Being a Stay-at-Home Mom: It’s a Choice
Sometimes it’s just nice to be reminded that being a stay-at-home mom is a choice, and not a life sentence.”
This is a blog post written by my good friend Karli for her blog a few years ago. She has given me permission to repost here. It touches on some interesting aspects of being a stay-at-home parent.
A few weeks ago, shortly after we purchased a new car, I was going over our budget and noticed that it would definitely be nice to get a little extra income coming in each month. I’ve never felt comfortable pressuring my friends and family to buy things from me, so that ruled out about 89% of the available “work-at-home” mom jobs.
Most of the jobs advertised in parenting magazines and on the web turn out to be scams, and I have generally tried to steer clear of get-rich-quick schemes. Even if I just sold my own stuff on eBay, I’d have to spend probably 8 hours of work just to bring in what my husband could do in one extra hour of contracting work in the evening. So that left me with the prospect of having to get a real job. I’ve rarely considered this since my daughter was born. I made the decision in junior high that I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. But my monthly budget was calling out to me, reminding me of our exorbitant student loan bills (that were primarily for my education) and pleading to me to start contributing to the family assets.
I did a quick search of job openings at local colleges in the area. Low and behold, I found a part-time job opening at a private university just down the road. Not only did the job description (managing the Campus Information Center) suit me perfectly, it was a part-time position. Part-time positions within the field in which I got my master’s degree just don’t happen. They don’t exist. Could it be possible that this job was MADE FOR ME? With a part-time position, I could have the best of both worlds!
On a whim, I revamped my resume and cover letter and sent them off that very night. I thought, I might as well throw something out there and see if it sticks. I could worry about the details later.
I didn’t hear back for a couple weeks, and started to put it out of my mind, when all of the sudden I got a call from the managing supervisor for the position. She left a message asking me to call back. I got my kids a bunch of snacks to keep them occupied, and returned the call.
“Sure, I have time to answer a few questions.” The sentence was barely out of my mouth when my daughter body-slammed my son, who screamed, and sent her shrieking through the house like a banshee before she came back demanding more snacks. It was a great first impression.
Nevertheless, the supervisor said she wanted to bring me to campus for a 1/2 day interview. So, I pulled out my best non-spit-up-stained grown-up clothes, did my hair and makeup (for once), found places for the kids to stay, and headed out to campus. The place felt like home (it could be my alma mater’s long lost twin). The people were great. The job description was perfect.
It took them less than 24 hours for them to offer me the job, which I wasn’t totally prepared for I was expecting a couple weeks of interviews before they got back to me. But there they were with an offer of employment. The one sticking point was the schedule – I was being asked to come in every day for only four hours. With the cost of child care and the gas for the 20 minute drive each way, the actual take-home pay would be equal to or less what we’d have to pay a babysitter. The arrangement wasn’t going to work for me.
But then there were the pros – getting to do something with my (very expensive) education, getting back to a campus setting, making new contacts, a perfect-fit job, feeling like a contributor, yadda yadda yadda…
When I mentioned my schedule stipulations to the supervisor, she acquiesced and said she would settle for 3 longer days a week. This seemed to work better, as at least the schedule would be more manageable, and I could trade day-care if I wanted. And the job offer couldn’t have come at a better time.
Beside the financial piece, I have been getting really worn out with this mommy-business over the last few weeks. My kids instinctively know how to tag-team me. Once I get one settled in and happy, the other one freaks out. Or they both freak out at once. Or one spends the morning jumping in his poo. Or the other one flat out refuses to put her poo in the toilet, instead preferring big girl panties as the better depository. Or she spends the day arguing with me, and doing absolutely everything she knows she’s not supposed to. And did I mention they’re both Mariah Carey-style screamers? My ear drums are dying a slow and painful death.
In general, I’ve been feeling worn down and insufficient. I can’t get anything done, but I’m not entirely sure why not. My once strong and healthy self-esteem has taken an unhealthy beating. Being away for 20 hours a week in a place where I could be sure to get some external praise started to look pretty appealing.
But something kept nagging at me. For all I knew, it was just fear of the unknown. It’s been over 3 years since I was in the “workplace” after all. But whatever it was, it didn’t feel right. I struggled against the feeling for a long time. I ignored it. I looked for ways to make it work. I got lots of opinions. I talked it out. I prayed about it. I didn’t want to say ‘no’ only to regret it later. But I couldn’t bring myself to say ‘yes’ either.
And somewhere in my conversations, a wise and now well-traveled friend said something that adjusted my attitude quite well.
Sometimes its just nice to be reminded that being a stay-at-home mom is a choice, and not a life sentence.
Staying at home with my kids has recently begun to feel like a life sentence. Perhaps it’s the terrible threes (which, I don’t care what they say – are WAY WORSE than the terrible twos). Perhaps it’s the adjustment to two kids. Or maybe it was just that summer got started late this year. But for whatever reason, I was feeling like I was not the one in control of my life or of my circumstances. And that led to one crabby mommy….which created a couple crabby kids…. and the cycle continued – and intensified.
In that one beautiful, glorious sentence, she changed my outlook. This is a choice I made. It’s a choice I made long before I had kids, or a husband or an education. I made the choice because, even at that age, I saw the difference I could make in kids’ lives – in my kids’ lives. I firmly believe that (for me) the greatest work I will ever do will be within the walls of my own home.
Amazingly enough, I realized I do use that expensive education every day. Somehow, knowing that I have the choice to do whatever else I want to do, makes me want to stick it out and try even harder to get this right. I only have a few short years of them following after me, hanging all over my personal space and begging for attention, before they won’t want anything to do with me. And somehow, someday, my daughter will get potty-trained. Or else she better find a husband who’s willing to change her diapers (and she sure as heck better plan on changing MY diapers when I’m in the nursing home). Yes, this too shall pass.
I was sad and nervous to have to turn down the job. I felt guilty, as though I’d wasted their time. Hopefully, it will be a bridge built for the future, though, rather than a bridge burned. For now, I’ve had the attitude adjustment that I so desperately needed. This is a choice I’ve made, not once, but twice now, and I’m determined to get it right.