Before delivering our firstborn son, I was ignorant to the labels that would henceforth populate my life. Breastfeeding or bottle-feeding mom? Cloth or disposable diapering mom? Crib baby or co-sleeping family? And the biggest label of all – working mom or stay-at-home mom? Unbeknownst to me in my new-mom naivety, our choices spoke volumes about my brand of motherhood. Especially so in the working mom vs stay-at-home mom label.
No caregiver in sight
In hindsight, my husband and I were wholly unprepared for our son’s arrival. Sure we had the baby gear, but we had made no plans for his care once I returned to work. With our first home purchase closing on the heels of our son’s birth, my income was vital to our new life. There was no option for me to quit. Plus my gig was super flexible and home-based with occasional travel. Lots of autonomy and a supportive boss enabled me to care for our boy at home for his first five months.
First clues of my true wishes
Soon the industry’s annual convention rolled around and travel was back on the table. By the time I set off for two nights in Vegas, we’d employed a wonderful nanny and my husband assured me they’d all be fine. It felt great to reconnect with clients and co-workers who gushed over pictures of our baby, but after about four hours of that, I was done. Inklings that the career gig was no longer appealing appeared often over the course of that trip. But it would take many years to figure out if there was a remote possibility of living without my paycheck.
Walking the line
I briefly felt relieved to return to work after my second maternity leave 18 months later. Trust me, three kids in under two years will do that to a person! But the feeling was short-lived. We quickly needed more help than our part-time nanny could provide and I stressed trying to manage it all. Work that I had once been able to accomplish at home with one napping baby had no chance of happening with three nap times and multiple interruptions. As such, we upped our nanny’s hours and called in additional help when I was traveling. Not only were we throwing excessive sums of money toward childcare, but I was also feeling like a failure on all fronts. As a mom, an employee, a wife and friend.
Moving toward my goal
As time passed and our children grew, I experienced heartache over missing milestones and important events. Constant agonizing over work vs home-life balancing filled my days. Motivation from those early feelings have manifested into changes that have been both extremely gratifying and sometimes challenging for our family. Lifestyle shifts over the past two years have allowed us to live within our means, and eventually far below them. Even so, the gap between saving 50% of our monthly income and doing without it is quite large. Logicistically if we can live on half of our pay then all would be fine, but tell that to my overthinking brain with a degree in Finance! Walking away from my well paying (now part-time) career has been one of the most profound decisions we have made as a family.
I am officially a stay-at-home mom
This wholly different label I’ll now wear feels both ill-fitting and deeply satisfying. I didn’t know what kind of mom I’d be before delivering our firstborn into this world, but I’ve gained some perspective in these past 7 years. I am confident that this new and deliberate path will be worth all the changes we’ve made to get here. I’ll proudly wear this new label as long as it fits – I am a stay-at-home mom!