I’m going to be totally real here- I used to judge stay at home moms (SAHMs). Ok, I didn’t actively judge them but I made assumptions. I assumed that they were women who just didn’t feel like getting up and going to work every day and I wondered how they could put all that pressure on their husbands to be the sole breadwinner. I mean, we fought for women’s rights so we had the option and now we’ve decided, never mind, we’re good? But, like almost everything in life, my perspective completely changed after having a child of my own. The problem is, women (much like myself a year ago) don’t know there are more than two options. You don’t have to choose between being a career women or a SAHM. World, meet WAHM (work at home mom).
I grew up with Superwomen for a mom- many of us did. She worked full-time, ran the ASB program at school, carpooled us all over town for sports and activities and attended every game I can remember. She had an active social life and incredible circle of friends. When my parents split and she suddenly became a single mother*, rather than wallow in pity or limit her life, she went back to school for her Masters and became a school administrator. I didn’t realize it then but I do now that my mom’s decision to better herself in order to preserve our lives shaped my perspective on accomplishment forever. She showed me that when life becomes limited, don’t stay stuck in the maze, look for a way out.
From this, two things were ingrained in me 1) I was going to work hard to earn the things that I needed and wanted in life 2) I would be successful in life and, in my mind, that meant a corporate career. So when I became pregnant there was never a question that I would go “back to work”. I knew that my company wasn’t quite convinced but I assured them I was a career woman and I would be back.
And I held true to my word. After three of the longest, shortest months of my life I actually went back to work eagerly. Maternity leave was really hard for me. On top of the struggles most moms deal with like lack of sleep and having no idea what they are doing, I felt alone. I didn’t have any friends with children in Boston and, of course, everybody I did know was off to work every day. I’d never felt so alone, especially the day my mom left after her two week visit when Kennedy was born. Fortunately I found a mothers nursing group that helped give me a sense of community and support. Without that once weekly meeting, I don’t know what I would have done.
So I went back to work eager. I was excited to be able to have some alone time (I know, ironic considering I was so lonely), adult conversation and best of all the ability to eat when I wanted for as long as I wanted. But very quickly, the stress of being a working mom became overwhelming. The daily grind of commuting, day care pick up, cooking dinner, tubby time, bedtime, etc…a rinse-wash-repeat hamster wheel- it was becoming too much for me. I didn’t mind being busy or the perpetual “to-do” list. What really bothered me was that I was spending the large majority of my day at a place that I didn’t enjoy, and that brought me no purpose or passion. The fact that my stress came from a job that brought me no joy became extremely frustrating to me. But what about the money? I was making a great salary with a fairly flexible schedule. I was well-liked at work earning regular bonuses and we had come to live a lifestyle dependent on our income. The mad part about it all though was that we were sending 25% of our income to daycare.
Let’s actually take a moment to talk about day care. In our house we call it school, because Kennedy is learning new skills, and developing at a crazy rate every day at school. The social skills that she learned along side the developmental and language skills are incredible. I am actually a huge proponent of day cares or preschools. However those first few months dropping off a tiny little three-month-old baby is heart wrenching and this country has a long way to go before it’s up to par when it comes to maternity leave. My point is, I’ve never felt guilty for having Kennedy in daycare. What I do dislike is working a job I’m not passionate about only to shell out thousands of dollars a month to daycare.
Every day I would come home feeling exhausted and overwhelmed with trying to accomplish my life goals while my “career” took up all of my time. But what really pushed me over the edge was when I realized I was coming home beaten. The day was beating me, I was losing and pretty soon, Kennedy was going to see it. I didn’t ever want my daughter to feel that there was no way out or that it was acceptable to spend your time doing something that isn’t benefiting you when there are other options. I wanted to teach my daughter that although being successful would always take hard work and determination, it didn’t have to fit the standard 9-to-5 mold. And that you could be a successful business woman outside of the corporate world. I certainly wasn’t going to tell her that success was wrapped in the standard package of grinding it out every day just so that you can have the fancy title but lost so much time earning it. I wanted her to think outside the box and look for options outside the status quo of being successful and happy. And no, this doesn’t mean she can quit piano lessons because she doesn’t enjoy them.
So what’s the point. The point is I get it now. I understand why women are choosing to stay home and I am grateful to myself for looking outside the box and discovering that there is an entire world of success and prosperity outside our cubicles and offices. That I can be the accomplished woman I want my daughter to see while also being present in her life. And more importantly, showing her that there are ways to do all of this with passion and determination. Being a stay at home mom or, like so many of us are today, work at home moms is totally not what people think it is. It’s understanding that while you may have to make financial sacrifices, it’s better than making time sacrifices. You can provide to your family in a much more meaningful, significant way when you have the ability to focus your intelligence and strength in the direction you choose.
I came across a picture from two years ago my mom took of me scraping paint from our windows. I was about to pop with Kennedy and we were in the middle of renovating our new home. That moment came rushing back to me and I realized how different I envisioned my life would be today. I’ve had this feeling before and it is usually filled with regret- I wish I was more successful, I wish I owned a home, I would have done XYZ different. But this time it was different. I was hopeful. And proud. Hopeful and proud that I had decided to make a change rather then “deal with it”. I didn’t let life get in the way of my life. I wasn’t going to let excuses or fear keep me from what I knew my family deserved. I’m too busy, I don’t have the money, what will people think, what if it doesn’t work- these were things that would no longer keep me from living my life the way I chose. I’m also looking forward to my new commute…to the other side of the house.
Cheers to all the women out there to live their life the way they choose…regardless of what that looks like!
Are you a SAHM or WAHM? What are your reasons for “staying home”? What’s your biggest challenge?
If you want to know about what’s giving me the freedom to live a life visit www.whitneycardosi.arbonne.com.