Being a full-time, stay-at-home mom of small children is a lot like being the CEO of a corporation. But without anyone working under you and without receiving payment for your efforts. Kinda crazy when you think of it like that, huh?
I smile as I write this, but that feeling was sometimes true for me. Of course, there are different ways to frame our choices as mothers. Such as looking at stay-at-home-motherhood through the lens of sheer fulfillment that comes from spending quality time with your kids and teaching them the ways of life. For me, what I eventually realized after my second child was born was that I needed to create a lifestyle that filled in the gaps where I felt something was missing. Specifically, I needed someone to help me manage my kids and my household. And I needed to be earning some money myself.
My Role as a SAHM Didn’t Fulfill Parts of Me
When I was a full-time, stay-at-home mom, I felt like I was managing a small empire. I was in charge of my home, my marriage, and my babies. I handled the family activities, cleaning, bills, doctor’s appointments, meals, pre-school, my own health and interests, and so much more. I’m grateful to have a husband who helps a lot. But during the day, he works outside the home, and there were times when, as a mom-manager, I felt like I was drowning. My mother lives 3,000 miles away, and my mother-in-law works full-time herself. So I didn’t have much help in that arena. It wasn’t until I hired part-time help and returned to work as a writer that I became more satisfied with my life and the daily choices I was making.
In many ways, I think I had to go through that process of experiencing stay-at-home motherhood full on in order to decide I needed a different approach. When I was pregnant with my first child, I left a long-term executive position. I wanted to get out of the rat race and I craved a “return to the home.” I knew I wanted to be a full-time, stay-at-home mom. For me, it felt like an honor to become a mother, and I wanted to savor that experience. Once I got there, I really liked staying home full-time for a while. But when I had my second child, I realized it was hard to manage everything during the day, more or less on my own.
It Was Hard to Admit I Needed More
When people say “it takes a village to raise a child,” the phrase resonates with me. Historically, women used to lean on each other a lot to co-raise children. These days, mothers have become more and more isolated from one another and female relatives. So we have to take the initiative to reach out to other caregivers and friends to create networks of support as we run our households and raise our babies and children.
Hiring a nanny, joining a mom’s group, or meeting with other women in our communities are all ways to build a “village.” Once children start school or become involved in a place of worship, these supportive connections happen naturally, too.
Every woman is different, with unique gifts, needs, and personalities. For me, I realized that going back to work part-time fulfilled a part of me that was lying dormant for a couple of years. I have a strong introvert side and flourish as a person when I get time alone and in quiet. As a stay-at-home mom, I was always putting out energy. And I was not spending enough time receiving peace and quiet or using my contemplative brain. This was physically and mentally exhausting.
I also desired to use the part of my mind that requires intellectual thought and analysis and to express myself through my writing—something that brings me great pleasure. And I wanted to earn money for my family. I had gone to college and earned a Master’s Degree. The drive to make money or spend some of my time working intellectually was not something I could easily forget or move away from.
These three factors contributed largely to my decision to become a (part-time) working mom. To be clear, there are so many ways a mother can set up her schedule. I still consider myself to be a stay-at-home mom because I work from a home office, and I only work 12-15 hours per week. The rest of my hours are spent caring for my one-year-old and three-year-old.
My Happy Medium Came in the Form of a Job. And a Nanny.
Another reason why being a full-time, stay-at-home mom was harder for me than being a working mom: cleaning.
I am a person who loves clean and clear spaces and surfaces. Clutter can make me feel stress in my body, such as tension, mild headaches, and shortness of breath. I don’t know if it’s the visual chaos that bothers me or just knowing that likely I will be the one tasked with cleaning it up (unless my husband is around, then he helps). But visual messes—a common and natural occurrence when you have children, especially toddlers—is hard for me.
I am happy to pick up a few things, wipe my kids’ mouths, change their diaper, load the dishwasher or wipe down the bathroom, but I can’t follow my kids around and just focus on cleaning up after them all the time. And they make a lot of messes. They are all-in hands-on kids. It drives me crazy if I focus my entire energy on cleaning up. I have trouble finding serenity when my world looks like a Jackson Pollack painting. So what to do?
I Tried to Be the Chill, Cool Mom.
For a while, I wanted to be that cool mom who is chill about messes. Maybe she picks up here and there, or, if her kids are old enough asks them to help out. But she doesn’t raise her voice and doesn’t seem fazed by it all. She just smiles and goes about her business. I don’t know if this woman exists, but I feel like she does and I just love her so much. Maybe I can become her one day. All I know is that I’m not there yet, and so I decided to hire an amazing woman instead to watch my kids while I work and also help me with housework.
My nanny is phenomenal—she’s honest, trustworthy, kind, and a darn hard worker. She keeps my house in order visually when she’s here and lovingly cares for my babies. As a result of my house being cleaner and more visually ordered, I breathe easier. I really do. And when I’m playing with my kiddos, I am much more able to be in the present knowing that I have another person who will help me clean up after them.
Do Your Thing, Mama!
There are so many ways to do this “mom thing” right. But I think the key is making sure that you, mama, are making choices that fulfill your deepest needs. Some women are completely content with being a full-time, stay-at-home mom. And some moms are happier being a full-time working mom. Then there are the in-betweens. For this mama—going back to work part-time has been an awesome choice. I am happier. My family is happier. And that is what’s most important.