When I was seven years old I got sick and went to the school clinic and saw another girl sitting there, sicker. The nurse called my mom, and hers. My mom picked me up. The other girl? Her mom was working and would be there when she could. It was one of those memories that stay with you. I vowed that day that when the day came, I would be a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM).
A lot happened since that vow. I worked ever since the state of Florida legally allowed me to do so. I got degrees, three of them and worked as both a teacher, and an attorney. It wasn’t about the money necessarily since last time I checked teachers and public interest lawyers did not do it for the benjamins but it was nice to “earn my keep.” I enjoyed holding a job. I enjoyed the intellectual challenges, and I wondered what would happen when I became a mother. Would I stick to my vow?
Its funny that I wrote about this half a decade earlier and had no conclusion. Now, as a SAHM the question still plagues me and I feel a little guilty: Am I doing the right thing?
I know mothers who work outside the home also feel guilty. Who wish they could be home with their children. Who worry what the impact of being away from them may be. (And to those who do work full-time and feel guilty, a new study revealed that working mothers do not have the negative impact on their children that many have feared).
I don’t find being a SAHM boring. I love cuddling with him each morning. I love doing yoga with him. Carrying him around as I do household tasks. I love snatching moments of time to get my writing in while he naps. Watching him gaze with amazement at the brightly lit aisles of Target. I love that each crawl, each smile, each giggle I witness is very likely the first because I’m there to see it happen. And I am grateful I am able to have this opportunity, because not everyone does.
But there’s that lingering guilty feeling. It creeps up when I talk to other moms who tell me they’re working in investment, or auditing, or attorneying, and when they ask what I’m up to. . . SAHM. . . Its strange to say it. The words feel foreign. No one is telling me to go back to work. No one is questioning my purchases. There is no logical reason to feel guilty. I guess I’m just used to it. I’m used to working. I’m used to “earning my keep” in the form of a physical paycheck that you can take to the bank and cash.
Its also inescapable that despite the fact that being a SAHM is a good reason to explain the gap in your professional resume, when you do decide to return to the workforce, former SAHMs make less money and have a harder time getting jobs. Its an interesting conundrum to feel guilt if you do, and guilt if you don’t.
These thoughts have been with me since I made the decision to stay home but I’m not sure why I feel the need to share these thoughts today. Maybe because I applied for a part-time job (its a full time position but a job I would love to do so I figured it didn’t hurt to see if they’d take me part-time). Or maybe its because as I was filling out some paperwork today I found myself staring at the line “mother’s occupation” for entirely too long wondering what on earth to write. Mother? Homemaker? None?
I wish the concept of being a SAHM was as simple and clear-cut for me as it was when I was seven-years old, and that I could just allow myself to live completely in the moment without any doubts or hesitations of whether or not I’m doing the right thing. I guess that’s the thing about growing up- you learn that nothing is black and white- life is lived within the shades of gray.
What are your thoughts on being a SAHM or working after kids?