Unlike many women I know, my progression to becoming a stay-at-home mom was neither planned nor expected. I always anticipated being a working mom. I’m not exceptionally crafty or patient, or the greatest housekeeper or cook. My working world resume felt much stronger, and I just assumed that’s what I’d keep building.
I continued working full-time after the birth of our first child. I altered my schedule slightly, trimming my weekly hours and working slightly longer four days a week so that I could have Fridays at home with my son.
It seemed to be the best of both worlds, having three days at home and four days in the office. My son went to daycare two days per week and family helped out the other two days, and everything chugged along merrily for three and a half years.
Then his sister came along, and everything...well...stopped chugging.
It wasn’t her fault. Family schedules and dynamics shifted, and suddenly we needed to rely on full-time daycare. Suddenly we were looking at roughly $2,000 a month in childcare costs, and when we did the math on what I’d be bringing home after deducting daycare, commuting, and other work-related expenses (wardrobe, lunches, etc.), my paycheck was starting to look puny.
My responsibilities at work also shifted, and suddenly the job I’d always loved wasn’t so appealing anymore. I had been looking for another job since before we found out I was expecting our daughter, but I wasn’t having much luck finding the right fit.
Speaking of our daughter, she was certainly a factor. While her brother had been a happy, contented baby (aside from being a kind-of-terrible sleeper for most of his first year), she was not.
Actually, that’s slightly unfair. If she was tucked against my chest 24 hours a day, she was a delight. If I tried to lay her down, put her in the swing, or—heaven forbid—hand her off to someone else, she wasn’t having it.
Amidst the perfect storm of crushing childcare costs, a job I was anxious to leave, and a baby who insisted that only her mama would do, my husband got a new job—one with better pay and amazing insurance benefits that suddenly made becoming a single-income household feasible.
It wouldn’t be easy; it would still be a significant slash to our monthly budget. But in a sea of options that all had their pros and cons, we opted for the one we felt like fit best for the time being.
I would stay home.
I’m nothing if not practical though, and the most practical, logical solution was for me to stay home. I informed my bosses that I would, in fact, NOT be returning from maternity leave and we settled into our new routine.
At the time, we framed it as a temporary solution, assuming I’d return to full-time work at some point—maybe when our youngest started school (at the latest). Well, that cute clingy baby will turn four this summer, and next week I will enroll her in a five-days-a-week pre-K program that starts in August.
Suddenly “some point” is here, but, in a move that surprises even me, I have no intention of returning to full-time work.
Make no mistake; I haven’t magically turned into Martha Stewart in the past four years. I’m still mediocre at crafting (at best), I consider breakfast-for-supper to be an essential part of our weekly meal plan, and I’m usually out of patience by 6:23 p.m. every weekday evening.
It’s not that I’m #killingit as a stay-at-home mom. It’s just that it still works.
My husband has a different job now; one that requires a lot of (frequently last-minute) travel. I handle drop-offs and pickups and sick days. Trying to juggle a full-time job along with the necessary demands of being the default parent would bring on maximum stress with a very little boost to our bottom line.
I do have some creative outlets, though. I’m a freelance writer, and I also do a bit of marketing work.
It all gets squeezed into my fringe hours, but that’s okay. Some weeks, it’s this tenacious toe-hold in my previous world—of working, dealing with adults, meeting deadlines and using that dusty college degree—that keeps my sanity intact.
I can’t say for sure that I’ll always be a stay-at-home mom. If circumstances shift or our needs as a family change, I’m always open to reevaluating. But right now, it works. I’m exactly where I need to be, and that’s all I’ve ever wanted anyway.