Check out Returning to Work: Part 1.
I never thought I could be a stay-at-home mom. For a long time I couldn’t even picture myself as a mother, so being one that stayed home with her children all day wasn’t even a consideration in my mind. When I told my boss I was pregnant with Kate, his first question was, “Will you be back?”
“Of course!” I laughed. The thought that I would be anything but a mom who worked outside the home fulltime never even crossed my mind. I had a great job that I loved and that was meaningful, and there was even a part of me that thought I might cut my maternity leave short and return to work early.
But then Kate was born and everything changed.
If you read my Returning to Work: Part 1 post, you know how difficult that transition was for me. Everyone kept telling me it would get easier with time, but it didn’t. And did I even want it to get easier? What would that mean about me as a mom? That I was losing my connection with my child? That I cared more about my job than about her??
These were the questions that tugged at my gut and overshadowed the other, quieter questions that I tried to keep silenced: Am I crazy to quit my job during these tough economic times? What if I don’t like being a stay-at-home mom? Am I really ready to walk away from my career? Will I ever have the opportunity to be in a position as great as the one I’m in now? What kind of financial stress would this put on my family–on my marriage?
Paying attention to that last question is what finally helped me find my answers. Through our talks, I knew the idea of becoming a one-income family weighed heavily on G’s mind. I have no doubt that it’s something we could’ve made work–but at what cost? G felt as strongly about the financial security of our family as I did about having more time with Kate. How could I possibly sacrifice his piece of mind for my own? That answer was simple: I couldn’t.
But I also couldn’t continue working fulltime. It was killing me to be apart from Kate, and quite honestly I was likely on the fast-track to getting fired at the rate as I was performing at work. I decided I needed to find a part-time job, or at the very least find a new fulltime job somewhere with the option to eventually move into a part-time position (there were no part-time positions at my current organization).
Two months after returning to work, I fought back the tears as I walked into my boss’s office and said, “I have some difficult news.”
He sighed and replied, “I knew this was coming.”
What started out as one of the most difficult conversations of my life eventually turned into one of the best opportunities I have ever been given. When I explained that I needed to leave–not because I didn’t love my job–but because I needed more time at home with my daughter, my boss asked, “What can we do to make this work?”
That was three months ago.
Today, I am so incredibly grateful to say that I currently work a 32-hour work week, split among four 8-hour days. I have every Monday off (Mondays are now called it “Momdays” in our house) which I spend playing and laughing and cuddling with Kate.
I cannot even begin to describe what this reduced work schedule has done for me. To say it has been life-changing is an incredible understatement. I finally feel like a Mom who also has a job, versus a Worker who also has a child. I get to spend more time with my beautiful daughter, and I get to keep a job that I love and worked hard for. With this change in my schedule, Kate is now home four days per week and goes to daycare for three (G’s mom Pam continues coming to our house to watch Kate one day per week–something she’s done since I first returned to work, and that means so much to us).
I wasn’t sure if having just one day off per week would feel like enough, but amazingly it does. There are times when I get glimpses of what it would’ve been like had I quit my job to be a stay-at-home mom, and that’s when I realize I made the right decision to find more of a middle ground.
When I am with Kate she has my undivided attention. No TV. No phone. No internet. Just us. I truly savor our time together and I’m not sure I’d be saying that if I were a fulltime stay-at-home mom. I’ve realized this during times when I’m home with Kate for several days in a row with little to no break, and I find myself starting to take our time for granted–turning on the TV and watching it instead of her, sneaking peaks at my laptop and ignoring her attempts to get my attention, or wishing it was already naptime so I could have a little me time–and that’s not the kind of mother I want to be. I’m proud to say that what Kate and I miss in quantity, we more than make up for in quality.
Just as I reluctantly realized that daycare is a valuable experience for Kate, I’ve also realized there is value in us having some time apart. I get to miss her. I get to look forward to coming home to see her. I get to fill up that other side of myself that likes to wear high heels and makeup, have adult conversations, and make a difference in more lives than just my own. But best of all, I get to have a happy family that truly values our time together.
From the reader feedback I’ve received, I know many of you are currently going through this same struggle, or will be soon. It is a fiercely personal decision and you will have no shortage of people weighing in on how they think you should shape your life. Take your time, listen to your heart, and you’ll get there. I’m grateful to say I’ve found what feels right for me and my family, and I wish you all the best for you and yours.