I’m counting to 3.

For now, its working for us. When I looked into daycare for three children, I realized I’d have to make a helluva lot of money in order for it to be worth leaving my kids now. It’s just so expensive. But for me, part time work is really where it’s at, at least for the time being. And I must have other outlets (blogging, friends, etc.) in order to ensure the kids don’t come home to me curled up on the bathroom floor, weeping. But everyone is different. What do YOU do? What fulfills you? How are you coping with your choices–or are you? Luckily, this time is short. But it’s still long enough to make you crazy if you’re not happy.

They’re amazing. But they’re still a lot of work. So what’s the perfect balance?

 

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Christi December 4, 2012 at 10:06 pm

When I first decided to “stay home” (I love that term since I am so rarely home) I HATED it. I wanted to scream & cry. Well, I did, then started interviewing like a madwoman! I could go on and on, but let me get to your question, “what do you do & what fulfills you?” Answer: Work part time. If you find the right fit (and I did), it RULES. I have two part time jobs and I adore them both! What is critical is that both jobs realize you have children & give you flexibility. I tried other part time jobs & some sucked. Give one a try & go from there! The old saying, “If Mom isn’t happy, no one else in the house is either” is really, really true. Every person (man or woman) deserves sanity & fulfillment, my friend. (ps – every time I see Ben, I want to steal him. I love him and will watch him anytime!!! Lilly too :)

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aj December 4, 2012 at 11:51 pm

Yes!!! If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy….right? So true. Hmm….now I need another job…!

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hollyweasel December 4, 2012 at 10:21 pm

Aj –

First off, this post takes major balls to admit – so good for you. I see some of my friends being stay at home moms. Some love it, others are okay it – and I know I could NEVER do it. My job is my creation – my pride. I love my job and always have, and ya know what the best part of my job is? Coming home to Elise and Ellen. Right – very confusing. Before I had either of them, I was a workaholic. I still am, but less so – more in attitude than action. When I was single, and childless, I worked because I thought it was the end goal. I climbed the ladder (scratch that – I clawed up that effing ladder and have the claws to prove it), devoured everyone in my path – I beat out at least ten people and when I got bored, left the company and moved to a better position. I tripled my income in six years. Work was my life. And then this amazing woman came along and then even later the best kid – and all of a sudden, work takes on a different meaning – work is not the end game, but a means to an end. I want Elise to be proud of her mom, I want to teach her one day how to navigate business politics and stand on her own two feet – proving everyone else wrong. I want to take her on that first business trip and show her how hard I worked all these years to give her a good life, and I want to provide all the fun stuff like vacations and trips, and eventually I want to buy a business that she can inherit from me and her mommy. But staying at home and being a mom? This is an impossible job for me – and for most people who have the drive and desires you have to create something more – something to show the kids that they can be proud of. I applaud you in your efforts and I hope you find that perfect part-time position you are looking for – and if I can help in anyway please let me know. Everyone deserves to have fulfillment with a career. Even someone at Starbucks is constantly learning something new about people, work life, hell even coffee. It’s difficult to have two parents working – Ellen and I have issues with schedules and making everything work but it somehow does. I know you and Carpenter will too.

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aj December 4, 2012 at 11:53 pm

Thanks Holl!! You are truly an inspiration. And Carp loved meeting you, since I talk so much about you. Tell Ellen she’s really lucky. And yeah, maybe you can think of good things for me to do…!

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hollyweasel December 5, 2012 at 10:21 pm

Thank you AJ – but really I am the lucky one – getting Ellen to move in, and have my kid – that was a good sale. :) It was great meeting Carp too – he is lucky too. :) I would say the sky is the limit as to what you would like to do. Of course, I am partial to sales – it’s scary at times, and difficult other times – but you never worry about finding a job. There is ALWAYS something to sell. If you were ever open to it, I would try your hand at a few sales gigs. I say a few because there is a lot of crap out there and it’s hard to sort out the good stuff from it- but sales also has a wonderful way of being flexible for high performers. Even as a full time employee, I have an insane amount of freedom and flexibility. If you find anything that interests you email or FB me the profile of the job and I’ll tell you if its crap. If you aren’t in to sales, pick whatever you love the best, and do that. Push until you find a career that fits you. This might mean taking a job for 2-5 months while still looking…but its worth it. You will find the perfect job and you will do great at it. Ya know that saying “if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life”? Its 90% true.

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hollyweasel December 5, 2012 at 10:22 pm

Rep firms are a good place to start here too – even as an Admin (or sales assistant) you learn enough to BS your way to the next step. Google “manufacturers representative” for your city and you will find lots.

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Allison December 5, 2012 at 9:26 am

So, I’ve been at home and I’ve freelanced/worked from home and now I am working fulltime. I’ve learned two things: extremes aren’t good for me and how I choose to structure my day/life and my family’s day/life is so deeply personal that I can’t adhere to someone else’s expectations.

When freelance work dried up and I was 100 percent at home, it wasn’t good FOR ME. I started to treat Henry and Clara like they were projects to be managed, rather than kids to be loved. I knew I was in trouble when I — a former journalist for a national newswire — and a friend — a former chemist — got in a tense fight over the quality of playdate snacks. Not good.

The sweet spot — again, FOR ME — was when I freelanced. I felt like I was engaged with the kids, I contributed to the household and the household budget and I had an intellectual/creative outlet. I felt like I was on a journey, rather than “and then I had kids and stayed at home and waited to be a grandma. The end.” Again, this is just how I felt.

For economic reasons, I had to go back to work fulltime and to an INTENSE job. My husband then became the flex parent and stayed home on some days. This sucked, in my humble opinion. I felt like I wanted to be a competitor and move up the chain at work, so I would work late and put in time on the weekends. That would lead me to feel like I was a shitty mom. So I would sneak out early and come in late once in a while and that would make me feel like a slacker. It was like I was doing everything half-assed. And the stress of being the primary wage earner!! Oh my gosh. I felt like I needed to give my dad a hug because I never appreciated the stress he faced. As a freelancer, if I thought a client was annoying, I would just stop working with them. As the fulltime worker bee, I couldn’t tell my boss to shove it.

While I’m still the primary wage earner, I am now at a job that lets me go in super early so I can leave early. They let me work from home. I have to acknowledge every day that I am a people pleaser and derive a lot of self worth from being seen as a superstar hard worker. But I can’t stay late. I can’t work on the weekends. I would be cheating my kids.

So. What’s the moral of this story? Balance. If I had it my way, I would think of life as a journey and say to myself “right now, I’m a working mom of young children who is trying to give what I can to my kids. This is a phase, like being a college student. When the kids are in high school, maybe I’ll be at home. Maybe I’ll be a workaholic. Who knows.”

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Allison December 5, 2012 at 12:42 pm

Love your posts AJ!

I went back to work full-time when Noah was 5 months old, so I’ve never known anything else. I think, as previous posters have gotten at, that it is best to be true to yourself and what fulfills you. It was hard going back when Noah was a baby, but very quickly it became our routine and we’ve never looked back. I’m confident that I made the best choice for me and Keith and Noah. I’m not a natural or knowledgeable “kid person” – I am probably a better parent since I’m not with him all day, and while I have much to teach and share with him, I’m also glad that I’m not his teacher. And I like what he is learning in daycare, particularly as an only child, about sharing and socializing.

Then, there is the effect that me staying home would have had on my career and finances. If I left me job I would never get one like it again, and I wouldn’t have been promoted. I’m very aware that Noah will one day go to college and move-out (hopefully!), and I’ll have many years of my career left. While he is the love of my life, I still want and need to have my own life and aspirations, and I want him to have his own. And, with only one child, it also made financial sense for me to work (if I had more though, it probably wouldn’t have).

Then there is my relationship with Keith, which I believe could have suffered if I had stayed home. We both work in similar fields, so we really enjoy talking about work and advising each other. Then, since we work similar schedules, we’re both home at the same time and share the responsibilities. It can be hectic some nights and stressful when we’re both in a really busy period at work, but overall I’d describe our relationship as balanced, and I like that.

In an ideal world, I’d love to work 4 days a week instead of 5, or 30 hours/week instead of 40. But, that isn’t really an option at the moment, so if my choice is full-time or no time, then I choose full-time.

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aj December 5, 2012 at 1:05 pm

Great response, Allison. And yes, like you said, you have to do what works for you and your family. It seems like you have a great balance over there!

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Christi December 6, 2012 at 8:58 am

Another thing that popped in my head (after I read Part 2) is that it most certainly DOES take a village to raise a child (children). Our families live thousands of miles away (on both sides) so we have no family to lean on for daycare/help. I moved to Pittsburgh in ’07 and didn’t know a soul. Long story short, I became friends with a woman who lives close to me. She introduced me to her good friend who lives not too far. Then we got to know another woman who lives nearby. The four of us have become great friends! We always swap daycare and lend a shoulder to lean on, cry on, whatever. That circle of friends can be one of the most important components in your life! It all started from a Mom’s meetup group, too, so there are always avenues and opportunities to meet new people. Just gotta put yourself out there. It has been KEY to keeping my shit together!

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Allison December 6, 2012 at 9:14 am

I so agree! The best (BEST!) decision I made when I had my son was to join a new mom’s group offered by the hospital. We became a great circle of friends, and now four years later our “babies” are friends. While we had some family in NC, we had few true friends until I joined that group and it has made all the difference.

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dad December 12, 2012 at 12:26 pm

I know someone who could help with resume…

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